Journal: Rehabilitation Innovation

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Journal entry: 12 Nov 2017

IMAGE: Usman and Scott work out issues with headset connectivity and the App; Nada in another round of usability testing; and planning out the presentation

Denise Taylor: CRAZY is the only word for it. The countdown is on, nerves are fraying, 3-D printers are whirring, usability studies are sprinting along… can we just push it a wee bit further??  A large focus of our work has been around usability testing and iterating the designs. There is nothing quite as informative as trying it out for real! Both our patient and therapist users have provided outstanding feedback on the system, so we feel we are getting close to a system that works for the patients, and has a good fit with clinical practice.

Nada, Gemma and Sharon have been going flat-out with the usability studies, challenging Usman, Imran, Richard, Faisal and Scott to update their work faster than the speed of light. We have learnt a valuable lesson, though – changing too many things at one time can lead to catastrophe… Our working version of exciteBCI briefly plummeted to near-disaster! So, we are being smarter about taking careful step changes, even if travelling at high speed.

Planning for the final presentation to the judges is in full swing. We are struggling through how to pitch it, what to put in and what to leave out, we have covered so much ground in the last few months. So, gotta go, usability is calling!

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Journal entry: 27 Oct 2017

IMAGE: The excitement leading up to the finals has got all a little too much from our engineer Imran

Gemma Alder: It’s less than 4 weeks to go until the C-Prize finals, and the excitement is building here at team Rehabilitation Innovation. Bootcamp #2 really got us in the right frame of mind for the finals. Highlights for the team were interacting more with the finalists, hearing about their awesome progress and chatting with Laurie Winkless from Callaghan. She had some really useful tips with regards to presenting our idea to journalists and the general public. She emphasised the importance of the team conveying a shared clear and consistent message and being able to do pitch this in under a minute. We had a practice run and got some great feedback.

The last few weeks have seen us making some really positive steps forwards in terms of our working prototype, in particular our headset and experimenting with new materials has been a real success! The app is receiving a daily makeover based on user feedback, and it’s really starting to take shape. We have also been busy developing a library of exercises for the app and Thonia (our stroke advisor) has been testing out the exercises to ensure client challenge and engagement. So far, she has given us the thumbs up.

We are also thrilled to say we received the golden ticket from the Ethics Committee, so exciteBCI usability trials commence this week! The team are buzzing for this opportunity to hear more from potential real users and utilise their feedback to modify the device to improve its usability and acceptability to clinicians and people with stroke.

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Journal entry: 12 Oct 2017

IMAGE: Denise and Usman are all smiles at the Team Rehabilitation Innovation C-Prize video update.

Gemma Alder: It’s been another busy couple of weeks for team Rehabilitation Innovation, leading up to Bootcamp #2. We have continued to prepare for the clinical trials and develop our device by utilising ongoing feedback from clinicians and our patient advisor. So far, the response to exciteBCI has been very positive, and the valuable opinions from our potential users continues to drive our development process and fuel the fire in our bellies.

One of our current prototype challenges is producing headsets that fit a wider range of head sizes. The headset needs to be fit for comfort and functionality, as the user will be exercising whilst the headset collects brain signal data. One of the technical constraints identified by the usability testing is the material properties of the current headset prototype. We intend to explore softer materials and slightly different mechanisms to secure the headset over the coming weeks. We look forward to getting more feedback on this from our potential users during the clinical trials.

We also had a visit from the C-Prize film crew last week for a video update on our C-Prize journey. This was a fantastic opportunity to voice our passion for developing exciteBCI, highlight our achievements so far and identify future challenges. But also, to reflect on how far we have come in the last 13 weeks. This really gave our team a boast, and was a great way to complement our journal entries.

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Journal entry: 1 Oct 2017

IMAGE: A successful EEG recording and workshopping the app

Denise Taylor: It’s all go for us – we’re just need the final ethical approval letter and then we are all go on the usability trials. We also have a working prototype that needs only a bit of fine-tuning to optimise triggering exciteBCI via the app. We expect to complete this in the next week.

The headset design is coming along nicely, we have 3-D printed a number of prototypes and have consulted clinicians and our patient advisor about the fit, appearance and acceptability. We have trialled various versions of the headset, and are beginning to get a clear understanding of how to produce a stable, comfortable EEG headset that works reliably and is acceptable to clinicians and patients alike.

The role-playing workshops with people with stroke and clinicians have really enabled us to understand potential barriers and facilitators to using the exciteBCI in clinical practice. Importantly too, it is helping to ensure that we design the exciteBCI to fit well with clinical practice, both now and into the future.

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Journal entry: 20 Sept 2017

IMAGE: Iterative prototyping in progress!

Gemma Alder: It has been a busy two weeks, with more iterative prototyping and a strong focus on testing the communication between the various components of the wearable system. We are pleased to say that so far this has been a real success!!

We also welcomed Scott Brebner - a software designer and developer – to the team. He is already hard at work creating the user interface for our clinician portal app, and is particularly focused on utilising the feedback from our physical therapist. Scott will also be working closely with Usman who has been putting some serious hours into the backend development of the app and into ensuring successful Bluetooth communication between the three components of our product.

The first version prototype is just about complete, and it will mark the beginning of our usability and acceptability trial, scheduled to kick off later this month. In the meantime, there will be some role-play workshops to get us prepped. The team is really looking forward to optimising the future versions of the prototype based on user experience feedback from people with stroke and clinicians.  

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journal entry: 5 Sept 2017

Image: Denise and Imran problem-solving through some issues with the stimulator electronics

Gemma Alder: The past couple of weeks have seen the team working hard and getting the individual sub-assemblies built and up and working. The three main components of the system are all working now; the next stage is to get them all talking to each other, as we start our first clinical trials in only three weeks – no pressure!

The clinicians have been working closely with an advisor - who has had a stroke - to look at the user experience, usability and social acceptability of the system. They have been feeding this information back to the designers and engineers in real-time during this sprint phase to completion of version 1 of the prototype.

The C-Prize competition has certainly put a lot of pressure on the team, but we are all loving the progress that we are making and the contribution the process is making to our research, work and professional experience.

The next couple of weeks will see us getting the first version prototype complete and ready for the clinical trials – they will be focused on usability and the user experience for both the patient and the clinician.

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journal entry: 22 Aug 2017

Image: Testing usability of our exciteBCI system using role play in the clinical environment. Mock up paper apps and a music stand as an iPad holder!

Gemma Alder: Our system, exciteBCI, is a portable, wearable rehabilitation device that can modulate changes in brain nerve activity to promote recovery in patients who have suffered a stroke. In the last two weeks, we’ve been particularly focused on finalising the details of our project plan, and in completing our Health and Disability Ethics application for usability testing of the system.

Team members are working well together and we are making progress on all fronts. Everyone is buzzing from the input and the connections made at Bootcamp 1, and we’ve injected this new knowledge into the project as it moves forwards. The value of early prototyping is a case in point – expect to see a lot from us in the way of roleplay and paper app mock ups, through to digital models and 3D printing.

One thing we’re keen to explore in the coming weeks is the question of the ‘social acceptability’ of wearables – it’s becoming more and more apparent to us that rather than there being a single solution, it depends entirely on who you are and what your situation is, so we’ll certainly be taking more input from end-users on that.