Design with me, not for me!

Written by: Unaliwear and The History Project

At the Aging2.0 #30in30in30 kickoff in San Francisco on September 9, 2015, pitch competition judge Dr. June Fisher (an 82-year-old a retired M.D. and former Stanford instructor) had some direct feedback for the startups pitching their companies, products, and product benefits focused on caregivers, families, and institutions. She noted that most of the startup pitches were delivered in a way that ignores and disregards most seniors’ acute awareness of their needs, and leads to products that inappropriately address seniors’ needs. Dr. Fisher concluded, “Design WITH me, not FOR me!”

Aging2-consumer-panelsAging2.0 Consumer Panels

Earlier that day, startups UnaliWear and The History Project participated in Consumer Panels put together by Aging2.0 to allow innovators to ask questions and gather feedback from our wearers and users. The two panels included 9 seniors ranging in age from 68 to 85, and UnaliWear and The History Project took full advantage of the opportunity meet with our constituents.


UnaliWear's Experience



What UnaliWear is building has been described by Time Magazine as “a Smartwatch for Grandma” and by previous focus groups as a wearable “OnStar(tm) for People”.

UnaliWear’s Kanega watch and monitoring system provides discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering in a classically styled watch that uses an easy speech interface rather than buttons - and does not require a smart phone (because it’s built in).

At UnaliWear, our core value is our tag line “Extending Independence With Dignity”. When it comes to aging, “dignity” is really all about “control”; in Nielson’s “Global Survey About Aging” (Feb. 2014), the number one concern about life in old age is “losing self reliance to care for basic needs”. Translating that understandable concern into what a Kanega watch should do to extend independence with dignity resulted in our design that uses only speech to define the behavior of a person’s Kanega watch. There is no caregiver or family setup, no apps or programs to run, no web sites to visit — just speech from the person who wears the watch, who is in control of their own aging process as they live independently.

Because we want every independent-but-vulnerable person who wears a Kanega watch to be safe, no matter how vulnerable they may be, we’ve done focus groups with hundreds of potential Kanega wearers already. The majority of our focus groups have been with seniors between the ages of 75 and 93.

The Consumer Panel sponsored by Aging2.0 was unique among our focus groups because the group was both younger and much more technically experienced than UnaliWear’s typical focus group. Interestingly, the Panel’s inputs were similar to those from previous focus groups, even though the panelists asked how some capabilities were implemented, which a typical focus group hasn’t historically asked about.

Here’s what the panelists said:




When we look at the likelihood of wearing a Kanega watch, it needs to be considered in conjunction with the watch styles that we’ve shown in the focus group. Most people can’t envision where we’re going with our design — they can only “see” and judge the current prototype Kanega watch. The focus group feedback agrees that we haven’t quite gotten that classic style that we’re looking for:


UnaliWear subscribes to the model of “Design WITH me, not FOR me!” We are grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the panelists to learn more about them and their preferences.



The History Project's experience



One of our guiding principles at The History Project is to ensure we are leading with human centered design principles, of which one of the most crucial principles is continuous user feedback.


We use feedback to inform the next iteration of our product, our messaging and our mission of ensuring life story and legacy preservation in a rich and vibrant way. So, when we were presented the opportunity to participate in the panel session before the #30in30in30 pitch event, we jumped at the opportunity.


The History Project is a modern reinvention of the time capsule that empowers family to connect artifacts and memories across media to build experiential stories that transcend generations. We went into the session with the goal of hearing insights from the participants about how they are currently capturing their memories and what they either enjoy or get frustrated by in this process.

Splitting the 12 participants into two groups gave us a chance to get more direct feedback from each person and also enabled more of a discussion among the group. We had a lively and engaged session with both groups.

The key takeaways for us:


    • The reasons why people want to capture their life stories can vary - it can be to leave a legacy for future generations, but we also heard that many people find it beneficial to go through the process of putting together the pieces of their lives as a way to help them find overall meaning in their life.


    • We heard how frustrating it can be for people working on projects who don’t have a platform like The History Project that gives them a structure of putting together their story. Having a lifetime of memories or an entire family’s worth of stories and events can make getting started feel overwhelming. Providing help on how to sift through all of those memories to create a cohesive narrative in your story is very useful for people.


    • What particularly resonated for us was hearing from everyone that there is a deep desire to capture our stories and memories, whether it’s our own personal stories, the family’s, or for a loved one. They want a place that is a single location where they can combine all their physical artifacts and all the media they have stored on computers and cloud storage and be able to tell a story with all of those pieces together.


The quality of ideas and feedback from all the participants was impressive and we left with useful information to take back to our product team to incorporate as they work on the next iteration of our platform. We appreciate Aging 2.0 for organizing the event and continuing to ensure there are opportunities to connect companies with an aging population to create true innovation through human centered design.

Here's the development mantra for all aging-related innovators: "Design WITH me, not FOR me!"