Design Students Make the Final Four at CHI 2016


A team of students from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Design was one of four finalists at the Student Design Competition at CHI 2016, in San Jose, CA. The team, consisting of Design seniors Yooyoung Ko (BFA '16, Industrial Design) and Ismael Sobek (BFA '16, Industrial Design), as well as HCI master’s students Min Kyung Kim (BFA '15, Industrial Design, MHCI '15) and Leeyat Slyper (MHCI '16), made it to the finals with their project “LifeKey”, an emergency communication tool for the deaf.

The theme of CHI 2016, which promotes itself as a place to see, discuss and learn about the future of how people interact with technology, was “doing good.” The design competition posed the following challenge to students from across the globe: to develop an assistive technology that makes an existing technology work for a broader range of users, namely those with disabilities.

The Carnegie Mellon University team’s answer to this challenge was LifeKey.

LifeKey is a custom smartphone keyboard and corresponding app that facilitates communication between Deaf individuals and emergency personnel. By consolidating information resources and communication tools in one place, accessible from within the SMS app, LifeKey makes texting in an emergency faster and easier. With LifeKey, conversations become more efficient for Deaf individuals, while providing emergency workers with the information they need to respond appropriately. 

“Our mission is to reduce the stress of emergency situations by making communication between Deaf people and emergency responders easier,” said Yooyoung Ko.

The LifeKey App and keyboard, which can be accessed directly from an SMS messaging app, will allow users to quickly explain their emergency situation with easy relevant options that minimize typing, pull in information, like location and contact info, and display common first-aid procedures that an emergency call operator can deliver by text.

For the Design research that went into LifeKey, the team interviewed 9 Deaf individuals and one hard-of-hearing individual. Their primary goal was to understand health literacy impediments individuals had experienced. The team found that participants had experienced struggles with contacting emergency services, summarizing the situation to emergency responders, and understanding emergency responders' explanations.

The proposal for LifeKey was a natural fit for the CHI 2016 Design Competition and was one of four finalists out of 12 semi-finalists from 62 competing teams from across the globe. 

“It was definitely a great experience being able to share inspirations from teams of various backgrounds from all around the world like London, China, and France,” added Min Kyung Kim. 

LifeKey was created as part of a semester-long course, ‘Design for Improved Understanding of Health Information’, taught by Kristin Hughes. The course stemmed from a partnership between the Pittsburgh Regional Health Literacy Coalition and the School of Design, with the mission of creating user-centered tools to promote health literacy in partnering community organizations. 

The School of Design wants to congratulate our students for their exemplary work and their fantastic performance at CHI 2016.

More on CHI 2016 >>

Date Published: 
Friday, May 20, 2016
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