Manasi Saraswate
 
 

Flexa

A holistic solution to reduce stiffness and maintain a desirable posture for patients suffering from a chronic condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis.

 
 
 
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OVERVIEW
Flexa is a connected system that helps patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and large joints) maintain better postures and provides temporary pain relief. Relieving pain will enable a healthier body by creating more energy, a focused mind, and a healthier emotional state.
Individual Project

KEY SKILLS
Systems Design, UX Design, Visual Design

PROJECT DURATION
4 Weeks

TOOLS
Sketch, Illustrator, InVision, Arduino, Principle, Photoshop

ADVISOR
Jorge Arango

 

WHAT IS ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS?

The patient suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis needs to manage the pain and stiffness because they are the starting point for all the other related factors such as attention, energy and emotional level.

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that, over time, can cause some of the vertebrae in your spine to fuse. This fusing makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched-forward posture.

 
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MEET LISA

She is suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis.

Lisa is an Austin resident who lives with her husband and two children. She has been living with Ankylosing Spondylitis for the past 4 years. She depends on her husband, mother, kids, and the other technological devices to help her remind about the medicines, maintain better postures, temporarily relieve pain and support in her day to day work.

Through an in-depth interview and covert observations, I drew a richer understanding of how Lisa’s chronic condition affects her daily life.

“It becomes challenging to move and get up without any help or aid after sitting or sleeping in the same position for even half an hour.”

 
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SYSTEMS MAPPING

Using the information from her perspective and online research of other situations, I compiled together a series of systems diagrams that depict the current state, control systems and the caregiving network of Lisa. 

 

THE CAREGIVER NETWORK

The caregiver model illustrates the support that she gets from health professionals, family, and other paid services or aids. It also denotes the factors that reduce her pain mainly by medication and physical exercises.
The caregiver network is complex and each caregiver has a different set of goals.

 
 

EXPERIENCE MAP

Pain level due to stiffness is inversely proportional to the emotional, attention and energy level.

This experience map shows how the person manages the condition during the day, his/her thoughts and aligned feelings. It also includes details about doses of medication, food, exercise and interactions with family.

 
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INSIGHTS

1.

STIFFNESS

The patient needs to change the position and posture on a timely basis to avoid stiffness. 

2.

MEMORY

It becomes difficult for the patient to remember even the simplest things.

3.

PAIN RELIEF

The patient needs temporary pain relief solutions on the go.

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The scope of this project is to tackle stiffness and relieve temporary pain. I would like to develop further the memory feature and also doctor and family member device screens.

How might we create a system that enables the patient to maintain a comfortable posture, reduce stiffness and pain?

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IDEATION

Simple | Accessible | Customized

The biggest opportunity was to help the patient monitor and control his/her own posture positions to reduce the body stiffness which in turn leads to a reduction in pain.
Taking what I found from the initial research, interview and the system diagrams created, I started sketching out different ideas to address the opportunity area. I then came up with key concepts for the product. I also created wireframes and user flows to better understand the hero moments of the entire experience.

 
 

FUTURE STATE

"How can I avoid and reduce my back stiffness?"

 

THE FUTURE STATE MODEL

This model proposes a system to help the person and caregivers better manage their wellbeing. It shows how the proposed networked system addresses the problem of stiffness and how some actors from the caregiver network are a part of it.

 
 
 

Flexa is a smart wearable device that monitors the patient's postures, detects recurring posture positions, provides temporary pain relief sessions and nudges the patient to change the posture at intervals.

It also learns the patient's posture pattern via machine learning over time. This data can be accessible to the patient, the doctor and the immediate family.

 
 
 
 
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MOBILE APP: KEY FEATURES

A mobile application that stores the data generated by the device and makes it accessible to the patient, family as well as the caregiving network in a simplistic way. It also helps calibrate the device and set the desired postures on the device.

 
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Calibrating Process

This is a process where the device is calibrated using the mobile app. The screen gives real-time feedback for wearing the device correctly by aligning it with your spine.

 
 
 

Posture Training

Once the device is calibrated and synced with the mobile app, the patient can then posture train and set the desired postures. This is also real-time feedback, and the device captures the posture and reflects it on your phone. 

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Dashboard and Analysis

The patient can then view the posture comparison and the pain relief patch status on the dashboard. The detail analysis page shows the breakdown of both this information and the patient can then add his/her notes and send it to the physiotherapist.

WIREFRAMES

IoT DEVICE

Flexa is a device which sits on your lower back and notifies the patient with haptic feedback for the change in position. It also has an additional feature of attaching a pain relief peel off patch which acts as a temporary pain relief solution for the patient.

Prototyping the device

The final design is futuristic but I tried to prototype the working of the device with the current technology in hand. I created a flex sensor using pieces of fabric, iron on conductive fabric and velostat. I then created a circuit using Flora and controlled the haptic feedback on the bending resistance of the flex sensor. 

 

Components used to test a low fidelity prototype.

Checking the resistance range of the flex sensor using a multimeter.

Connecting the flex sensor in a circuit with a vibrating motor.

Prototyping flex sensors with different fabrics and textures.

 
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REFLECTION

1. Finding the right opportunity:
One of the key challenges was creating a product that was different from the current market offerings. Most of the existing products alert users when they are focused on posture correction for an everyday office worker. Flexa’s primary focus is pain relief to manage this chronic condition.

2. Next Steps:

  • Visual systems are very critical. I would like to further develop the visual language and UI concerning data visualization and progress visualization.

  • Prototyping and user testing the device will open the door to further ideas and future iterations.