Asthma product wins IXDA Award


On February 7th, a trio from UID received the Student Prize at the IXDA Awards in Milan. The winning product, Otto, is a mouthpiece for asthmatics that use light and sound design to help patients monitor breathing patterns in order to adjust daily dosage.

Text: Jens Persson Top image: IXDA

Otto came about during the 10-day 2018 Sound Design course. The course runs every year and allows master's students from Interaction Design and Advanced Product Design to collaborate on innovative products using sound as a key feature.

Then first-year master's students Selvi Olgac, Birnur Sahin and Gabriel Uggla decided to focus on upgrading current treatment methods for asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease in the airways of the lungs. Today, around 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide and ca. 250,000 people die annually from the disease.

Otto TeamInitial research phase for Otto aiming to understand potential users of the product. 

"For many asthmatics, the daily routines of asthma management can be a demanding process that includes monitoring of the condition, logging results and inhaling the medicine in the right way. Life-long treatment often has a huge impact on people's daily life", says Gabriel Uggla from the APD Programme. 

A one-stop-shop for asthmatics

After research and ideation, the team came up with Otto, a solution that merges monitoring, logging and medication into one product. Otto helps the patient track their personal breathing curve and adjust the dosage depending on the current situation. By using sound and light feedback, Otto guides the user through the medication process. 

Otto Sketch Process Kopia Some early sketch prototypes of the product.

Current medication systems have failed to consider the varying needs of the user which may shift significantly from day-to-day. Asthma is triggered by multiple factors; allergies, pollution, sickness, exercise or even the weather which calls for a responsive dosage. In spite of this, asthma medication is normally only monitored and adjusted twice a year by a doctor. Otto does this every day.

With Otto, you first exhale through the mouthpiece in order to take a peak flow measurement. The medicine dosage is then adjusted automatically before inhalation. As you inhale, lights indicate the time for inhalation and for holding your breath. A confirmation sound informs users when the process is completed. As Otto is then placed in its charging station the new measurements are logged and shared with the patient's digital journal, allowing medical experts to create individual diagnostic profiles. 

Claiming top spot in Milan

Gabriel Uggla was in Milan for the IXDA Awards on February 7th. Apart from winning the 'Student Award' category, Otto was also nominated in the 'Disrupting' category along with major international companies and design studios.

180308PlusottopluscmfThe final version of the Otto product family.

"To win the award for best student project among all the great work out there feels amazing. It was an honour to also be a finalist alongside companies like Google, Philips, DesignIt and R/GA. As a whole, the IxDA conference in Milan had great keynotes, social events, Italian food and lots of UID alumni to catch up with" says Gabriel Uggla.

The gala event saw 30 projects compete for 6 categories. The ceremony took place at the East End Studios - Studio Novanta - a complex of post-industrial warehouses once home to an airplane factory.

The sound of collaboration 

The use of sound in products has become increasingly important, not only to enhance the exchange of information, but also to bring a product design experience to the next level. At UID, it is simply known as Industrial Sound Design (ISD). The Sound Design course, where students from different master's programmes collaborate, has been running for a decade offering students an opportunity to experiment with sound in relation to product development.

"Working with two colleagues from the APD Programme, I could see how our different expertise complemented each other in a fruitful way. Another important learning outcome for me was how sound can influence our experiences of a product and how to combine form, sound and light into a whole experience for the user", says Selvi Olgac from the Master's Programme in Interaction Design. 

Sounds OttoThe team experimenting with different sounds to accompany the Otto medication process.

The design team actually produced their own sounds with a synthesizer to match the form expression of the product. They wanted to create sounds that felt precise and uplifting, yet subtle. The goal was to have all sounds stay within a coherent sound family while reinforcing the identity of the product. 

Whether Otto will ever become a real medication toll in the hands of asthmatics remains to be seen. 

"We have in fact been contacted by several medical companies, but at this point in time there are no concrete plans of getting Otto to market", says Gabriel Uggla.