Innovation Design: User-centred Handset and Earbud Design

    The Challenge

    Early diagnosis of debilitating hearing conditions such as noise-induced hearing loss and Meniere’s disease currently affects millions of people worldwide, we aimed to highlight these conditions early to allow for early and effective treatment. Typically detection of hearing damage needs to be conducted within a clinic by clinicians with expensive devices.

    Plextek’s wearable solution works by accurately monitoring subtle changes to ‘Auditory Evoked Potentials’ (AEP) – a signal sent from the vestibular system and brainstem following an acoustical stimulus that measures an individual’s auditory ability level.

    We looked to combine a handset unit with earphones which together measure the AEP. Several conductive contacts were required to facilitate the measurements, and a key design challenge was how to package this into a user friendly and intuitive product.

    Sketches and Models
    Prototypes

    The Approach

    The handset ergonomics were key to informing the user on how to hold the device to ensure good contact with the conductive pads on the device to generate accurate results. We assessed the creation of a device that fits well in the hand by using anthropometric data and human factors to inform our design ideas. Moving quickly between sketching, CAD and prototyping allowed us to test a wide variety of different handset shapes and positioning for conductive contacts on the handset.

    We also needed to create conductive earbuds and experimented with conductive inks, fabrics, threads, and various other materials. We found the most effective solution to be designing and moulding our own earbuds from a carbon-based silicone.

    Following user testing, the most effective idea was refined and the mechanical design fully developed ready for production.

    The Approach

    The handset ergonomics were key to informing the user on how to hold the device to ensure good contact with the conductive pads on the device to generate accurate results. We assessed the creation of a device that fits well in the hand by using anthropometric data and human factors to inform our design ideas. Moving quickly between sketching, CAD and prototyping allowed us to test a wide variety of different handset shapes and positioning for conductive contacts on the handset.

    We also needed to create conductive earbuds and experimented with conductive inks, fabrics, threads, and various other materials. We found the most effective solution to be designing and moulding our own earbuds from a carbon-based silicone.

    Following user testing, the most effective idea was refined and the mechanical design fully developed ready for production.

    Prototypes

    The Outcome

    Our solution brings a low cost, intuitive, wearable consumer device that enables the facile detection of hearing damage before the person develops overt symptoms, such as the characteristic buzzing in the ears that indicates hearing loss.

    Our diverse range of capabilities allowed for multidisciplinary collaboration. By integrating skills in electronics, industrial design, mechanical engineering, and sensor systems we created a solution that packs complex electronic technology into a product which is intuitive for the user.

    An initial production run was produced for field trials.

    Quasi image