Reflections on Calming Cushion Project

by Amy Hick

Robotics and Everyday Life: Strategies for improving the sensing performance of personalised therapeutic products for people living with dementia

Having the expertise of a broad range of researchers and creative partners has added great value to the project. With each person bringing detailed knowledge of their field more areas have been covered than if the individual areas were working alone. Things are thought of which wouldn’t necessarily been a priority to each person who is working on their own part. For example, while focusing on the engineering, media communication may have arisen as an afterthought. It’s valuable to have another person prioritising that and making sure it is anticipated and addressed at the right time in the project timeline.

The main challenge of working in an interdisciplinary team is coordinating calendars! With such a wide range of people with varied priorities and responsibilities finding a time to get everyone together is difficult. We managed though! Another challenge of working in an interdisciplinary team is communication, however I find this to be one of the greatest benefits also. Each person comes with specialised knowledge which leads to a lot of specific language being used that would not be understood by everyone. Having to communicate with each other has required simplification of the language used which leads to clarification of ideas.

Developing the sensor system for this project has really helped crystallise my skills in sensor engineering. Creating a system which integrates into an existing product to produce data for other people to use has honed my thought processes to be more aware of the end goal during the project development. Increased familiarity with the applications and implementation of sensors in a robotic object will certainly be of use in my future research.

My background is quite broad and overlaps with that of many members of the team. I have therefore found it fascinating to observe how each discipline approaches this project. It has really helped me understand through which lens I am seeing when I’m approaching my own research.

I have really enjoyed working in this team and believe greater value has been gained through the addition of multiple perspectives. Collaborating with so many people who really know their stuff at such a high level has felt like a great luxury. I will certainly be on the lookout for this kind of working relationship in the future.

Involving societal engagement and/or co-production in a project is something I feel very good about. While we had a great diversity of individuals on this project one could argue there is still some homogeneity in perspective. The opportunity to get more input from a broad range of people, particularly from indented users (co-production), has the potential to enrich the development process with new ideas and helps ensure products are actually effective for those who want to use them.