Journal: Quoralis

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Journal entry: 20 Nov 2017

Sheldon Nunes: Our focus has been on getting our presentation ready for what we are calling 'judgement day'. It has been quite a cool experience to collate everything we have done so far, and we keep finding more and more things we’d forgotten to include. We’ve also been combing through the fantastic results from our second visit to the gait lab – we can now say with confidence that the device really can pick up someone's gait characteristics.

The most difficult thing for us on presentation prep has been getting rid of those pesky 'oohs and ums' between our sentences. Somehow thinking about them and actively trying to prevent them just makes it worse! So, it’s ‘practise, practise, practise’ until the presentation becomes second nature. Additionally, we are hoping to have an even better prototype up and running before the 24th, but we have to make sure our presentation is fully polished before doing anymore development work.

We are both excited and nervous about presenting to the judges. It is hard to know what areas we should focus on and how to condense our story to 20 minutes. Even so, our excitement about sharing what we have been working on far outweighs our nervousness!

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Journal entry: 7 Nov 2017

IMAGE: Working hard at the gait lab

Sheldon Nunes: The last few weeks have certainly felt like scenes from the Wizard of Oz. Our awesome adventure is heading towards a close as we make our way to see the wonderful Wizards of Callaghan Innovation on November 24th for judging day. Here we will reveal our final prototype and reminisce on the journey we have been on.

For a long time, we’ve been wanting to formalize our testing. Getting data is one thing, but just how accurate is it?! This is what we set out to find out. We visited the gait lab at the Auckland University Tamaki campus. There they had a yellow brick road capable of measuring the gait characteristics of whoever walked on it. I would like to say that we donned Dorothy’s red slippers, but we were more like the Tin Man, with wires hanging off our shoes and us walking in as many obscure and strange patterns as possible.

As our time was limited, we prioritised doing as many of the tests as possible. This seemed like a good idea but at the end of the day we had our Mr. Lion moment! Trawling through the data we started seeing abnormalities. The data we had collected from the gait mat was different from what our device was reporting. Panic ensued, but it was short lived. We discovered one result that was very accurate, and it turned out to a test run at a higher sampling rate. Armed with this knowledge, we’re planning to head back to the gait lab to run more sampling rate tests, so that we can find the sweet spot between accuracy and power consumption.

Another focus for us has been to finalise our wireframes. We’ve been in close correspondence with our users and are quite happy with the feedback we have gotten thus far. The biggest learning for us has been the importance of what the user wants to see. It is quite different from our expectations and it has definitely saved us from unnecessary work.

Oh, and we have a big announcement…. We are officially a company! We started the application process a little while ago, and having been approved, we’re now listed on the NZ Company Directory. This is a big step for us as it confirms our commitment to our vision of a world where older people can enjoy their golden years without suffering pain and hardship from a fall.

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Journal entry: 24 Oct 2017

Sheldon Nunes: Our focus this week has been on getting validation results on our prototype. We have booked meetings with podiatry specialists to discuss our device form factor and any potential impact it may have on its wearers gait. The best thing for us was getting to take a look at one of the Auckland gait labs. We have now booked it to try all sorts of walking patterns (including some dancing) to see how well our device performs. 

We managed to create a smaller prototype that can fit inside the shoe but unfortunately the user can feel it, so it is a bit too large. During one of the tests with it there was a horrible crunching sound…. it is now broken into pieces. Funny enough though, you can't feel it in the shoe anymore :)

We’ve also been spending time on getting resources together for our final presentation, with Nick providing some cool logo options for us.

The second Bootcamp was a really great retrospective experience, and it gave us an opportunity to get a broad overview of what we have done and what is yet to come. The feedback we got on the day was also very positive and really showed that the decisions we made in terms of usability have paid off.

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Journal entry: 9 Oct 2017

Sheldon Nunes: The focus for us has been on the software aspect of our project. We have developed a visual interface that can display valuable information about the device and the person wearing it. We are still working on data transmission, so to date, all the tests have involved us walking everywhere while connected to our laptop by a massive cable. But the results we have been getting from the device have been really promising – so good in fact, that for a few days, we wondered whether it was too good to be true, so were busily searching for bugs in our code!

Additionally, we’ve added a new team member. Will Hewitt – or as we have coined him, the 'IoT wizard' – will be helping us with our hardware prototype, and to get our transmissions up and running. So, for the next few weeks we’ll be focused on focus actually getting our prototype into the shoe.

