Prototype 1

Thesis Process, Thesis Studio 1


From the two ideas discussed in Domains and Precedents, I continued with the idea that had a personal impetus and allowed me to explore a field of recent interest.

prototype1-003Before diving into prototyping, it was essential to understand the focus area and identify crucial domains for research. The process began with learning what is meant by low back pain, why is it an area of concern and what are its causes and remedies.

prototype1-004The interesting or surprising thing was that a “mundane” low back pain could result in a serious health condition or disability. This made it important to understand what was meant by a disability and how reducing back pain could potentially avoid serious conditions. Another question was the role of wearables in improving different abilities.prototype1-005 prototype1-006 prototype1-007After preliminary research, four main domains were identified with sub-domains for further emphasis within those fields.
prototype1-008 prototype1-009prototype1-010As an individual, I felt the need for a fashionable wearable that provided immediate relief to real time back pain. The current medical aids appear bulky and give the feeling of isolation in a crowd. There was a need for a wearable that would blend easily in a crowd while providing relief as well.

The idea was to test this belief with other people. For the same reason, a primary source of research, a questionnaire was created.
prototype1-011 prototype1-012As part of researching on low back, some available wearables for aid were identified.

There are common prototypes of different kinds of belts and pillows or back rests for back support and the heating bags or cooling packs.
prototype1-013 More specific wearables are recent introductions like TruPosture, TENS and Quell. TENS and Quell are good examples of technology used to ease muscle pain. While TENS is applicable to any part of the body, Quell is focused on back pain. But Quell is wearable band on the leg and does not blend in with everyday attire.

On the other hand, TruPosture acts as a precedent as it is focused on back posture. It does not ease real time pain and instead improves muscle memory over a longer period.
prototype1-014To further research, there was a phone conversation with Jason Rizzo. He is an ABC certified Prosthetist/Orthotist. He has over 15 years’ experience working in Orthotics and Prosthetics and is passionate about creating devices that enable his patients to be as independent and active as possible. He is currently working at Rogerson Orthotics and Prosthetics in Boston.

When talking to Jason, two words were highlighted during the conversation, ‘stability’ and ‘compression’. He emphasized the need for low back stability by reducing the back’s range of motion through compression.

Taking inspiration from existing belts for back support, the sketch was to envision how the brace could be enclosed in a formal attire. It was about incorporating the construction pattern of a back belt in to an everyday attire.
prototype1-015 prototype1-016


Domains and Precedents

Assignment 2: Domains and Precedents, Thesis Studio 1



As part of a class exercise, we were asked to write down domains, ideas and precedents on post it notes. They could or could not be related to the Grid of 9 created.

The domains are in yellow, ideas in orange and precedents or research areas in pink. Although I am interested in all three ideas, the magnetic lock for bags was researched and a proof of concept was created as part of the previous semester’s Major Studio 2 final. Thus, I focused on the other two ideas to research a little more.


The first idea was to create a smart mirror or rather a ‘digital’ mirror, as said by David Carroll. The purpose was to explore the behaviors of early adopters, their decision-making process and their motivation to try new technologies.

Mirrors, in many cultures, represent not only the visible self or the physical representation of a being. They have deeper symbolization of being reflective of a person’s karma and spiritual self. Drawing an analogy between the karma and spiritual self and decisions and motivations of early adopters, the mirror was to be reflective of their thoughts and criteria.


The digital mirror fell under three main domains or research areas:

  • People’s perspective
    • The mirror is about understanding behaviors, decision-drivers and motivators which differ based on individuals
  • Internet of Things
    • The technology that would be used to construct the mirror
  • Human Centered Design
    • The idea was to use this research to improve interactions of smart or digital mirrors and their purpose

Smaller domains included:

  • New Media Art
    • The digital mirror would be a technology based interactive installation to test with early adopters and draw inferences from the user testing
  • Speculative Design
    • The smart or digital mirror exists in the research and development phase with several companies and diy mirrors are experimented with using currently available lo-fi technology. But mass production or actual use of these mirrors is not wide and accepted as yet. It would be at least 2 to 5 years before such a design was widely used as a smart home product.


The precedents for the mirror include:

  • Amazon Echo
    • Amazon Echo is a current example of acceptance for a verbal smart home device that pulls information on demand but lacks the push of information to the user without having to ask for it
  • Rebecca Minkoff’s store in Soho, New York
    • This store is a live example of how interactive digital mirrors can positively change user experience
  • Microsoft Smart Mirror
    • Microsoft’s research and prototype for a digital mirror is in the works. This mirror replicates a Windows phone screen
  • Ikea Future Kitchen Table
    • It is an example of a speculative smart home device that changes the way people interact in their kitchens and alters the cooking experience


The second idea is to create a wearable for chronic low back pain. It is a fashionable alternative that people can wear for easing pain in public environments without having to resort to wearing a belt for back support.

