The world’s first modular hearing aid has human-centred design at its heart, thanks to a deep collaboration between RMIT and industry.
Wearable medical technology that brings together beauty and functionality
PhD researcher Leah Heiss spent almost nine months weeks embedded with Blamey Saunders Hears, the company behind the revolutionary Facett device, as a core part of the development team.
Founder Dr Elaine Saunders shares her perspective on the collaboration and how it helped deliver a radically new kind of medical technology.
The typical process in product/tech development is a short period of concept design, then the engineers take over. You had a PhD researcher embedded in the company for 37 weeks, as a key part of the core team. What drove your decision to go down that route, in developing this technology?
Facett embodies our philosophy to create health solutions in partnership with our clients - through listening to their feedback and contribution.
One of the challenges in creating a revolution via product innovation is that most people can't detail exactly what they want to see in a product until it starts to take form.
By embedding a designer throughout our process we have been able to really connect with clients right from the start and then iteratively evolve our solution based on what works from a human-centred design perspective.
It's this clinical, design and engineering collaboration over time that has enable such a strong solution that we can see people connect with in a deeply personal way.
What impact do you believe the embedded design process had on the final outcome?
The end result clearly shows functionality and beauty aligned.
It's been powerful watching the team involved in such a unique collaboration, because the product has evolved over time.
Without such an evolution the final form would likely not be as perfected and evolved.
What surprised you about this approach, was there anything during the design process that was unexpected?
We have developed a team where challenging views between engineering, clinical and commercial has always sat at our heart.
The team is small - yet the talent depth very strong. This means views can be strongly represented and debated.
Including Leah Heiss at that table representing a specialist deign view and client voice has increased the robustness of our debate and breadth of our views.
Working in such a collaborative and inclusive fashion has evolved our internal team to be stronger thinkers and contributors in the health design space.
Facett could be seen as a case study of the immense possibilities of deep collaboration between industry and universities - would you see this as a future model for growing innovation in Australia?
There is a strong advantage in including a "specialist" into a project team.
And the universities can often support and provide a "thinker" to come into a team who is able represents a clear, often challenging view, backed by a wealth of knowledge, support and broader thinking as gained in the university space.
It's this convergence of commercial strategic development and specialist university supported global thinking that creates a cutting edge view, with a real passion for delivery motivated by different drivers.
Indeed this could present strong possibilities for both industry and universities in delivering innovations through collaboration.