LIBERTY

MFA Interaction Design Thesis, Case Study
“Liberty” is a Bluetooth-enabled necklace wearable designed to help manage vertigo induced panic and anxiety attacks.
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The Problem

When someone experiences an anxiety attack, they cannot find an immediate sense of calm, composure, and rather experience further episodes of worsening panic as their anxiety is triggered, and feelings of increased disorientation and fear multiply. 

The Solution

"Liberty" is a smart necklace cradled at the heart center with an easy-to-access button that when pressed enables a multi sensory experience that heals anxiety. This device features scientifically-proven vibration levels and sound healing to help users find calm at the onset of chronic panic attacks.

Deliverables

User Interviews; User Testing; User Research & Site Analytics; Persona & Scenario Modeling; Brand Development; Wireframes; Prototypes; Experience Design; Concept Design; Interaction Design; UX Strategy

Role

Product Designer & Researcher

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“Liberty” is specifically aimed to center, comfort, and calm those who experience such panic and anxiety attacks, at any time in the day, given the nature that the device is central to their chest.

 

When activated, it turns their phone into airplane mode to cancel all distractions,

and features immersive sounds and vibrations in the moment.

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The device is a necklace that wirelessly connects to an app where users can also choose from a curated library of binaural beats, adjust vibration levels, and view data-driven insights. As a multi-sensory device, Liberty creates an immersive peaceful experience, that centers users, and stabilizes their breath and heartbeat.

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As a wearable device, “Liberty” is always there. It accompanies the user as a piece of minimal, functional jewelry. Users can create calm anywhere with its healing effects and sensations. With “Liberty” users can also be transported to a deeply grounding experience, which aligns their state of mind and brings them back to center, to the moment,

to the now.

The necklace can be both a pendant and handheld device, as well. Through user-testing, I discovered that the majority of men interacting with my prototypes did not want the necklace as a pendant, but rather suggested on several accounts to make the device available as a handheld object in their pocket. Therefore, the hold for the chain is subtly integrated with the small LED light at the top of the necklace design. The point where the chain goes through thenecklace is not a prominent focus on the design, and is unnoticable if the object functions as just a handheld device for men. However, a few men during user tests did like “Liberty” as a necklace.

In developing the prototype and product, the ideal would be that it can be distributed as a male collection and a female collection with slight variations in design.

Ultimately I decided to switch from a digital output to a physical object design because those sufferings from panic attacks need immediate relief. An app oftentimes leads to more distraction, stress, and anxiety. Furthermore, when such attacks occur patients typically close their eyes and try to hold onto something to ground themselves. Therefore, designing an app that requires user input and participation in the midst of a panic attack would be more straining for the user.

Competitor Assessment / Finding My Gap
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“Liberty" is unique in that it combines vibration, sound, and texture together to create a healing experience for users, while also operating from the convenience of bluetooth and from a central urgent-response location on the body being their chest.

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Ideation

“Liberty” employs cognitive behavioral therapy to relieve anxiety, stress, and panic.

 

Cognition is defined as “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition). Users are given an immersive experience from the wearable device, where all senses are engaged and stimulated to create inner calm and centeredness. The moment the necklace is activated from its power button, the following sensations occur: micro-vibrations, sound, heat, tactility. Anxiety disorders have also been found to play a role in causing vertigo and dizziness, as well as to make such attacks worse. The act of clearing your mind through meditation and focusing on positivity can help to decrease anxiety and vertigo.

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According to Dr. Perkins D.C. of Premier Family Wellness & Spinal Care:

"Anxiety attacks can lead to hyperventilation. This can easily cause a bout of vertigo. It can also result in dizziness, difficulty thinking, and weakness. Stress is also a factor in vertigo because stress can increase anxiety. According to one study, anxiety and panic disorders commonly appear side by side with vertigo or dizziness. While the exact cause is not understood, it makes sense to seek anxiety and stress relief methods to decrease the risks of vertigo. “

Research shows that balance is controlled in the same vestibular function as anxiety. Therefore, the sensation of dizziness experienced during a vertigo attack also causes feelings of anxiety. Hyperventilation, panic, and anxiety

are also known causes of vertigo itself (https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/symptoms/dizziness).