The idea for the wearable originated from a personal impetus. The problem of having to wear a belt for back support but not wanting to wear it as it gave the feeling of being differently abled among friends was a motivator to create a better looking alternative. It would include options for heating and cooling for immediate pain relief and posture monitoring for long term benefits.


Among the research areas, there are:

  • Wearable Technology
    • The idea is that of a technology enabled garment for immediate pain relief and long term management
  • Internet of Things
    • The technology used would be based on Internet of Things
  • Healthcare
    • Low back pain is a growing health concern with existing alternatives, more widely medical devices but with recent advances in specific wearables for healthcare
  • Product Design
    • The wearable would be a product that had potential to serve a larger audience, beyond a personal solution. Product design was to focus on designing a more global product
  • Human Centered Design
    • The garment was to enhance human interactions with humans at the core of it.


An inspiration for the wearable is from TruPosture. It is a startup for a wearable for posture monitoring. It only focuses on posture monitoring and correction and does provide ease and relief to current back pains. It is a long term practice.

The idea is to extend this and also provide immediate relief or ease pain in realtime.

Research Questions and Research Sources – First Draft Design Questions

Assignment 2: Research Questions and Sources - First Draft Design Questions, Thesis Studio 1, Uncategorized

Main Idea:

To create a fashionable alternative to provide immediate relief and long term review for millennials suffering from recurring low back pain originating from non-specific causes to be used while performing daily activities in environments outside of personal homes.

Research and Design Questions (Ranking and Grouping):

  • Concept
    1. How does fear-avoidance behavior affect low back pain?
    2. Does immediate pain relief alter fear-avoidance behavior in people?
    3. How does low back pain correlate with psychosocial factors?
    4. What is low back pain?
    5. What are the different types of low back pain?
    6. What are the causes of chronic low back pain?
    7. How can chronic low back pain be treated?
    8. How is chronic low back pain a disability?
    9. What is a disability?
    10. Can people suffering from chronic low back pain be considered ‘disabled’?
    11. Why are medical devices for low back pain considered as aid for the disabled?
  • Aesthetics
    1. Do millennials care about people’s perception about their medical conditions?
    2. Can medical devices for low back pain be fashionable?
    3. What categories of professions are involved in creating medical aids for low back pain?
    4. Do they have to wear a brace to be ‘disabled’?
    5. Why are medical devices for low back pain considered as aid for the disabled?
  • Audience Participation
    1. What kind of non-specific causes result in low-back pain?
    2. In what situations would the wearable solution be donned?
    3. Can a change in appearance of braces affect the way people feel about donning them?
    4. Do people with low back pain want a fashionable alternative to existing solutions?
    5. What are the immediate pain relief solutions deployed by people?
  • Technical Means of Creation
    1. What are the key factors considered while designing wearable solutions for low back pain?
    2. Can the solutions be made portable into a single wearable?
    3. Would a combination of compression and heat/cold provide immediate relief to low back pain?
    4. What kind of fabrics are suitable for compression?
    5. How can heating and cooling be included in wearables?
    6. Can body heat be used as a possible solution?

Key Qualities and Value:

  • Fashionable alternative
  • Combination of solutions
  • Sensory impairment
  • Multiple solutions
  • Wearable technology
  • Compression
  • Low back stability
  • Muscle memory and posture training
  • Habit development
  • Behavior analysis
  • Immediate pain relief
  • Millennials
  • Work environment
  • Functional clothing
  • Orthotics
  • Functional aesthetics
  • Fear-avoidance behavior

Tensions, contradictions, patterns:

  • People do not use braces or belts for support unless recommended by a doctor whereas, compression of the abdomen to the back eases pain easier and faster than physical therapy or the application of heating or cooling
  • Physical therapy needs commitment that not every millennial is willing to provide
  • There is awareness that wrong postures and sitting for long hours causes low back pain and while most newer solutions focus on preventing the pain from recurring, there is little done for the pain that is recurring and could be chronic


People who use the wearable should experience ease of pain and reduction in recurrence with an increased commitment to improving their body posture.


