Digital Autobiography


This concept is a physical product that prompts seniors to reflect back on happy and memorable moments of their life. Seniors speak into an easy to use a recording device and our software records their voice and converts it into text. Included with the products are cards that ask questions such as “Tell me about your favorite job?” or “Tell me about your childhood?”. Our program assembles these stories in chronological order in different chapters. Once the Senior is satisfied with the story, they are able to purchase a physical or digital copy of their autobiography that they can then give to friends or family.

Integrated Product Development Methods
Product Developer: Concept Idea, Persona, User Journey, Interviews
Fall, 2018
Initial Research

In order to develop a solution to cultivate wellness and fulfillment in seniors, we started by conducting research online to identify the biggest problem areas. We found that frequent mental distress (FMD) may interfere with major life activities, such as eating well, maintaining a household, working, or sustaining personal relationships. We also found that depression later in life isn’t a normal part of growing old, and 80 per cent of cases are treatable. We set out to verify these findings and learn more firsthand by heading to the Carson Retirement Residence and the Jewish Association of Aging. We were able to sit down with eight seniors and talk about their daily struggles and discovered the methods they use to stay healthy both mentally and physically. We asked how their current solutions could be improved and found that the research we conducted online was validated. We landed on a possible opportunity gap to solve the issues we identified as "A product or service that increases seniors’ fulfilment through educational methods".

Persona: Frank

Frank is on social security with a limited budget. As it is expensive to hire a personal caregiver, he does most of his work himself. Karen, who’s a caregiver at the facility helps him during rough days but, he longs for a friend. He feels that she’s too busy to sit down to talk to him, share stories and develop an intimate relationship. He feels lonely quite often. He had never imagined living in a retirement home but has come to terms with the present and wants to make the most of it.

Frank has always been an avid reader, religion, and politics being some of his favorite topics. Reading and learning empowers him and makes him feel life is meaningful. However, he found that there are limited resources in the library (in the retirement home). This prevents him from learning and makes him quite disappointed.

His son bought him a smartphone, and he uses it to call his children when he misses them. Last month, his friend Jesse taught him how to browse the news on it, and he’s fascinated with how accessible things are on the internet. He wishes to learn more.

A Day with Frank

Today started like any other day for Frank. He woke up at 8 AM sharp, got dressed, and went to pick up his morning paper. He started a pot of coffee while he fingers through the pages of the New York Times. He noticed that date at the top of the page reads November 11th, the same day he married his late wife Mary over 50 years ago. Memories from the day that she passed rush through his deteriorating brain and he is overcome with sadness. He instinctively reached for the telephone to call his last connection to Mary, his son Jonathan. His hand stops when he thinks about the number of times he has called Jonathan recently since he doesn’t want to worsen his son’s day by burdening him with the emotions he struggles with daily. Seeking a confidant, he leaves his room in search of the caregiver, Molly, who he usually turns to when he’s feeling down. When walking past the reception, he overhears that Molly is on vacation for the week. Angry and alone, he walks off to the reading room to bury his emotions in a book. Emotionally, he needs the satisfaction of bettering himself through knowledge to offset the feeling of being helpless. With a limited access to educational content, he wishes there was an easy way to digest information to keep his emotions in check and brain active without having to navigate confusing technology.

Value Opportunity Analysis

Based on the information we gathered through research and our in person interviews, we decided to rank the current state solution to our proposed opportunity gap. We did this by defining elements of emotion, ergonomics, identity, aesthetic, impact, core-tech, and quality within the context of our opportunity gap. For the current state comparison, we decided to look at the board game Scrabble which is a common pastime of a lot of seniors. The game of scrabble works by players assembling words from letter game pieces, and it is an excellent way for the seniors to keep their brain active and bond with other residents. We found that residents played the game at both retirement homes we visited, but certain limitations existed that we wished to improve upon with our eventual solution.

The comparison chart helped us identify key value opportunities by focusing on the gap areas in yellow that could use the most improvement for our target users. The chart highlighted the needed improvement in Power, Personality, and Enabling, while also indicating the areas that we need to maintain the status quo. We selected 13 Key VO’s and grouped them, which would soon become our product requirements.

Product Requirements

From the grouped Value Opportunities, we then created a list of requirements that our concepts must, should, or could have before we began ideating a solution. We felt that intuitive tactile, visual, and auditory feedback were a necessity, as technological devices can be confusing to seniors who generally have less experience. We also thought that our solution must promote seniors' self-worth to increase confidence and build a bigger sense of power. We came up with several concepts that met the requirements we outlined, which included a daily challenge system that encouraged seniors to interact with their community and a wearable device that recorded daily conversations and compiled them into journals.

Affinity Mapping, Grouping, and Voting

We brainstormed about 100 ideas that fit with the areas of improvement we identified with our value opportunity analysis and product requirements. We then took these ideas and grouped similar concepts together, which took us to about 15 or so. From here, each group member voted three times, and we chose the three most voted concepts to develop further.

Three narrowed ideas

Our three chosen ideas included a wearable watch that identified objects and gave definitions in real time, a daily challenge application to engage with events and other people in the living community, and a digital autobiography device that allows seniors to reflect and record past memories. The goal is to allow seniors to record memorable moments in their lives and give the ability to share these moments easily to those who matter to them. By transferring ideas into a digital form, we give seniors the comfort that their stories will live on long after they have passed.

Visit to Nursing Home

We then took the lo-fi prototype of the digital autobiography concept back to the Carson Retirement Residence for senior’s feedback on how to best make the interface. Initially, we thought about the idea of mobile application or website, since it would be easy to record and share the autobiography. We learned that we had overestimated the number of seniors who could easily operate these mobile devices. They would prefer a physical device that was simple to use and that didn’t need the internet connection. The seniors also stressed the importance of security with this device, and would not want any of their information leaked or hacked. This led us to a final iteration.

Concept Renderings

The final form of our digital autobiography is a tri-fold book that has prompts in the left and middle panels to help seniors get started talking. In this space, seniors can also write notes or post their pictures to scrapbook. The right panel is a minimal, senior-friendly tablet that has a paper like a screen with three simple buttons to play, stop, and record. When a senior records a story with the tablet, it uses text to speech technology with machine learning to eliminate redundancy and convert their auditory stories into cohesive text. If a senior wishes to share a copy of the book, an SD card can be inserted into the device to then transfer the audio and video into another device or a computer where it can be easily shared electronically.