Helping the visually impaired regain their independence in the kitchen.
As a product designer, it seemed obvious to me to put my skills at the service of disability. As I became interested in the subject, I realised that it was vast and infinite. Visual impairment, even if it doesn't affect me specifically, turned out to be a particularly different disability, with a whole host of issues that had to be addressed.
Visual impairment and autonomy are two particularly linked notions. More than a billion people in the world suffer from a more or less profound impairment, that is 15% of the population.
Moreover, there is a significant difference between a disability that is present at birth and one that is acquired during the course of one's life. During my many interviews, I was able to understand that cooking is an activity that is partially or completely neglected by people with visual impairments.
This is why I propose Ugo, a connected cooking unit, capable of giving step by step the keys to the success of a recipe, while providing the necessary reference points and safety to users.
Unfortunately, visually impaired people face many problems in their daily lives. Every action that seems simple and basic to the average person becomes difficult when sight is no longer present. That's why I was able to study different situations before I realised that it was indeed the kitchen that posed the most problems. From cleaning to commuting, from putting on make-up to getting dressed, I was able to meet the people concerned and understand that these situations all presented different difficulties.
Normal vision : Clear central and peripheral perception, no alteration of shapes and colours.
Cataract: Oxidation of the proteins
contained in the lens. Blurred vision, less detailed. Dimmed colours. Sensitivity to light.
Uncorrected refractive error corrected : The most common are myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia. Depending on the defect, vision will be vision will be blurred at a distance or near. Opposite, an example of astigmatism.
Enable visually impaired people to regain their independence and consequently their self-confidence.
Among the different situations studied, cooking proved to be the most problematic activity for the users. A real vector of autonomy, it is often partially or completely neglected, and unfortunately leaves room for junk food, ready-made meals or other orders on any type of platform.
Moreover, the kitchen is a place particularly prone to domestic accidents, since in France, these same domestic accidents are the 3rd cause of death.
The users expressed different needs during my interviews. Firstly, the organisation of the kitchen becomes problematic, and it quickly becomes complicated to find a utensil or food. Secondly, the preparation of the meal, i.e. cutting, peeling, scraping, etc., is very dangerous and time-consuming. Finally, cooking the meal is the stage that puts the user in the most difficulty. Failed cooking, frustration and, above all, a lack of reference points are the main causes of friction at this stage of the cooking process.
Below are the different situations studied :
Choosing clothes, getting dressed
Moving around the house
In order to understand more about how visually impaired people cook, I immersed myself in their daily lives and extracted friction points.
The design phase was carried out in relation to the users, in order to get their constant feedback on the subject. As the research progressed, the project focused on three distinct solutions to meet the needs of food cooking: An educational kit to learn how to use one's senses differently, a kit of connected utensils capable of recognising cooking by temperature, and a complete ecosystem, i.e. a cooking plate capable of giving the different stages of a recipe, while providing the necessary safety for the user.
Prototyping was the key to finding the right solution. In the context of visual impairment, it's all about ergonomics, grip and volume. Whether in foam, paper or digital prototyping, I spent several hours developing volumes in order to validate or invalidate them with the users concerned.
Color, material & finishes
In defining the project, the aim was to give the user a feeling of security, through soft, pleasant and reassuring volumes. Every little detail is designed to make the user experience more pleasant.
The final response consists of an application and a cooking unit. The two are connected to enable different things. First, the user connects his or her device to the app and is guided through it. The Ugo app is useful for programming recipes that will be directly in the cooking unit. By creating an ecosystem that is different from what exists on the market, Ugo responds to the demand of visually impaired people to take part in the kitchen again. Not by automating the tasks but by giving the user time to reacquaint himself with the culinary gestures, the project breaks with the tendency to automate all daily tasks. The aim was to let the visually impaired person take control of his or her actions.
How it works ?
Ugo provides security and guidance for the visually impaired. By vocalising the actions, and allowing them step by step to regain a taste for cooking, Ugo is a complementary tool to the kitchen. Not as a replacement for the rest but as a complement, the cooking plate makes the preparation of food safer. Navigating between recipes becomes simple and makes it possible to do without a telephone. In addition, the hob indicates to the user the critical moments of the cooking process, and warns, by calculating the weight and time of the end of the cooking process.
Ugo is a cooking unit, two pans, a strainer and a steaming attachment, as well as the application.
The application allows the user to create recipes and order the list of recipes to be retrieved from the cooking unit. It has been designed to fit the VoiceOver constraints.
The user selects with the left and right buttons the recipe for which he wants to start the step-by-step mode.
At the beginning of a recipe, the machine weighs the food each time it is added to the recipe in order to determine key steps and an approximate cooking time.
Two types of sound indicate the actions to be taken by the user. A short beep indicates a simple action to be performed (turning a meat, stirring...) and a long beep indicates the potential end of the cooking process.
The application makes it easy to create your own recipes by adding foods, condiments and side dishes. Of course, each step is vocalized with VoiceOver and induces an adapted gesture.
The central button allows you to start the step-by-step mode and also to choose the power of the plate.
What is it made of ?
Ugo, for the cooking unit part, consists of various elements necessary for its proper functioning. Designed to have a high repairability index, Ugo consists of an induction coil, speakers, mass sensors, and different PCBs to make it work.
Designed to be simple
Ugo has been formally designed to be reassuring, welcoming and designed with a simple aim: to put the user in as little difficulty as possible. With soft, reassuring shapes and details designed with and for users, Ugo ensures that it is understandable from the first time it is used.
The kit comes with two accessories to allow visually impaired people to easily retrieve pasta, but also to steam it.
The pans are covered with a silicone coating to protect against heat. In addition, if the user wants to connect two appliances to each other, the connection is made simply by the handles and the appliance detects it immediately.
Ugo's communication is designed to be simple and accessible. Moreover, in a cost reduction approach, three offers are thought to allow users to pay less for their Ugo: a reconditioning of second-hand products.
Ugo offers the possibility to be bought reconditioned to reduce the price. Above Ugo is offered in "as new" condition
Above, the reconditioned "Good condition" offer
Above, the refurbished "average condition" offer
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