The biggest cause of low back is non-specific causes, those that do not originate from any disease or injury. Such causes are difficult to identify and hence cannot be treated. People who identify with such pain resolve to popular suggestions of physical therapy, application of heat or cold and in rare cases use of belts for support. While physical therapy helps, it requires commitment. And heating or cooling is possible only with additional devices that are not easily portable. The aim is to create a fashionable alternative that millenials would we be willing to wear as daily attire and provides the compression needed to ease the pain and if possible include application of heat or cooling in the wearable itself.



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Elfering, Achim, Anne F. Mannion, Nicola Jacobshagen, Oezgue Tamcun, and Urs Miller. 2009. Beliefs about back pain predict the recovery rate over 52 consecutive weeksScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health 35 (6) (November): 437-45.

Freeman, David. Top causes of chronic painWebmd.

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Impetus Brief

Assignment 1: Impetus Brief, Thesis Studio 1

Impetus Brief

By: Priyal Parikh

Class: Thesis Studio 1

Professor: Louisa Campbell


Hailing from a business family, I did what was a logical thing to do – pursued my undergraduate in management and took the job of a Risk Analyst at Ernst & Young. In an attempt to succeed in the corporate world, I continued my education to graduate with a master’s degree in management as well. However, I remained inclined to art, having nurtured my artistic expression since the age of 8. Throughout my career in business, I also worked as a freelance graphics designer, branding and designing for multiple startups and small enterprises.

It was during my tenure at Ernst & Young, that Steve Jobs’ quote strongly resonated with me. He said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

I came across this quote while preparing my valedictorian speech, but truly understood it when I decided to follow what ‘I love to do’. After a year at Ernst & Young, I took a few months off to create a portfolio worthy of showing and interned at a hobby art studio, sharing my love for art with people of all age groups. With the motivation to shape a passion into a full time career, I took the opportunity to come to Parsons and attain an MFA in Design and Technology (MFADT).

Bootcamp was an eye opener to the opportunities DT offered beyond visual design. I had learned the basics of coding in Java and C++ as a high school student. I enjoyed coding but did not continue with it, as I remained oblivious to the potential of these programs. Also there wasn’t much needed for coding in a management program in India.

When introduced to Processing, I understood the power of these languages in creative coding. More than creative coding, web development caught my attention. Not comprised of complicated syntax when starting to code, web is a highly accessible medium making it convenient to spread a message and communicate. In a technological world, as Marshall McLuhan said, “Medium is the message”, the symbiotic relationship of what I made and what it signifies was important to me. Identifying my love for code, I started the journey to being a creative technologist. Creating beautiful visuals was not longer a priority. It also became important to create immersive experiences for my users.

Given the opportunity to learn Internet of Things in the first semester, I found the technology that I associated with strongly. Being able to find that balance between physical creation and digital development led to a creative outburst of ideas. With understanding of the technology, I tapped on speculative design and biomimicry. Aurelia was my first complete project as a DT student and made me realize the potential of a technology used as a medium of expression. Learning about these domains also taught me the importance of conceptualization and research in the design process.

By the end of the first semester, I was improving at my coding skills and would better them with practice. To become a good creative technologist, learning to code is not sufficient. I had to learn the aesthetics of good design and better my circuitry skills with physical computing. The short projects in the second semester were opportunities to apply what I knew and learn what I aimed to.

The first semester was about identifying my interests while the second semester was for experimenting and improving. Taking forward the knowledge I had, I wanted to investigate further with the digital and physical dimensions individually. Thus, my first project was a website for book swapping. As a concept, book swapping exists and so do websites for it. For the purpose of this project, the concept was to advance existing swapping ideas and create a community of readers and literary enthusiasts. The main aim was to understand the scope of design aesthetics in an already existing web concept.

The second project was based on an impromptu brief ‘Spicy Space’. The process from conceptualizing to iterating led to exploration of the process of creating technological installations. Conceptualization and research were the easier milestones in the creative course. Iterating, prototyping and user research were the areas requiring more learning and dedication. Since the installation was a creative expression and not a problem solver, it was important to know that the users understood its purpose.

As the second semester progressed, I realized how much I enjoyed creating artistic problem-solvers combining the physical and digital realms. I call them realms and not media because each medium is a world of applications within themselves. And with the prospect of combining the two, there was no need to pick one. The third project, in the second semester, was an opportunity to maintain balance between the media. Another significant change was using a realistic design problem rather than a critical or speculative one. BagLock was a walk through the entire design process, from ideation to iteration and prototyping. It served as a proof of concept and not a product ready for the market. In the given timespan, I was able to achieve the first working prototype. The fact that I was working with technology I was comfortable with and still learning more about coding and developing using the technology made the process interesting for me.

