HELP! Engaging students in an immersive simulation to increase empathy when designing emergency products

DS 62: Proceedings of E&PDE 2010, the 12th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education - When Design Education and Design Research meet ..., Trondheim, Norway, 02.-03.09.2010

Year: 2010
Author: Grundy, Catherine Anne; Brewster, Diane
Page(s): 272-277


In a creative exploration with second year students at the University of Sussex, we attempted to investigate how we can improve our understanding of being in a panic situation in order to design
emergency products empathically. In this case we investigated the scenario of being inside a burning environment and we imagined being in the role of an untrained person having to use a typical product for the first time. The potential for human error increases when using equipment under duress and in circumstances where timing is critical, these issues will be especially important. This investigation used the Creativity Zone, a flexible multimedia space, to create an immersive environment that simulated the effect of flames surrounding the subject. The motivation was to allow student’s to interact with the simulation as if they were experiencing the real event directly. The project revolved around designing the interface to make its use intuitive; so that upon first encounter visual clues enabled successful interaction with it. Examples included a fire extinguisher, a defibrillator, an emergency radio and an airplane exit. Theoretical ideas were included based on studies in perception and more information was available through a web site designed to provide an on-line gallery. This was created with help from a CETL bid; the url is[1]. The students were also asked to consider Semiotic thinking in their solution. The project is part of the assessment for a course called Advanced Studies in Form, based on the study of perception.

Keywords: Scenarios, creativity, empathy, usability, affordance, semiotics


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