Core77 Design Awards
- Other Years
Up to 50% of individuals 65 years and older report a fear of falling. Within this group, 65% report that they restrict their physical activity as a result. This fear, however, is linked to a higher incidence of falls. Individuals report slowing their gait to feel more in control, but research shows that this cautious gait results in overthinking and stride variation, making individuals less balanced and more likely to fall.
Our study focuses on individuals who have low physical risk — individuals who may not have normally required a walking aid but due to their fear require a cane. Our research question asks, "How might we reduce the fear of falling for cane users?" Based on existing research on fear reduction, we discovered two primary ways to reduce fear. Physically, where we build trust in a person's body and physical abilities, and cognitively, where we inspire confidence in a person's environment, gait, and assistive support. We hypothesized that redesigning the cane to encourage confident gait and exercise can help reduce an individual's fear of falling.
Thus, we designed CADY, a personalized coach in the form of a handle for a walking aid. Employing calm technology principles, CADY passes rhythmic vibrations to subconsciously guide a person's gait. A person can maintain their stride by matching their "comfortable walking speed" with CADY's haptic feedback.
Since medical professionals gather information about a person's gait through laboratory settings, they often don't have access to a patient's true indoor or outdoor behaviors. This information will better equip professionals in determining goals with their patients and ensuring their patients are using the correct walking aid. Our product is part of a larger service that encourages virtual physical therapy sessions and for individuals to find a professional nearby. Since two-thirds of individuals self-prescribe a cane, most do not receive education on how to use it and almost half are misfitted for their cane.
Part of our work in developing CADY is to begin destigmatizing the cane. During our interviews and our research, we learned about people's hesitancy around using a cane and how they viewed the object as a symbol of aging and their demise. While most canes are stigmatized through either hyper-medicalization or focus on function over form, CADY considers both. Unfortunately, many designer concepts that have prioritized aesthetics sacrificed function — a NO for medical devices that make it to market. We made CADY an object that could be transformed into a lamp before you go to bed, and as something that can be seen in a beautiful way when you wake up.
Our aspiration is to put CADY into the hands of users not only needing a cane but a diversity of populations who need her rhythmic touch to guide them in whatever activity it is that they do — athletes keeping pace, musicians keeping beat, dancers keeping rhythm. This broader acceptance, we hope, could normalize the usage of a walking aid.
The dimensions are 196.12 mm for X, 32.79 mm for Y, and 111.40 mm for Z. The outer part is made of silicon that through its grip shape prevents the hand from slipping, but remain soft to the touch. The inside shells the electronics with a durable and lightweight plastic. The electronics are consisted of the following: Arduino Micro Unit, 9V Battery, 3-Axis Accelerometer, Bluetooth Module, 3 LEDs, 3 Mini Vibrating Disk Motors
Upon pinpointing the problem of fear of falling, the biggest challenge in this project was how to design a product for users who have relatively low physical risk in falling, but have heightened risk due to overcautious gait. After numerous iterations, we decided to use calm technology principles, which utilizes subtle vibrational cues through the handle of its walking aid to help guide gait. Moreover, we took on the challenge to design a cane that integrates as a service with medical experts.
We interviewed users & medical/gait experts to understand their needs and get continuous feedback for our design. We prototyped iteratively using sketches, PVC pipes, foam models, 3D prints, and electronics. Once refined, we built a physical and functional cane, handle and hub prototype for final user testing. We also designed a UI to communicate the service of the product. CADY sends calm & rhythmic vibrational cues through the handle of the walking aid to help subconsciously guide gait.