Thesis Spelunking: 09/24/2020

Designing Medical Devices for Healing Interactions

Tell us about the thesis: who did it, where, when, and what is it about?

Shannon Impellicceiri submitted Designing Medical Devices for Healing Interactions to Carnegie Mellon in 2015 for her Masters in Interaction Design. This thesis is about the interactions patients have with complex medical devices related to dialysis. While these devices are revolutionary in how they can help patients physically they unintentionally have imbued patients with a feeling of not having control over their bodies and lives.

Why does it interest you? What does it do? What’s the design process?

The medical industry has always seemed like an imposing gordian knot to me. Feelings of helplessness and uncertainty are ubiquitous and can often lead to poorer quality of care. In my personal life more recently I have had family members need care in hospitals only to have terrible experiences due to a lack of empathy, poor organization and poor communication skills. I am uncertain if this will be the direction I want to take my thesis but reading an example of someone from my program trying something similar would certainly be edifying.

This thesis attempts to address the negative emotional effects of extended reliance on medical devices over many years, primarily in dialysis. Initial research is done along with case studies to understand the field. Shareholders are then mapped out and more exploratory research is performed through interviews. After this personas were made and mapped based on if their coping mechanisms were effective and if they were “passengers or drivers.” Then a dialysis patient journey map was made and then came the synthesis of all of this information and the key findings that were able to be extracted.

After exploratory research came generative research where Shannon creates storyboards, design concepts and rapidly gets feedback on them via an online survey with dialysis patients. Three concepts were generated with the feedback listed.

Then came the design solution. This entailed an overview, data visualization, design description and the target users which were the previously unsuccessful personas. After this came reflections and evaluations on this project. Alternative forms and theories were also mentioned before the conclusion.

What seems strong? What seems weak?

I really resonated with how grounded this project was and how personal the motivations were for pursuing this work. Shannon was a biomedical engineer that saw first hand the gulf between machines created to save lives and the psychological care for patients going through the process. Dialysis is a great example of this because it is a treatment people can do for many many years and it often leads to patients developing depression due to this dependance. Visually this thesis is well laid out with professional looking graphics that would fit within the medical industry. There are a couple visual inconsistencies on the patient journey map but the information is well organized and the added map at the bottom graphing the patients emotions is a strong addition.

The actual visualization for the design solution felt pretty weak to me. A large screen that contours the forearm and displays the data just feels too space age to me. If this project is meant to inform the patient and make them feel in control then putting such a foreign looking object on them could exacerbate these feelings of otherness. I am very glad that on the reflection and evaluation side she showed the interface on a phone or smartwatch.

The Human Controller: Usability and Accessibility in
Video Game Interfaces

Tell us about the thesis: who did it, where, when, and what is it about?

This thesis was written by Eitan M. Glinert at MIT in 2008. This thesis is about video games in the context of accessibility and how it can be further developed. Not all people can play all games due to the user interface. The author created AudiOdyssey as a case to advocate for future game developers to consider accessibility in gaming.

Why does it interest you? What does it do? What’s the design process?

I am interested in accessibility design for my own craft. It is such a wide subject due to the vast spectrum of ability is difficult to focus. I hope this thesis can help me get a feeling for how someone writes a thesis involving the subject.

The author created AudiOdyssey which is a rhythm game that can be played by people with visual impairments. The thesis starts with advocating for accessibility in gaming. Then It moves on to describe the design process and testing. Finally it goes into future projections about where this could go compared to where it is now.

The design process begins by identifying key themes that would typically keep users from playing games and emphasizing how they can be addressed and that if we address them at the beginning then they can be implemented successfully. A prototype was made after considering the genre of game. Since everyone in the team was sighted they brought in a consultant that had visual impairments to get feedback. Once the prototype had progressed they tested it on groups of people and observed the results. Ultimately they say there is so much room for extra work so they begin speculation on what the next generation could be like.

What seems strong? What seems weak?

This thesis does a good job running through some of the issues with the modern game industry. There is a lot that can be addressed and the author lays it out quite well. I appreciate that they had a consultant during the design process and that they tested it on sighted and non sighted people.

By the authors own admission it is difficult to design for just one disability as it segregates the population and can lead to a bevy of opinions. This works as a thesis but there is so much more to be done.