a wearable device to assist visual impairments during workouts
↳ Project Manager
Laura Lopez Andre
↳ UX Designer
↳ Visual Designer
↳ UX Engineer
Our team was given the task of designing a product or digital service to help a brand that has struggled to drive business and consumer satisfaction in recent years.
We chose Reebok. Reebok was popular due to athlete endorsements and aerobics, but struggled after being acquired by Adidas. In 2019, the brand was sold for $2.5 billion.
22 - 32, both male and female, visually impaired
Our primary target audience is people with visual impairments, both male and female, ages 22-32, who are interested in leading an active lifestyle and incorporating physical activity into their daily routine.
There is a gap in the market for sports products catering specifically to people with disabilities, particularly those with visual impairments
We believe that addressing this gap and providing visually impaired athletes with the necessary product and innovative services can empower them to participate in physical activity and navigate different sports independently. This will not only improve the inclusivity of Reebok but also open new market opportunities.
During my time working on this project, I was responsible for leading the product strategy, facilitating the user research process, and designing an interactive experience that combined digital and physical devices for visual impairments.
To gain a deep understanding of our users, I consulted with the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision and conducted interviews, observational studies, and testing sessions.
Committing to understand our user's need
To understand our users, we conducted exercises and physical activities as a blind or partially blind person, including walking, running, and obstacle courses. We created a research plan based on the empathy journey from sympathy to compassion, and established a method to approach the different empathy state:
More rely on other senses
Our main insights from the first empathy exercise were:
- Participants didn’t feel confident wearing a blindfold during the exercise. They felt scared, confused, and uneasy.
- Participants felt disoriented; as they walked, they veered off the course and began to go in the wrong direction. They needed support from others or tools to not walk into plants or obstacles; all participants found walking with the walking stick was great reinforcement.
- Participants started rely on their other senses, such as hearing and tactile to collect information to help them make the next move.
Safety is a large concern for those who are visually impaired
During our interviews with specialists at the Savannah Center for the blind and low vision, we spoke with Cecilia Emery, an occupational therapist for people with visual impairments, and AJ Walker, a mobility coach for the blind. Emery rehabilitates visually impaired individuals and trains them to use walking canes properly.
In addition to speaking with the specialists, we also conducted exercises on their mobility trail. We used simulator goggles to try out different cane tips and gain insights about cane use."
Our main Insight:
- There is a stigma that people with visual impairments are incapable of a lot. That is incorrect; with the right tools and training, they are capable of a lot more than we think.
- We noticed that when visually impaired, there is an added level of caution on the mental and physical side when participating in the movement.
- Once one of your senses is unavailable, you become a lot more aware of your other sense and rely on them more than you think.
Anything fast pace I am usually a step behind awareness
We also spoke with Sarosh, who lost vision completely in his left eye around eight years old due to a muscle tumor on his optic nerve, which means that he no longer receives any visual information from that eye. He shared:
- My reaction time is very poor because of my bad eye
- Although not as fast-paced, when doing an outdoor activity such as hiking, he said, “I don’t see tree branches, and they hit me in the face a lot, so I walk slower, and I move my head around a lot.
Overall our research led us to apply a new perspective on our problem space; we defined key themes through our primary and secondary research for our design direction. These are safety, navigation, orientation, and guided experience.
Reevaluating user needs and pain points
As we learned more about the current market and developing technology, it was essential to understand how users interact with features and what feasible solutions could assist them in their activities. To do this, we asked participants with limited senses to use various tools to navigate and perform tasks in different environments during testing.
- Not enough information is provided by single-point and Lidar vibration changes are too subtle
- Giving more specific/ calculated instructions made it easier for users to follow and complete the task.
- Intentional sound worked best when paired with verbal clarification on details such as what objects were.
There is power in empowering others
Reebok Insight is a wearable device that can be worn on the chest during a workout session. It monitors the surrounding environment and guides individuals through the space to make them feel comfortable and safe while participating in physical activity.
The device connects to an app that allows for personalization and navigation support based on the unique needs of each individual. Reebok Insight provides a guided experience with feedback and information to help users navigate ever-changing environments safely and efficiently.
LiDAR object detection
To detect obstacles during a workout session, the device uses LiDAR to map out the space ahead of the user and provide voice feedback through Bluetooth about the user's orientation in the space.
After the workout, the partial map is combined with maps from previous sessions to create a complete map of the entire space. By comparing overlapping sessions using machine learning, more information can be provided to the user in future sessions, such as new gym layouts or areas where there is a higher probability of encountering changing obstacles on the floor or overhead.
The gym can improve map accuracy by doing a one-time scan or periodic updates with LiDAR-enabled devices. This creates a detailed and accurate map of the gym space, providing more precise information to users about their orientation and potential obstacles. The map can also be updated to account for changes to the gym layout.
LiDAR and object recognition technologies are not always 100% accurate and may not detect all obstacles or hazards. The call for help button allows the user to easily request assistance from partnership businesses or contacts for guidance and support, especially in challenging or unfamiliar environments or for those at higher risk for injury.
The camera is used for object identification and to provide context when the user calls for assistance. It can identify people or equipment in the gym space and transmit a live video feed or capture a still image to help the assistant understand the situation.
Call for help button
Detail of features
Defined the design direction and physical device design
Working with Jake, our UX Engineer, we analyzed the required features based on our research and defined the essential components involved in the device's functions. We determined that the best placement for the device to have a clear view of obstacles from head to toe without inhibiting mobility was on the user's chest.
We also carefully considered the placement of buttons and materials based on accessibility, to help users orient and operate the device easier and confidently.
The materials and textures used in the build of the device are landmarks that allow the user to orient and find inputs quickly.
Setting accessibility guidelines for behavior pattern
In collaboration with product partners, I led the design of the app to be navigated using gestures and voice commands, and ensured it had a consistent placement of actions to establish a use pattern for our visually impaired users. We also included large buttons and high contrasting colors to meet the accessibility needs of our users.
For Reebok, expanding their disability offerings isn't just a way to gain praise and attention. It's a return to their identity at their prime, a company that isn't afraid to reach out to an underrepresented group because they believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their athletic potential and achieve what they are capable of. By leading the way in designing athletic products for people with disabilities, Reebok has the potential to become a powerhouse once again.
ABG benefits from Insights' innovation through the application of technology, as well as a accessibility design methodology that can be adapted to all companies in its portfolio.
It was a great experience for me to research the history and definition of the brand and help steer Reebok in a new direction. Research was crucial in this project, and I enjoyed learning about visual impairments at different levels through expert interviews, user interviews, and testing. This project also taught me the importance of accessibility design and how it should meet the needs of our users.
We encountered difficulties in recruiting individuals with visual impairments to test our refined solution and hardware prototype. While we attempted to simulate the experience with our target audience through various testing methods, I believe that actual testing with our target demographic would provide valuable insights to improve the interaction design and accessibility of our solution in the future.