Dean Dijour
Student Technologist, Entrepreneur, and Leader
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EmBrace: Scoliosis Brace for the 21st Century

I worked as the leader of the Human Computer Interaction team for a semester, with masters students across mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, sensing, and design disciplines. I was in charge of dissecting the problem with outdated Scoliosis brace technology. As a case study to guide the project, we met with a 13 year old girl, her parents, and her brace clinician. The HCI group designed baseline and visionary scenarios and coordinated with hardware, front-end, back-end, and sensing teams to unify product scope. I later worked on the front-end application team, creating an HTML/CSS/JS based screen set which was later wrapped with Cordova to simulate a native mobile Android application. The following slides are taken from the final presentation, which was presented to the patient and her parents.

Baseline

Baseline

The scoliosis patient came in with her parents at the start of this project to clarify scoliosis and its known treatments. Currently, brace technology is nearly half a century old, and causes rashes, swelling, bruises, and overheating. Additionally, patients have to wear uncomfortable braces for weeks before possibly being told that the brace was improperly cut or worn and will have to be readjusted. Moreover, the treatments are incredibly stigmatizing and socially inhibiting, posing challenges for adolescents as they enter maturity. A technological solution to this outdated treatment had to be developed.

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Research Gathering

Research Gathering

The Human Computer Interaction team met with all the relevant stakeholders - the patient, her parents, and her doctor - to create a set of user stories that would guide the development of the Embrace. It was clear that patients needed to be notified when they were overheating or if the brace was not being worn correctly, as did their parents and doctors, but there was much more to be optimized. I proposed an air pump/bladder bracing solution to replace the current rigid braces, which would greatly enhance the comfort. After presenting these suggestions to the stakeholders and iterating once more, the physical prototyping could begin.

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Overview

Overview

After the visionary scenario was approved by the stakeholders, the teams drafted a system architecture, which tied together all subsystems and unified our respective goals. The primary components to this system are the bracing technology (the air pump and bladder) and the sensing technology (the pressure, temperature, moisture, and posture sensors). Below is a small selection of the subsytems in this architecture, with an emphasis on the front-end design, which tied it all together into a usable platform for the stakeholders.

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User Experience/User Interface

User Experience/User Interface

The UX/UI of this project was built on the premise of keeping the interface consistent, reducing the user’s memory load, and having 80% of the core functionality accessible from the main page. With this in mind, we made the dashboard a central hub for all the sensors, with real time temperature and posture data on the main page. Just one click away from the dashboard, the user can find detailed metrics on all sensors, or perhaps access the forum on Scoliosis, or even see the challenges section for encouraging emotional support. The patient and her parents were delighted by the easy to use interface, and were impressed at the breadth of data available to them in real time.

Reflection

Reflection

This project was a joy to work on, as it tested my ability to work with stakeholders and teammates with a diverse set of different perspectives, skills, and goals from mine. This was a fun challenge and test of my creativity, and I’m glad we were able to provide immense value to the stakeholders, while having a blast developing a new medical device. I’d especially like to thank my team members, whom I learned the most from: Emily Wu, Abhishek Tayal, Mohona Sengupta, Gauri Agarwal, and Danielle Hu.