We’re starting to feel the pressure now as everything seems to be hurtling towards the November deadline. Will we have everything ready in time? What if it doesn't work? Have we forgotten something? These are just some of the questions we constantly ask. We are hoping that the upcoming C-Prize Bootcamp will put our minds at ease, while also providing a bit more focus on the competition. 

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Journal entry: 27 Sep 2017

Sheldon Nunes: In our last entry, we talked about our first user study and, well, we’ve done another one! This time we went to a retirement village and we were allowed to ask some of the residents and staff a few questions. The funniest moment of the entire process was Nick being asked if he would marry one of the 90 year old residents! We feel like we’ve got a much better level of knowledge about the daily lives of older people now, as well as the types of metrics retirement village staff are interested in. 

Therefore, we have started working on the web portal that will be used to monitor the FallCast devices. We aim to be in contact with nurse staff to confirm that the information the portal will be giving them is useful information that they can act on. Parallel to this, we’ve cobbled together a (monstrous-looking) prototype and attached it to a shoe. At the moment, it ties only to the top of the shoe, but this is just for testing purposes, of course!

One of the challenges we’ve encountered is around getting accurate data from the sensors. After two weeks of tinkering with it we have decided that our current results are good enough to go on for the time being and that our focus should be on getting that information to the end user. 

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Journal entry: 13 Sep 2017

CAPTION: Some of the lovely group we consulted with

Sheldon Nunes: Over the past few weeks we have been focusing on user studies and getting used to programming our devices. Through a tangled network of connections, family and friends of friends, we got in touch with a group of older people who were kind enough to let us interview them during their regular meetup at their church. We got to interview them in groups of three, which took us about an hour. Each group was unique but there were definitely some common threads, which provided great insights into their daily lives, and their thoughts of what the product might look like. With each of us speaking to different groups, sharing out experience proved to be rather interesting… it turns out that some of our results contradicted each other. So we have plenty of analysis to do!

At the first Bootcamp it was recommended to us that we join the IoT Auckland Meetup, so naturally we did. About a week ago we joined their meetup about PyCom devices: a series of boards designed for Internet of Things applications. It was fun (and frustrating!) to work with hardware, as neither of us are particularly experienced with it, and it was exciting to see our code working and sending messages to the screen. The boards themselves may or may not be the best fit for our device — regardless, we had a lot of fun and it was great meeting all the awesome people there.

Thanks to a bit more code wrangling, and a variety of other tests, we’ve managed to get a more accurate reading from our development board. We still need to account for some aspects of walking, but we’re on the right road. We have also started putting more thought into what our device might look like and how usable it will be for our target audience. This means low-fidelity designs on paper and whiteboards, lots of scribbling and soon there will be iterations upon iterations of real-life prototypes made of foam, plastic, cardboard and whatever else will do the job. We can’t wait!

For more details, visit: www.quoralis.com

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journal ENTRY: 29 AUG 2017

Our system, FallCast, is a wearable technology that aims to predict a person’s risk of falling up to three weeks in advance, by continuously analysing the wearer’s gait. Falls can have a significant physical and psychological impact on New Zealanders, especially in those aged over 65, so that’s where much of our effort has focussed. In the past few weeks, we’ve met with gerontology specialists, who gave us some great insight into tackling gait analysis, as well as offering valuable suggestions for our prototype that challenged our thinking on the problem we’re trying to solve.

The first Bootcamp really highlighted some assumptions we’d been making about our potential users, so we’ve also been reaching out to specific groups in order to plan a usability study on our system. Our prototyping efforts are going well too, with two systems under test. Let’s start with our scientifically-named experiment, The Couch Test. We ordered some test devices from an overseas vendor who specialise in development boards for wearable devices. These boards already have an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, a light sensor and a number of other parts, alongside a Bluetooth module, making them perfect for the kind of prototyping we’re doing. To top it all off, these boards can be worn in lots of ways – on a clip or band, for example. Needless to say, we were pretty excited when they arrived, and we were confident that when combined with the algorithm we’d developed, it’d work first time… if only science could be that simple!

We set out to record a single step, to make sure that we were grabbing the right bit of data. We used the length of the couch in our office to define a single step (I’m pretty tall!), and ran our first test. The data showed that a single step measured ~80,000m long, so we were a little bit off! We quickly spotted that we were using a few incorrect units however, so we’ve started combing through the code step-by-step, in an effort to figure out why we are getting such an odd output. We’ll get there! Our second test has been more successful, and it’s focused on analysing another key metric that feeds into our algorithm – the angle/orientation of the device. The very professional looking Book Test, combined with some good old fashioned trigonometry has shown us that our algorithm can correctly estimate the angle of the foot.