Research team

Product development

Expertise

- Experience at various design agencies and companies: Bulo office furniture ,Achilles Design, TYCO Electronics and Studio Dott. - Expertise and interest in the human side of product design - Specialization in Inclusive Design: Optimizing products & services for the full spectrum of human needs and abilities. Embracing a process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellbeing, and social participation. Keywords: inclusive health, design for wellbeing, social participation, design for health, design & emotion, design for behavior change, empathic design. - Stigma-free design: social acceptance of products and services - Human augmentation: Human augmentation is a thriving, interdisciplinary research field that aims to amplify human abilities through the development of physical or cognitive improvements as an integral part of the human body. - Products and proxemics: The study of human use of space and the effects on behavior, communication, and social human-product interaction: space theory, product-related stigma & social distance experiments - Specialization in human-product interactions: from usability to pleasurability - Fruitful research cooperation with social sciences, psychology, marketing research, and others.

The semiotics of physical human augmentation. Contextual empowerment of human-augmentation products. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

The objective of this study is to develop a research-based framework for the development of human-augmentation products that strengthen the user's identity or capabilities by capturing contextual and physiological user input. Human augmentation is an interdisciplinary field that aims to enhance and amplify human abilities. It comprises many different types of technological apparatuses such as prosthetics, orthotics, and physically assistive devices that replace missing or lost functions, exoskeletons that extend physical abilities, or heads-up-displays using augmented reality or virtual reality. Human augmentation can be divided in three main categories: mental augmentation – which enhances human cognition, sensory augmentation – which enhances human senses, and physical augmentation – which enhances human actions. Initially, the majority of efforts towards human augmentation focused on the improvement of physical abilities, while in the 20th century, due to progress in microelectronics, augmentation has been extended by advanced sensing and cognitive improvements. Within this study, the focus lies on visible and body-near human-augmentation products, and thus primarily on physical augmentation. Physical human augmentation further includes cosmetic augmentation (e.g. anaplastology or orthodontics), functional augmentation (e.g. prosthetics or powered exoskeletons) and medical augmentation (e.g. implants or bionic lenses). When developing these human-augmentation products, industrial designers and medical experts primarily focus on the user's urgent and objective needs, such as basic functionality, usability and safety. With a focus on functionality and physical characteristics at the expense of personal user aspects, they do not succeed in expressing and encouraging their users' concerns, identities and lifestyles. Accordingly, we focus on the semiotic (visual) and functional interaction between user, context and human-augmentation product. A well-designed human-augmentation device should have the ability to positively influence the bystanders' perception, resulting in an improved self-expression and self-confidence for the user. The corresponding main research question comprises "How can human-augmentation products be developed in such way that they strengthen the user's individual and contextual identity, increasing user-product attachment, user well-being and respect social values and ethical boundaries?". In the context of this design research, an overarching framing methodology of research through design (RtD) will be applied. RtD is an evolving research process that embeds design as a research means in order to generate new knowledge. This doctoral project is divided in four work packages (WP's). After thoroughly reviewing the state of the art literature (WP1: 'understand'), the research focuses on the exploration of the design context through prototyping for specific use cases (WP2: 'conceptualize') and validation by assessing the social impact of the prototypes in real-life experiments (WP3: 'measure'). For each use case cycle (one use case per year), two to three dynamic human-augmentation prototypes will be evaluated both qualitatively and quantitatively on their stigma-eliciting potential in real-life conditions. As a reference during the experiments of each use case cycle, subjects wearing the newly-developed prototypes will be compared to subjects wearing classic, currently available human-augmentation products and to subjects wearing nothing. After each conceptualization and measurement cycle, insights and results will be steered towards implementation of new knowledge and tools (WP4'). The study will bridge the current technical and user-centred imbalance in the industrial design engineering of human-augmentation products. The resulting framework will comprise design methodology, design recommendations for the development of human-augmentation products and measuring techniques to validate design decisions.

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Cognitive assessment platform (CAP): Capturing physiological interaction parameters of caregivers during stressful ICU interventions, towards the development of dynamic caregivers' assistant interfaces (CAI). 01/07/2019 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

An intensive care unit (ICU) is a safety critical environment where caregivers' activities are crucial to human lives. Adverse events, defined as injuries or complications that are provoked by a medical human error rather than the patient's underlying disease, occur in about one-third of cases in adult ICU patients and the risk of error is cumulative. The risk factors of adverse events include high nursing workload, caregivers' sleep deprivation or fatigue, communication failure, a high patient-to-nurse ratio and poor management. Work-related stress with the accompanying emotions provoked specifically in ICU is well documented. Nonetheless, only few studies have utilized physiological measures regarding research conducted on stress on medical caregivers. Within this project, it is aimed to develop a cognitive assessment platform (CAP) which comprises wearable sensors to enable monitoring of physiological parameters and location in real-time of caregivers within an ICU. This allows creating cognitive states of caregivers, linked to time and place. Workload, fatigue and stress are the monitored cognitive states, as they are the most significant threats towards patient safety. This innovative approach will allow us to correlate the cognitive states of caregivers with specific locations at the ICU, TISS-28, tasks and episodes during their working day and night, which will provide new insights and better understanding of the workflow of the ICU caregivers. Ultimately, this research may provide rich opportunities for examination and discovery in optimising the workflow of ICU caregivers.

