Submission # 109
Digital Design – Toi Matihiko
Innovation – Technical
Impact – Social Good
Wellington, Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara
Austin Assessment is an iOS app designed to enable scientists to better identify and understand Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI) in children — the most common cause of visual impairment affecting children in the developed world.
Massey PhD candidate Nicola McDowell had created a physical card game experiment to study CVI. She wanted to adapt this into a serious game for iPad so she could gather better data, share the app with others to use without her needing to be there, and identify crucial variations in behaviour. Most importantly, she wanted an iPad game designed to help children with CVI understand how their vision works.
We worked with Massey University on the project, with the goal to capture consistent data identifying indicators of CVI in a way that is scalable, portable, and accessible.
Pending research funding approval, the app will soon be used in a NZ/UK study by Massey and Bristol universities, in one of the biggest studies on CVI to date. It will gather data from up to 60 children in New Zealand to support new research that suggests CVI might be as high as 3.7% of the population.
NB: The application is currently only accessible by testing participants.
Many children with Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) struggle to make sense of what they see, and to understand how their vision works. Our intention behind using iOS technology was to create a scalable, portable, and accessible game that would help researchers, kids, and their communities understand CVI better.
The core values driving this project were: human-centred design, empowerment, and support. Using human-centred design and technology, we were able to transform Nicola’s playing card game into an app that could be shared for scientists around the world to use. This would not only help further research but also allow more children and communities to access the support they need.
We kept the children who would play the game at the forefront of our minds while designing and building. We also developed eight ‘principles of approach’ to guide the project and ensure high ethical standards. By learning through play, the aim for the app in future research is to help children develop a variety of methods to deal with visual clutter.
After playing, discussing the game with the kids provided a way for them to talk about how their vision works. They were able to get a better understanding of their own condition.
Based on Nicola’s research, we selected three indicators of CVI to capture in the Austin Assessment app: time between movements, darting eye movement, and accuracy of hand movement.
We built the app for iPad. iOS eye tracking allowed us to compare eye movements of control participants with research participants. Timing and touch analytics tracked accuracy and timing of hand movements. Building for iPad also allowed us to meet our goal of a solution that is scalable, portable, and accessible.
We wanted the kids to enjoy the game — this would help them behave naturally, which is better for capturing accurate data. We built in fun, natural animations — participants pick up and drag the cards to place them on top of each other, cards wiggle when picked up, and don’t land perfectly when dropped.
We built a web app dashboard for researchers to access collected data. It includes a note-taking space for researchers to record any other data they want.
We tested the app with children. They enjoyed it, and talking about it afterwards helped them gain a better understanding of their condition. Nicola was able to gather more complex and in-depth data, furthering her research.
The app has also helped parents and teachers understand childrens’ visual difficulties better, such as how it impacts on their ability to complete a simple activity. With this understanding, parents and teachers can help the kids with difficulties they might be facing in the classroom, and their daily lives.
"On the surface – A simple and ingenious concept. Below the surface – A complex display of innovation. This project is an excellent demonstration of how technology that's integrated its way into our lives has the ability to be used for important research.
The skeuomorphic design was a good decision, it puts a familiar world in front of the children so they can focus on the task.
This shows that design has no bounds when it's used as a fundamental element in scientific research.
"Great combination of research and technology."
Credits & Collaborators: Creative Director - Dan Newman Design Director - Lizy Cretney Technical Lead - Alex Li Blank - Team — Lachie Philipson, Alexa Patterson, Max Godfrey, Calin Dale, Jesse Hills, Robin Marshall Blank - Contributors — Nicola McDowell, Austin Manning
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