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National Runner Up

E.Cue

E.Cue supports the development of emotional self-regulation in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder through the application of biofeedback technology and sensory soothing features.

What it does

E.Cue poses a new and empowering approach to managing challenges of ASD. It detects and alerts users to changes in emotional state, prompting and supporting the individual via an interfacing app to manage these changes through the technique of self-regulation.


Your inspiration

The inspiration for this project is my mother, Cathie Leigh-Smith, a psychologist who has devoted over 30 years of her career to improving the lives of people with an Intellectual Disability. Over the past years we have had many conversations around the challenges that her clients with ASD experience. What struck me during these conversations was the lack of products available to support management of these challenges, particularly products that utilise modern technologies. Through further research I was inspired to develop a solution that places empowerment of the user at the center of the product’s design and philosophy.


How it works

Amongst the largest challenges preventing the participation of individuals with ASD in society is a limited capacity for self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to one’s ability to control and respond to thoughts, feelings and emotions. However, self-regulation is intrinsically linked to one’s capacity for Emotion Recognition, a process with detectable physical symptoms. E.Cue applies Galvanic Skin Response sensors to monitor and detect these symptoms - a non-invasive biofeedback technology that measures conductivity across the skin through skin contact. The data collected by the sensors is processed by the E.Cue app to notify users when changes occur. The user is then prompted to complete a self-evaluation to identify and manage the emotion they are experiencing, mimicking clinical techniques that increase capacity to self-regulate. Additionally the app interfaces with the physical features of the device to provide sensory soothing activities for the user.


Design process

E.Cue began development in 2019, subject to an extensive design process to transform an idea into a functional prototype. Comprehensive research informed every stage of the design process from initial sketching to modeling in cardboard, 3D printed plastics, silicon and machined CNC molds and casts, to a final functional prototype. Prototyping was imperative in exploring and understanding how the user interacted with the product, through a series of focus groups. Feedback allowed me to validate size and proportion, ergonomics, tactile quality and functional features. Design development was supported through CAD modelling, whereby simulation features provided insight into manufacturing and materials selection, environmental impact and structural analysis. To validate the technical components of the product, I designed and developed two circuit boards using Arduino. The first of which simulated the GSR sensors and the second explored the pressure sensor illumination feature. Perhaps the most critical component in the successful development of E.Cue has been the continued collaboration and guidance of an all-female support system.This team consists of expert engineers, designers, healthcare workers and businesswomen, all of which have supported this project generously and at no cost.


How it is different

E.Cue represents an intersection between the management of ASD and technology, integrating biofeedback technology and data aggregation with traditional clinical techniques. Products currently available in the ASD market are analogue in nature, primarily designed for clinical use and lacking in integration of modern technologies. As a result these products do not meet the diverse needs of the ASD market. E.Cue differs by providing a discrete product that integrates into the user's life. The utilisation of modern technology ensures that users are provided with continuous support, creating a sense of safety and comfort that promotes independence. Through the supporting app, each device is customisable to deliver individualised coping strategies and sensory experiences. Data obtained through user activity is utilised to enhance treatment through traditional support services, such as clinical psychology, whilst aggregated data provides significant insight into ASD.


Future plans

The next step to develop E.Cue is to refine the product prototype for further testing and evaluation with the target user group, specifically looking to improve the integration of sensors to improve accuracy of monitoring and detection. Whilst this product has been designed with a primary focus on supporting the management of ASD, research undertaken strongly suggests that this product could have significant impact and benefit to a wider audience. Specifically, it is my hope to develop and adapt this product to support mental health treatment and behavioural disorders. E.Cue is registered under a provisional patent with IP Australia.


Awards

Recipient-Swinburne University Award for Excellence in Design for Social Impact


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