Main activities in the project
- Ethnographic, contextual user studies.
- Material experiments.
- Arduino Prototyping.
- User evaluations.
- Co-creation workshops.
02Understanding the Snoezelen context
I used most of the first six months of the internship in a Snoezelen center to get a deep understanding of the context. The children who participated in the research project were school age and had profound cognitive disabilities. Some of the children have reduced eyesight, more than half of them are wheelchair users, and none of them have a conscious language. This means we could not rely on conversation-based methods to understand the children's perspective. Instead, we had to rely solely on observation in combination with the experienced staff at the centers, who knew the children very well.
Experiences the world through the children's bodies
Designing for sensory experiences requires understanding beyond intellectual and cognitive insights. How the body feels in the rooms, the dark, the light, the ball bath, the swings, by the blinkings lights are crucial to grasp to be able to design for the Snoezelen context. But not only must we experience the rooms and the sensory impressions by ourselves, but also try to get an empathic understanding of how the children could potentially experience the rooms. The children's' use of the rooms is driven by the interactions between the room and its artifacts, the staff and the child. In our observations of these interactions, we sought to "disappear" and not draw too much attention. Still, if the children sought us, we took part of the interactions to our best abilities.
Based on our deep understanding of the context and the children in the project, we began exploring textiles, sensors and actuators that could be used to create interactive experiences.
We combined the materials with technology (in Arduino setups) to begin sketching interactions. For instance, we explored the combination of tulle and light, vibration and touch, as well as heat-sensitive painting and heating elements.
Based on the analysis we developed a categorization of the letters based on the overall purpose and content. This turned out to be an essential tool throughout the project. The client quickly adopted to terminology (eg. "notifications", "blocking letters") and is used widely in the organization today.