• Charmr: A Design Concept for Diabetes Management Devices

    As experience design consultants, we love having the opportunity to tackle lots of different kinds of problems. But we don’t always get to try out all the problems that interest us the most — after all, we can only solve those problems somebody has seen fit to devote some money to solving, and then shown the good judgment to hire us to take them on. So we decided to go hunting for problems nobody’s asked us to solve yet.

    Then blogger Amy Tenderich posted her “Open Letter to Steve Jobs” in April, pleading with the Apple CEO to apply some of that company’s design expertise to improving the lives of the 20 million American diabetics who rely on technology to manage their condition every day. Amy’s blog post got a lot of attention, even making its way to TechCrunch. Amy asked for better products for diabetics, but we recognized that those products had to add up to an experience that would satisfy their emotional and psychological needs. So we set out to develop an experience design concept that addressed user behavior and psychology as well as current technological trends to project how insulin pumps and glucose meters might work five years from now.

    We spent time with diabetics, who showed us their routines and talked about how hard it can be to stay motivated to keep themselves healthy. They shared their experiences with the technology products that they literally depend on for their lives. With their insights, we were able to formulate a set of design goals we’d have to meet in order to transform the experience of managing diabetes. We came up with dozens and dozens of possible design concepts, sketching out different approaches to achieving those goals. Out of those concepts, a few key elements started to fall into place. We looked at the solutions out on the market and talked to diabetes educators about what works for people and what doesn’t.

    We built on those concepts by fleshing out the interaction design of the product, mapping out how the users would monitor their condition and give themselves insulin. At this point, it became clear that a bunch of interface mockups wouldn’t be enough to convey our ideas. That’s when we started producing this video.

    The video doesn’t stand alone. We’ve provided all the background on the thinking behind the Charmr concept, including our research findings, as part of our case study. It’s been an exciting project that has pushed us in unexpected ways — in other words, just the kind of project we had hoped for. We look forward to doing more of them!

    High quality video of Charmr (18 MB)

    Movie Credits:

    Sushi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purpleslog/233433951/

    Doctor’s Office: http://flickr.com/photos/sbconsci/361586238/

    College: http://flickr.com/photos/genvessel/110114471/

    Background of Charmr: http://flickr.com/photos/post/19350897/

    Voiceover by: Laura Kirkwood-Datta

    Music: Andrew Crow

    There are 43 thoughts on this idea

    1. Mike Kuniavsky

      Excellent! Great video and concept. You go.

    2. Bernard Farrell

      I’m really excited to see Adaptive Path take this challenge and run with it.

      Manufacturers take a serious look at this design concept and what it would mean to those of us with diabetes.

      And system architects, please also remember data standards.

      We need this device to be part of a bigger system that includes software for analyzing results and sharing these with healthcare teams. It cannot be a standalone device.

      We need it as part of an easy-to-use system that works with us to improve our control of diabetes.

    3. Jesse James Garrett

      Bernard, you’re absolutely right. The device has to be part of a larger system. We tried to suggest that with the scene at the computer, where the user is reviewing her historical trends. We didn’t spend much time in the movie on it (and we haven’t designed the desktop software) but it’s definitely an important part of our thinking.

    4. Kaleem

      Inspiring! The Charmr Project has given me new ideas for an open design slam we’re planning to hold in Toronto later this year


    5. Chris Blow

      This is wonderful!!

    6. Rick

      An IDDM here. I love it! What can I do to make this device happen? I want one.

      Keep up the good work!

    7. Ken

      Perhaps I missed it in the video, but how exactly would the insulin be metered and pumped? The graphic in the video suggests an insulin reservoir, which I assume is comparable to an insulin cartridge in the current models. However the graphic doesn’t show a pump mechanism – which is often why the current insulin pumps are so bulky (along with the AA batteries that power them).

      What kind of projected battery life would this thing have? Seems like you’d have to change batteries or charge it very often since it has a color display that communicates wirelessly. Judging by the size of the display I also think there would be issues with older diabetics reading the display and targeting the buttons.

      And to completely rain on the parade, the entire package worn on the body appears much larger than current pumps on the market which only require a needle (that must be changed every three days). I would think sticking the reservoir and needle on the body would be more bulky and uncomfortable than the current setup.

    8. Kris

      God bless you all for taking up this challenge! Thank you for your creativity and thank you for trying!

