Interactive canvases – multisensory design for dementia

As part of a multisensory design assignment, in a group of three, we set about designing a product that would energize people with dementia on a psychogeriatric ward in a carefacility. In this design assignment multisensory design practices were used to design for dementia patient. Dementia is a degenerative brain disease which eventually leads to death. Before that, sufferers of dementia slowly lose upper brain function, like reasoning and association. The disease was examined through available literature, but as is often the case, experiencing what it is like to be in a psychogeriatric ward proved to be more insightful than any research done.
After our observations and an interview with a caregiver the objective of the design was changed. We now aimed to give the hallway which already has visual stimuli, like paintings, a multi sensory touch and interaction. The senses included in this design are vision, auditory, olfactory and touch.
Using an experiencable mindmap of the senses multiple concepts were made with interactions that fit each other. From these concepts we chose Integrated canvases. Integrated canvases consists of three nature themed canvases, namely water (blue), bark (brown) and grass (green). To each we added sounds, scent and touch interaction specific to the “element” used. We were free to make a high-tech redesign, but decided to keep it very low-tech so it would be viable for the Sint Maarten verzorgingstehuis in Denekamp we visited.
To still give the dementia patients complex interaction possibilities there were two levels of interaction defined: “micro” and “macro” (big and small). This was implemented for touch with each panel giving a different interaction for big and fine movements.
Interaction scenario: The patient walks the hallway, bored. They see the slowly pulsating lights of the canvases and walk over. As they pass by the canvases sounds from the forest, seaside and wind cause them to turn their attention directly to the canvases. The patients are now free to explore by touch and sense of smell the panel that is still slowly pulsating light and playing sound. All of the information is explained in depth on the poster.
Deliverables for the course were an A0 poster and a presentation for an architect working for the Denekamp verzorgingstehuis. The low-tech design was a succes with both the architect, seeing real possibility to implement our design, and our professor, because interesting interaction had been achieved without the use of fanciful future-technology.

Partners: Kay Hoogsteder, Chee Kent Yong


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