What it does
Uplift is a personal utility cart with the ability to collapse and directly load itself into a vehicle’s storage compartment to eliminate the effort of repetitive loading/unloading and heavy lifting.
This project focused on Transgenerational design and the goal was to develop something that would aid or enhance a person in the third age's life. After much research, I narrowed down my focus to grocery shopping because it was deemed to be one of the most essential tasks to help the elderly maintain their independence. The struggles associated with the task of grocery shopping (tedious loading/unloading, carrying multiple heavy loads, etc.) is something that we can all relate with, but in the case of those with limited mobility, decreased strength and stamina, the struggles become intensely magnified, and the task becomes much more difficult to perform. I wanted to tackle a common issue (that either affects us or will affect us) that is also commonly overlooked.
How it works
Uplift is a personal trolley to be used at the store and at home. Once the users are done shopping, they no longer need to unload items one by one into their car, but simply keep the items in the basket and have Uplift neatly collapse directly into their vehicle's storage compartment. To load: Position cart behind car compartment, press unlock button, push basket onto storage space, and pull up legs to fold. Uplift collapses in a downward motion toward the storage compartment, making for an easy and automatic height adjustment. Research reveals those in the third age tend to shop more frequently, and in lower volumes, making Uplift’s size appropriate for the task and compatible for most standard car compartments. Its aluminum frame makes it lightweight, but durable, and gives it a sleek aesthetic. Silicone over molding on the front legs and handle provides collision protection and comfortable grip, while a removable basket provides versatility and ease of maintenance. The vibrant color provides visibility for safety, but also evokes vitality and an energetic tone. For unloading: unfold the legs, pull the cart up to automatically lock into position, and simply push the items in one trip. Uplift provides convenience and supports independence by minimizing effort to make the shopping experience easier for aging adults.
I began with research about the aging demographic including the most common tasks performed, along with common issues associated with aging. This allowed me to cross-reference and quickly identify which tasks were most important, most difficult, and why. Grocery shopping stood out as one of the most essential tasks to everyday living, and maintaining independence, but it was also one of the most difficult because the task requires a certain amount of strength, stamina, and mobility that many commonly lack due to aging. Methods such as interviewing, shadowing, and task analysis allowed me to better understand some of the latent needs and in detail what part of the process needed the most attention. I concluded that the average grocery cart is a great aid that alleviates a lot of the problems, and the problems were only really apparent in the absence of a trolley. The most difficult part of grocery shopping happens after leaving the store, where the users no longer have the aid of the grocery cart for assistance, and must load, unload, and make multiple trips carrying those heavy loads from their car into their home. This typically causes exhaustion for those with lower strength and stamina. Through some market research, I identified that many personal trolleys existed in the market, but none that would aid in the task of loading and unloading. The goal was to fill in the missing gaps: design a personal utility cart that would enhance the experience of grocery shopping by minimizing the effort of loading/unloading and heavy lifting. Exploration through sketching was the next step. I explored many different methods to take away the heavy lifting by loading the whole cart into the vehicle: from using ramps, to hitching the basket onto the car. I was really inspired when I came across a medical stretcher that could automatically collapsed so it can be pushed directly into the back of an ambulance without any lifting. This method was much more sophisticated because it didn't require any additional accessories but only relied on its own mechanisms. My next step was to focus on ideations that focused on collapsing. I began with sketches and ended up over thirty hand models made out of cardboard to explore different types and patterns of collapsibility that included multiple-joint folds, to sliding, to many combinations in between. I proceeded to make three life-sized prototypes of the best directions. After some refinement, a few more prototypes and a lot of testing, I was able to identify the best mechanism that worked best in terms of functionality and usability. I refined my design further in sketches and CAD. It was important that the aesthetics didn't give the cart a medical feel and negative stigma, but complete the experience without alienating the users. Manufacturability and materials also had to be carefully considered: from the aluminum frame for its durable but lightweight and sleek aesthetic, to the brightly silicon colored accents for comfort, style and safety through high visibility. Developing Uplift was a truly iterative process that required breadth and depth and attention to detail from all stages of the design process—from in-depth research, varied ideation and exploration, countless models, lots of testing, and many iterations.
How it is different
2014 Red Dot Award, Best of the Best | Design Concept.