    9. Patty

      While, I find this a great concept, perhaps we’re back to the same problems as with the OmniPod. When the insulin is worn in a pod that attaches at the infusion site, rather than in a separate pump that can be disconnected, can being submerged in hot water such as with a hot tub or whirlpool tub affect the insulin quality? Sure, some OmniPod users claim that they have no problems in these situations while OmniPod recommends not exposing the pod to submersion in hot water temperatures, but does a user want to take the chance of damaging the effectiveness of their insulin, especially now when some insurance companies are rationing insulin to their clients? So, a person may not have the luxury of “throwing away” possibly ineffective insulin damaged by high heat, since the insurance company tells them how much insulin they can have per day (mine is now following this procedure). Unless the user can be assured that the pod containing the insulin is very well insulated to allow for these situations, I’m afraid that I would have to pass.

    10. Jennifer

      You guys ROCK! Kudos to you for taking on this challenge – as a partner to someone with diabetes I am so happy to see talented people putting the energy into something like this. I just know my techie boyfriend would so much more enjoy dealing with the Charmr than his other diabetic junk he currently has! Keep up the good work on this!

    11. Angel Matos

      Excellent! I can only hope that one of the biggies in the ‘D’ world take your design concept and try to make it a reality. J&J via their One Touch division would be the most logical, or maybe Bayer – whose been marketing more aggressively as of date.

      And in the name of the millions of D-Folks in the world, I salute you, I thank you, and may God Bless, cause we need THIS type of an electronic ‘toy’ -SOON!

    12. Marston A, SugarStats

      Nice concept guys, I think it is a great start. Hopefully someone will pick this up as I think it would be a solution many of us diabetes would welcome.

      Though as Bernard said it really does have to conform to open data standards to allow open-exchange of the data for various diabetes management systems.

      I know we could love to integrate such a device into SugarStats.com as I see from your video it also would help track carbs and activity.

      Keep up the good work guys.

    13. Jonah

      How about a button on that big bubble thingy that can alarm the little device so’s it doesn’t get lost?

      Plus, don’t make it skin color. I wanna be an alien! Seriously, there are too many skin colors.

      I’d like it small enough to go together on my leg, because wearing a bubble like that on my stomach would make something like running too difficult.

    14. Auntly H

      I think you’re onto something really great. Let me know if I can help with feedback and/or testing….

      I agree you should watch the size of the site. Also, how much will the reservoir hold? You may want a couple of options for that so an individual can choose the size that will carry her/him through 3-4 days.

      Don’t forget you need to get the insurance companies on board. It sucks to find the best pump on the market (for you) and then discover your insurance company won’t cover it (even though they initially told you there were no brand stipulations).

    15. Marina

      As I watched the video, I was entering a bolus for a bagel that I wanted to eat, and jotted a note to myself to eat it at 9:30 (in 20 minutes). I’d love to be able to set an alarm on a food bolus to remind me to eat in 20 minutes instead of having to remember on my own!

    16. Greg

      Great concept. Conceptually it takes the best parts of the Minimed pump/CGMS system, and the Omnipod, and combines them in a superior interface.

      A few things to keep in mind, though — while improving the user experience is definitely an important and admirable goal, one of the reasons the current devices are so clunky is these medical devices have very different, and critical design requirements. Reliability and accuracy are absolutely THE most important goals. All the cool gee-wiz reassuring UI features in the world aren’t worth anything if they bring the system down.

      Also, I mentioned the Omnipod. I passed on the Omnipod the last time I upgraded pumps, even though I liked the idea, because it was too limiting for me. I use only half the amount of insulin it holds in the 3 day window it lasts. I could fill it halfway to reduce insulin waste, but if I’m doing that I’d rather have a smaller pod attached to me. As suggested, several different reservior options (or the ability to change the infusion set but leave the reservior on, via a very short tube for instance) would be greatly desired.

      The single patch idea is good, but seems to large for a small, thin person like me. I would personally prefer the option of putting the sensor and the delivery system in different locations.

      This is an amazingly excellent start, though.

    17. Timothy

      As a pump-wearing Type I diabetic, I think this is a fantastic concept, and I hope to see something like this on the market in the future. However, there are clear limitations to the design in usability and safety. I’m personally uncomfortable with the controls for the device being physically separated from the device delivering the insulin. One can imagine any number of situations in which this might be an issue (should the controller be misplaced, or accidentally bumped while sitting on a table, etc). Putting controls on the pump itself would be an option with the remote as an accessory, but that may defeat the purpose. Also, some control is lost in simplicity. There would need to be some sort of ‘expert mode’ and ‘safe mode’ to allow fine tune control of the device.