These issues can simultaneously make the sensation of disorientation more severe. Deep breathing, closing your eyes, drinking water, and focusing on a fixed point are advisable methods for coping with anxiety (monq.com/eo/physiology/coping-anxiety-dizziness).

 

“Liberty” makes use of three of these. Users are prompted to exercise deep breaths while the binaural beats resound in their connected headphones. The device does not require any interaction with a visual app interface, thereby closing your eyes is a natural outcome of its experience. Lastly, the tactility of the necklace enable users to focus on a fixed point, i.e. the comforting textural effect and aesthetic.

My personal story is that I experienced vertigo and would become very short of breath, heart racing, etc on the onset of every attack. I don’t envision the device healing the sensation of spinning, nausea, or other physical symptoms, but rather designed to create a sense of immediate peace and mental alignment in response to an attack, whether it be a vertigo attack in my personal experience, or anxiety and panic attacks for others.

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“Liberty” is a Bluetooth-enabled necklace designed to help manage vertigo-induced anxiety and panic attacks. The wearable device features a healing vibration, textural effect, and subtle warmth when activated. Users can also choose from a curated library of binaural beats via a connected app. The device helps to immediately center users and create a sense of calm.

Through my research, I’ve found that vibration has a proven healing effect. In addition to these findings, other calming features for the device can be sound and warmth. On the back of the necklace, users will press a small button that activates the device. Then this will trigger a subtle vibration in the center of the necklace, as well as pair the device with bluetooth on your headphones to play an ambient sound composition. Additionally, the device will warm up slightly to connect the power of your memory to its effect. The visual design of the necklace itself will also be soft on one side, and rough on the other side, where the user can pleasurably hold it and play with it in their hand.

User Research
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I conducted 3 rounds of user-testing, which consisted of 4 tests and 6 participants each who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.

 

Sound Test:

I had participants wear my looks-like necklace prototype and listen to binaural beats on

YouTube from my bluetooth headphones.

 

Vibration Test:

Participants placed the “iMassage U” app on my iPhone on their heart while the slow pulse

vibration pattern played.

 

Heat Test:

I had participants place a hand-warmer patch against their chest and imagine it as the

necklace in its position.

 

Impression Test:

Participants wore the necklace with all features together (sound/vibration/heat) and commented on their impressions and feedback.

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Final Prototype

Inside the necklace, there’s a network of wires and housing for the device’s connecting features.

 

I sketched several iterations of its design to account for all components, and to formulate the optimum way for all parts to interact smoothly.

The working prototype of “Liberty” functions using Arduino code and

circuitry, whereby the button and vibrating motor are connected.

 

Once the button is pressed, this also triggers Processing code that plays the sound in the user’s headphones.

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In order to connect a working prototype at this stage, it has some modifications from the ideal system design. When the button is clicked, the vibration triggered is an ongoing pattern of 80 beats per minute. When button clicked, the light turns on indicating that the device is working. And when the button clicked, a sound file from a computer is played in its entirety. The sound file is then played from a pair of headphones plugged into a computer.

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In preparation for 3D printing my prototype and installing all functionalities in its interior, I explored how to design the best housing for the vibrating motor, button and LED light.

The 3-part design was comprised of the following: 2 halves with interior space for the vibrating motor and an attachable LED light dome.

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The design was made circular per user research, interviews, and testing feedback. The slight encaved curvature around the circumferance of the pendant is for users to trace a “calming pathway” with their finger, as a form of inspiring deep mental focus as well.

The button was the largest component to fit into the design. When you press the button, the light and vibration turns on, and the sound plays in your headphones. With “Liberty” users can feel centered, stabilize their breath and heartbeat, and de-stress anywhere at any time.