Interface Design

Hardware Haptics

Healthcare UX

An app and a device to assist postural adherence for people suffering from Functional Scoliosis.

An app and a device to assist postural adherence for people suffering from Functional Scoliosis.

Why a Chronic Condition?

Why a Chronic Condition?

1. IASP, The Global Burden of Low Back Pain. "LBP affects 7.5% of the global population."

2. P.J. Roubal DPT, PhD, OCS. More information on Scoliosis and its types.

3. Bon Ku & Ellen Lupton, Health Design Thinking. "Play and experimentation rather than rigid methodology."

More than 500 million¹ people worldwide suffer from some kind of back pain. Functional Scoliosis is a bizarre condition, and unlike the one caused by hunching at a computer.

Functional Scoliosis is a non-structural deformity² where the spine "appears" to have a curve, but is a result of other ailments in the body involving poor posture.

Personal framework on designing for healthcare³

Interviewing Experts

Interviewing Experts

4. Scoliosis Association UK, Posture and Positioning. "Poor posture can put a strain on the body causing pain and muscle tightness or weakness, changing the way you move."

While interviewing a network of doctors and specialists, my presumptions were broken. Given the complexity, it struck me that there can't be a standardized solution.

Functional Scoliosis is less nuanced, and more approachable in terms of systemic intervention. About 80% of cases are limited to physical therapy.

  1. Approximately 25% of the cases are worsened by poor postural problems⁴.

  2. Non-surgical treatment are primarily prescribed including observation, bracing, and physical therapy.

  3. Depending upon the severity, the surgeries may cost $50,000 to $1,50,000 which makes it inaccessible to many.

  4. Individuals suffer more from social stigma and mental health problems due to lack of a sense of belonging.

  5. The problem is not that of existing solutions, but of adherence to the solutions.


Facts & Figures


Approximately 2-3% of the population worldwide.

Age of Onset

Typically occurs between the ages of 10-15, but can occur at any age.


Females are more likely to develop scoliosis than males (approximately 7:1 ratio).


There are several types of scoliosis, including idiopathic (most common), congenital, neuromuscular, and degenerative.


Scoliosis can range from mild (Cobb angle < 20 degrees) to severe (Cobb angle > 50 degrees).


Approximately 10-20% of cases will progress to the point of requiring treatment, such as bracing or surgery.


Scoliosis can have a significant impact on quality of life, including physical, emotional, and social effects.


The cost of treating scoliosis can be significant, particularly for patients who require surgery or long-term bracing.

Insights & Statistics from expert interviews

What's the Key Pain Point?

What's the Key Pain Point?

5. American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). "The diagnosis is highly reilant on skeletal maturity."

6. Various Authors, Quality of Life and Brace Compliance. "About one third of the sample participants tested do not adhere to bracing protocol."

This is a dangerous feedback loop triggered by postural issues. It gradually worsens the condition until a consistent sharp pain is realized⁵. It can be countered with frequent physical therapies, but there is also a compliance issue⁶ with it.

A looping flowchart showcasing the progression of the condition

Proposing a Solution

Proposing a Solution

7. Shannon and Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication. "The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point."

7. Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World. "The Function Complex."

I examined some classic system theories⁷ to identify the right place to intervene. With a lot of variables at play, haptics made the most sense, since they are salient and pervasive.

With a "Goal, Measurement and Action" methodology, I integrated the feedback loop with the problem map. This emerged as my intervention model.

The intervention model featuring the principle feedback loop

Haptic Detailing

Haptic Detailing

8. Hapticlabs, Design Principles. Tried and tested guidelines for haptic design.

9. Hugh Dubberly, Designing Within Systems. “Things” are enmeshed in networks — “gathered together” in systems.

10. Sparkfun, Haptic Motor Driver Hook-up Guide.

11. Richard Cook, How Complex Systems Fail. "Complex systems are intrinsically hazardous systems."

12. Arduino Documentation, DRV260 Datasheet. A comprehensive list of 123 vibration effects.

13. Apple, Human Interface Guidelines, Playing Hapitcs. "Using impulses as physical metaphors to complement the visual experience."

14. Charles Lambdin, Systems as Mental Interfaces. "System performance as a function of product of individual interactions."

Studying the haptic principles⁸ educated me on the context, construction, function, placement and timing considerations. Achieving the right fidelity⁹ involved referencing Arduino documentation¹⁰, and simplifying¹¹ the schematics.

While an accelerometer is ideal, I used a flex sensor along with a vibration motor to build the experience prototype. I carefully tuned the haptic waveform¹² with respect to its sharpness¹³ and composition¹⁴.

Principles, schematics, and code logic representation

Finalizing the Form

15. An indispensible resource for 3D printing failures - All3DP

16. Google Android, Haptic Design Principles. "Rich haptics by sequencing primitives in varied amplitudes and intervals - "fluttery" sensation, similar to a butterfly flapping its wings on your fingertip."

17. Accelerometers can detect changes in speed, direction and tilt of movement, and can also measure the static gravitational force acting on the device.

I sketched, modeled and 3D printed¹⁵ the container with optimal specifications. The electronic assembly respected the level of granularity¹⁶ desired. The ideal product was rendered that represented its advanced¹⁷, compact, ergonomic, and appealing nature.

A compact version featuring a central module that fits the shape of the back

Building the User Interface

Building the User Interface

An assistive technology would require calibration and tracking software. I created the "Scoliomate" app to host four key features:

  1. Calibration — adjusting normal value & haptic strength

  2. Live Tracking — an interactive graph of adherence over time

  3. Analytics — score assignment & detecting sudden movements

  4. Insights Sharing — monitor patient health & suggest improvements with consent

The "Scoliomate" app, hosting four core features

Conceptualizing an Ecosystem

Conceptualizing an Ecosystem

18. Systemic Steering and Governance. "System effectiveness and efficiency which in turn influence system performance are attained through the interaction of the sub-systems in pursuit of the purpose of the system in its environment."

I mapped out the dynamics between data, services and the product. I proposed data encryption with the addition of cloud infrastructure. If allowed, other devices would improve the accuracy and reliability¹⁸ of the ecosystem.

The ecosystem showcasing how the device would improve over time

Final Presentation

19. Alexander Baumgardt, Principle Product Designer at Spotify.

19. Mike Aurelio, Principle UX Designer at Salesforce.

I had the privilege to present my work before spectators and expert critics¹⁹. A notable remark was that some elements within the app could be simplified. The project proved to be an illuminating journey in systems thinking, prototyping and UX for healthcare.

Presenting the prototype before Mike Aurelio (left) and Alexander Baumgardt (right). *Jorge Arango at the back.

All good things end.