      The exciting thing is that all of this technology currently exists, and most of it is available now in some form. Unfortunately, as most diabetics know, it will be years before insurance companies will cover the cost of a device such as this once it becomes available, and will likely cost thousands of dollars upfront and literally hundreds per month to operate (infusion sets, etc).

    18. David Shadle - UX Week - part 2

      […] Adler (ClearRX), Lisa Strausfeld (One Laptop Per Child) and Adaptive Paths discussion of the Charmr project. Each project was inspired by recognizing a problem directly impacting the […]

    19. I never knew » Blog Archive » Adaptive

      […] to have a team spend 9 weeks on their own dime and came up with an interesting direction for a diabetes management device. That’s the initial post with the concept video, you can also go through the category archive […]

    20. Name

      “Reliability and accuracy are absolutely THE most important goals.” etc etc etc

      Not so much to me – and I am diabetic. As long as my device knows when it is malfunctioning, I can live with it overdosing or underdosing me every now and then. It is a small price to pay for avoiding the risk that I will forget one of the 5 pieces of overpriced crap I need to carry around with me in my little diabetic gimp manbag.

      My ass, frankly. You can justify it however you like, but at the end of the day, my cellphone is half the size of my bloodglucose monitor, and can record video, talk to my computer via bluetooth, play music, etc. If I’m not totally insane, I suspect all a blood glucose monitor actually does is measure electrical resistance of a substance which reacts with glucose. The complexity is a several orders of magnitude lower. The fact is, there are far less players making diabetic devices, and they have a ‘captive audience’ so to speak. I’d say there is far more in common between a medical supply company and a Columbian drug-lord, than there is between consumer electronics like Apple or Bang & Olufson. There is nothing customer-oriented about any of them, including the Onetouch crap.

    21. Janusz/Warsaw

      A great idea and a great design.

      I know some persons with diabetes and I said some time ago, to gove them some hope, that some smart people would develop such a device in the future as we live in the age of integration, micro and nano – world.

      I am happy to see you try to put it into life and I wish you the success …

      And it is great that Amy took a challenge to write about it. May be the device could have her name …

    22. Name

      I remembered to rant, but forgot to compliment you on the concept, which is very good indeed. I am a bit curious why you chose USB instead of using Bluetooth for communication with the computer, but your other design choices are very sensible, so I assume there was a good reason for this.

      I’m not sure what price point you intend the device to go for, but I’d urge you to think high rather than low. You’ll have a hard time finding an insulin-dependent diabetic unwilling to pay through the nose to buy his or her freedom.

    23. Stu Collett

      Great work guys, really inspirational!

    24. Name

      USB for power makes perfect sense.

    25. Dan

      The USB serves two purposes: to transmit data and to power the device when plugged in.

    26. FredCavazza.net » L’utilisabilité au s

      […] Mais connaissiez-vous le travail de recherche effectué par Adaptive Path sur un appareil destiné aux personnes souffrant de diabète : Charmr: A Design Concept for Diabetes Management Devices. […]

    27. links for 2007-08-28 (Leapfroglog)

      […] adaptive path » blog » Jesse James Garrett » Charmr: A Design Concept for Diabetes Management Dev… This post on Adaptive Path’s Charmr project contains a movie that’s a nice example of how to visualize an experience design concept. A bit too commercial-y for my tastes, but I guess that’s the point. (tags: charmr medicine AdaptivePath movies concepts experiencedesign XD UX userexperience healthcare diabetes) […]

    28. nickbaum.com » Blog Archive » Charmr

      […] took to heart a diabetic blogger’s call to action and designed a concept for a new device. Charmr is the result of 9 weeks of research into how to make diabetics’ lives easier. Make sure to […]

    29. Media Districts Entertainment Blog » Charmr:

      […] Jesse James Garrett placed an interesting blog post on Charmr: A Design Concept for Diabetes Management DevicesHere’s a brief overview […]

    30. moplantai

      can’t you develop some sort of tablet containing insulin?

      so that diabetic patient don’t have to make invasive techniques anymore to introduce the insulin.

    31. Aurora, le navigateur conceptuel de Mozilla | Fred

      […] Pour la petite histoire, les équipes d’Adpative Path étaient également à l’origine d’une autre réflexion tout à fait intéressante sur un concept de terminal médical personnel : Charmr, A Design Concept for Diabetes Management Devices. […]

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