Critical Design | Oliver Sacks Data Band

Critical Design on Korakoff’s Syndrome
“Life without memory is no life at all” Luis Bunuel. The quote describes our project to the fullest. We were given a project based on a piece called the Mariner’s Loss by Oliver Sacks which speaks of Jimmie G. a person living with Memory loss or Korsakoff’s syndrome which is caused by head injury by excessive use of Alcohol. A person with this syndrome lives in a moment to moment consciousness. Every few seconds or minutes there is new awakening for these lives. But every awakening is fresh and nothing stays. There is no future, the present is repetitive and rarely the past is available in the bare minimum.

propotypeTypical of the information sheets that come with many products: thin onion paper, folded tightly into small squares then packages with the item.  The links and the patent are real for the technology. This is the final mockup of  [1] the insert.

Focus® Interactive Memory Glasses.


Here’s the finished diagram with a little color.bracelet-instructional1For the final the shading will need to be removed to correspond to the eyeglass diagram.  The whole look I’m going for in the end is that of an “instruction manual”; like the kind you get with a new watch/alarm clock or camera.  (unfortunately I don’t have time to get that detailed (maybe this summer))

Here’s a scan of the first design iteration/sketch.

User Scenarios
I created a  list of 100 different actions (the basis for the scenario).

Here is some amusing audio of Friends Reading the list


This is old news, but new news to me > I was researching our critical design extreme user piece, FOCUS and came across this. Interactive data eyeglasses
Some time has past since the critique of our Design Fiction projects.  On her blog, Karen wrote an amazing summary of our process.  So I don’t want to just rewrite all of that.  Instead I’d like to focus and reflect on two things that really stand out in my mind more so then anything else:  Empathy and Affordance.

Our group started from a decision to make our extreme character more of the norm in a fictional world that had come to except the limitations of his condition.  Because of this I think our design lacked a larger degree of empathy for our user.  We had fun with it though, in the idea that because the conditions that made our user unique where suddenly commonplace we could expand on the notion of what then becomes fashionable.  Had we continued with the Design Fiction project, I felt like we were on a widening road.  We were beginning to think of our design as cultural artifact and were beginning to expand in terms of subcultures.  We lost sight of the smaller picture.

Affordance vs. uniqueness.

“ … it is important to avoid merely superimposing the familiar physical world onto a new electronic situation.” (Hertizan Tales, pg 17)

So how do we create a device with affordance without using the familiar?  I don’t know.  We obviously did not avoid the familiar in our produce design.  With the amount of various tasks we needed our product to perform we decided to use products that were already familiar.  We thought by using objects that almost call out their initial purpose (ie. glasses=put them on your face) we could initiate use.  Having a type of Korsakoff Syndrome, under most any circumstance our user would not use a produce of any kind without prompting.  We had thought of designing a product that would continually initiate it’s own use. Similar to a pet, the system would seek attention and initiate interaction and would be a constant companion. (ie. like a cat that wants to be fed or a dog that want to be pet.)  Again though, is this “… merely superimposing the familiar physical world onto a new electronic situation.”?  I don’t think so.  There is something hard wired into us and our relationship with certain aspects of our physical world.  And even the notions of the world that surrounds us that we learned from our culture are valuable tools in making an unfamiliar technology mentally and socially acceptable.

We brainstormed ideas and came with quite a few interesting, crazy, weird and absolutely unreal ideas (unreal just for today!!). One of the major problems the person with this syndrome and similar ones face is that at some point when they are made to realize the changes they get anxiety attacks and just freak out. They get upset and distressed. The main thing to keep in mind while helping the people with this syndrome is Simplicity. So a virtual space to create an illusion of life continuing the way it used to is a possibility which would help them not realize what’s become of them.  Another idea was to create an intelligent pet robot (dog) to talk and communicate with the person, to help the person with daily chores and so on. The pet is basically a reminder and a nurse for them.

Finally we chose the most unique concept of them all. Keeping in mind the Mayan Calendar and the world ending in 2012 we came up with a twist. The world does not end in 2012 instead about 60% of the population is affected by an epidemic similar to Korsakoff’s syndrome. People at the age of 35 and above will lose all memory and remember only they re past until they are affected. So to make life easier for them (majority of the population) we introduce the awesome gizmo – digital Glasses that are connected to a wrist band that cannot be detached. The glasses have a dual option. They can see the world as it is along with text to remind, instruct or update the person with the syndrome on what’s happening to him or her. It gives the person with the syndrome a sense of freedom and independent life. Rather than being stuck in a room or in a special hospital this device helps the person manage by themselves. It also comes in various styles, software versions and of course upgrades are available with a price. The bracelet is the reminder for when the person removes the glasses to sleep or to shower he or she has to be reminded to put it back on.