Ellow is a product designed in Physical Digital Products module led by Graham Pullin at DJCAD. I was in a group with Patrick Drabble and Andrew Stewart. When we merged together, a free-flowing discussion started, going around the topics of depression, schisophrenia and empathy. We focused on grief and it's forms, ways of managing it and possibilities to overcome it.
We came up to the notion of truly relieving grief/depression through understanding, that there are people going through very similar experience right now in the world. This can be achieved by creating some kind of link between the user of our product (currently grieving) and other people who might have already passed this phase.
Idea came, that users would record their feelings when they are in grief, to which specific tags can be assigned - e.g. #loss, #guilt, #anger and similar and other users can eventually get to listen to a grieving person with similar motivation for their grief.
Pillow is a comforming object, with which people often interact in private and confidental settting – the bedroom. This presumption made us assume that a person could be more willing to open to others (remotely and anonymously) in private, especially when cuddling to a pillow. The same applies to the willingness to listen to very discrete stories of others, about their own sad experiences.
We prototyped our interactive idea by using Arduino. My task was to make the general program working and create the pressure sensors for the pillow's corners, Patrick was working with the MP3 arduino module to make the recordings play.
Pressure sensors are made by using Velostat - a plastic-foil kind of material, which reduces its own resistance when you squeeze it.
Enclosing Arduino in the pillow was quite challenging since you have to make sure all the wires fit in and won't get disconnected by any bumps, and also the whole thing should be softly encased, to create a soft "core" of the pillow which will not feel uncomfortable when you lay on it.
We had to make a persuasive recording, sparking emotional reactions. Luckily, my friend Dmitry offered his help and (along with others) provided his voice to us. I did the recordings in DJCAD sound studio, which was a great learning experience as well.
One of the tasks was to produce a video showcasing the interaction with our product. We asked our friend Lily, who did amazing job acting as depressed girl, reacting to a story which was very similar to what she was going through.
It felt satisfactory to produce a product which not only helps people with certain problem (grief, sadness and depression in this case), but also allows them to feed back to help others. We received a great feedback and finished the first semester of third year by carrying out a magnificent exhibition, into which I invested a lot of effort. Lot of energy definitely went back from it afterwards :)