In 2014, I was given the opportunity to design a concept for a medical wearable device. I began the project by looking for the most prevalent of the ailments and the pain points associated with them.
Out of the many medical that I came across that one that stood to me the most was diabetes. One of the biggest problems that diabetics face in their day to day life is the finger pricking to check their glucose levels.
The pricked areas eventually form calluses and are frankly a pain in the ass. I started looking into current non-invasive methods and technologies to check glucose levels; both conceptual and applicable.
After establishing the problem, I started to search for a solution. I researched alternate methods for checking glucose levels. The method that got me most intrigued was the Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIS) kit. The way that NIS kit works is that, the ear piece emits infrared lights into the earlobe, the amount of light that goes through and hits the detector determines the level of glucose you have in your body. The information is sent from the ear piece down to the reader and the LCD display.
As soon as I looked at the NIS kit, I thought what if this technology could be fit inside a pair of earphones. People are using them all the time, while they commute or work, now they can also keep track of their glucose levels while they do that.
Once the shape and form of the device was decided, it was time to conduct some research on how to start the design process. It was my first time entering the realm of industrial design and I wasn't sure how to start. I decide the best way to begin would be to start sketching and getting my thoughts on paper.
I tried to a couple of different approaches for the earphones, including a version where they were headphones. However, I preferred the in-ear approach inspired by Sony Piiq. Having owned a pair in the past, the Piiq earphones were very comfortable, and the ear hook they came equipped with allowed for the earphones to stay on your ear, with being intrusive or feeling uncomfortable. That is the level of quality I wanted my earphones to have.
After sleeping on the design, I realized that while the design for the headphones was on the right track, it could still be better. Through a bit more iteration and research I changed the visual look of Gluuc and made them similar to beans, since they are good for diabetic patients.
What sets Gluuc earphones apart from the competition is the infrared sensors and display that it borrows from the Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIS) kit.
The infrared sensors are attached to the ear buds and clip on to the user’s earlobes. They light up as soon as the user puts them, indicating that they have been activated. The infrared sensors check for the blood glucose level every five minutes, and displays the immediately after; granted that the user is wearing the earphones
The wire for Gluuc plays an important part in giving the user feedback. about a quarter of the way down is the reader and display that shows the user their respective glucose level. The display is capable of live feedback and changes depending on the user's behavior. The wire also has a mic and volume control for a better experience!
In order to give the user more control, I also designed a companion application to go along with the Gluuc earphones. The app’s main use was to help the user keep track of their blood glucose levels, and render that data into charts that gives the user further insight and better understanding of their health.
The app gives the user the choice of switching between ‘Today’ where they can see their blood glucose of the entire day. And also allows them to analyze and compare long term daily, weekly, and monthly trends through the ‘Trends’ section. The user has the option to either view the data via column charts or line charts depending on the complexity they are looking for.
During course of this project I learned quite a bit about diabetes and the needless suffering the patients had to go through to keep track of their blood sugar levels. It allowed me realize the importance of the budding ‘Medtech’ field and how badly it is needed to help people live a better quality of life. As a designer this was my first project where I focused on creating a product that was meant to make people's lives better. It was really liberating and made me fall in love with working on projects that created solutions to real problems.