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Caretech: missing link between research, development and application of care techology 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

At the university of Antwerp, innovative products/services are defined based on state of the art scientific knowledge and technology. The aim of this project is to develop a workflow to facilitate and accelerate transition from these innovations in the domain of health and health care, to actual enrollment.

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Developing a user-friendly control system for a dexterous arm prosthesis for children with a bilateral transverse arm reduction 01/07/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

The loss of an upper limb dramatically affects a person's daily activities. Recent developments in bionics and prostheses make it possible to compensate this loss of functionality with a bionic robotic hand. These bionic hands are commercially available and can enable a person to perform multiple types of hand movements. Controlling a bionic hand is in most cases based on the interpretation of two surface electromyography (EMG) signals. To control the multiple degrees of freedom (DOF) of a robotic hand with only two EMG signals, a sequential control strategy is used. This sequential control strategy requires a lot of training from the user. Currently different strategies are being developed to enable a user friendly and more efficient type of control. Most developments in the field of upper extremity prostheses are aimed at adults with a single arm reduction. Children with a double arm reduction are often unable to use the available prostheses and those that are available don't provide a solution for their specific needs. This project aims to integrate the most recent developments in prosthesis control and bionic robotics and make them available for children with a double arm reduction. The research is unique and novel because it aspires to develop and verify the use of non-invasive control strategies that enable children with a double or single arm reduction to control prostheses (with multiple DOF) outside of lab conditions. This project is primarily focused on one user. Larrissa (anonymous name) is an 8-year-old Belgium girl that misses both hands and feet. At the age of 1,5 she lost both hands and feet due to illness. Because her current prosthesis (and all other prosthesis) isn't suited for a bilateral amputee and offers little functionality she remains highly dependent on the help of others. The development was initiated in 2015 by Jos d'Haens (BAP physiotherapy, MOVANT) and was complemented with the master thesis of Erik Haring. This collaborative project between the department of Product Development and Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences resulted in a first prototype of a prosthetic socket, designed for Larissa. Jos d'Haens developed a miniaturised robotic hand that can perform three primary grip types. The compact dimensions make this bionic hand especially suitable for children. The prototype of the prosthetic socket (physical connection with the wearer) was the tangible output of the master thesis of Erik Haring. This project aims to provide the missing link, a user-friendly and intuitive control system that translates human input into desired movements of the robotic hand. We defined two clusters of research questions within the project 1. Human input: Which signals can be captured within the stump of the child? Are these signals suitable to serve as input for an intuitive control strategy for the prosthesis? 2. Control strategy: How can we transform these signals into a user-friendly control strategy? 2.1 Focus on movements: Developing a prosthesis control strategy that enables the child to perform at least the three primary grip patterns: power grip, precision grip and lateral grip. With these three grips users can perform 80% of the most common daily activities. 2.2 Focus on intuitive use and user-friendliness: With the actual feedback of the child we aim for a control system that can activate at least three grip patterns in a user-friendly and intuitive way. Apart from a functional fit, we will gather user feedback on the social acceptance of the movements and look of the prosthesis. We hope to apply and expand the knowledge and insights obtained from this study to other projects for young amputees. The methodology could serve as a basis for the development and design of similar intuitive and child friendly control strategies for prosthesis and assistive devices.

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Virtual SIZE; 01/12/2016 - 30/06/2019

Abstract

The project's overall aim is to develop a technology platform that allows developing cycling apparel with an optimized fit based on personal measurements. The first objective is to develop a measurement system that allows to measure an individual cyclist. The second objective makes it possible to develop a 3D shape model of trunk and limbs of a cyclists.

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Living actively and independently at home – Support more older adults to live longer in their homes with the contribution of ICT based solutions (gAALaxy). 01/11/2016 - 31/10/2018

Abstract

gAALaxy - The universal system for independent and interconnected living at home. The motivation behind the gAALaxy project is to support older adults in staying autonomous and socially active in their familiar environment and in introducing them to AAL-technologies while using an ambient (integration of the system into life and living environment) and activating (inclusion and participation of the end-user into social environment) approach. The goal of the gAALaxy development is to bundle existing, innovative AAL solutions with professional home automation systems in order to deliver a unique and unified end-user experience. The core of the gAALaxy vision is the creation of a holistic residential gateway revolving around ambient home automation technologies enhanced with activating and engaging AAL technologies which offers access to call centre technologies or relevant tele and social services.

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Project website

MIC-STRIP: development of a microfluidic strip and device for rapid and accurate determination of the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of antibiotics. 01/05/2016 - 30/04/2017

Abstract

Given the increasing numbers of bacteria showing resistance against an increasing number of antibiotics, physicians have an urgent need for accurate and clinically actionable data with regard to the antibiotic susceptibility patterns of pathogens. Joint research between the Lab of Medical Microbiology and product development group at the University of Antwerp and the Brussels Photonics team at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel will lead to the development of a microfluidic strip and associated device for the rapid and accurate determination of the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of antibiotics.

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