An entire year in DT was not only about learning design concepts and technological development. It was about learning life skills as well. There was a struggle to meet deadlines, display meaningful creations, grow as individuals and excel as a team. The process of ideating and conceptualizing made research and intrinsic part of my creative practice. The need to understand your audience and include them in the development was more important than making something that held no relevance to them. Failure in DT was not a standard of competence. It was a sign of attempt and learning. The skills, knowledge and experience gained during the first year were now to be applied to thesis, an adventure we would dedicate an entire year to.

As DT students, we are always told to pick an idea before picking a technology. But what if the technology leads you to an idea? When you don’t force an idea into a technology, rather it fits with the technology of your choice like missing puzzle pieces? Internet of Things and Big Data were domains I wanted to focus on. There was a project I had proposed for Major Studio and realized it required more time, research and effort to accomplish it. I wanted to pursue ‘Data Catcher’ in thesis year and finish what I started. Data Catcher was a concept based on social login and the negatives of interdependent social media. It was an artistic piece showing the dark side of information sharing. By the end of candidacy review, I thought I was clear about what I wanted to do and had a clear idea of how to proceed.

The summer was a game-changer for me. While interning at a New York based artist studio and as an engineering fellow at Open Style Lab, I realized that I was more of a designer than an artist. As much as I liked artistic expression and critical art pieces, my focus had shifted towards solving design problems. I was increasingly interested in wearable technology and interactive design. My domains shifted from Big Data to Human Centered Design and People’s Perspectives. Although I want to continue in the realm of speculative design, I want it to be product oriented, sustainable and people inclusive.

I am not sure whether I am creating a wearable solution or a usable product. In terms of speculation, the technology will be no more advanced than two to five years into the future. The biggest dilemma as of now is deciding whether to step into the field of healthcare or to continue with progressive technology for smart homes. While both fields are advancing with inclusive wearable technology in healthcare and connected objects in home environments, each idea comes with its own set of pros and cons. With the ideas being executable, the need and desire for the ideas is also important.

I want to take the opportunity of thesis studio to create a problem solver with the aim of enhancing my abilities and bettering myself at the design process. The ideas are not inventive but are innovative. I want to create something I am proud of and know I can accomplish to achieve personal learning goals. Besides creating something for a larger audience, self-growth is also important. Self-learning, motivation, accepting failures and striving towards success are lessons I am taking from DT to further my academic objectives.

Grid of 9

Assignment 1: Grid of 9, Thesis Studio 1


My grid of 9 is a collection of 3 concepts with the first concept in red high on form and low on tech while the third concept in yellow is high on tech and low on form. The ideas below the concepts are more like stages of iteration rather than individual ideas.

The first concept is creating a wearable garment for people with chronic back pains. It would incorporate some of the medical aids used by this group, mainly a back support belt, a heat bag and a back massager. However, this project idea would require involvement of a medical group or user group that can facilitate and corroborate the research. The need for this wearable is also a personal need. I have a chronic back pain due to an old injury that requires me wearing a belt for support. But the belt shows through clothes, especially formal outfits. With a growing number of younger population suffering from chronic back pain while being fashionably aware, I see a need for such a wearable.

The second concept is an extension of my second semester Major Studio Final. It is a seamless invisible magnetic bag lock that seals the bag from the inside and is controlled using an app. In the second semester, I completed the proof of concept by creating an electromagnet controlled by a phone app. But I would like to take it forward and miniaturize the concept and potentially make it marketable. There are many locks that exist but they all pull attention. I wanted a lock that would secure my bag without speaking for the valuables in it. This led to the creation of an IoT based lock that protects the contents of my bag, especially while traveling or in a crowded public space.

While the first two concepts are focused on solving current problems with a product at the base, the third concept is more of an art piece. The third idea is to create an interactive touch screen mirror that is used to study people’s response to seeing themselves in a public space and capturing their personalities as a way of introspecting and self-identity. Although this is a psychological concept, the idea of people having multiple personalities is interesting to me. We don’t have to have a disorder to have multiple personalities. We play several roles with certain overlapping traits, the mirror would be one way of depicting those traits and personalities in a particular individual.

I am excited about all three ideas as I have been thinking about them for a long time. The confusion lies in choosing one. While one ranks high on my need list, another ranks high on my likes list. Each of them has potential and requires deeper research to make a decision.