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ThinkRevolutionist: Design That Matters

On the Road to Better Health
January 20, 2017

The Design that Matters team recently traveled the backroads of northern Vietnam carrying special cargo: the first Otter Newborn Warmer prototype. The trip’s goal? To test the durable, washable warming bassinet with the kinds of doctors and nurses who will eventually use the finished product for their most vulnerable patients.

Out of the design lab and into the field, the team received firsthand feedback about the product’s features. Was it easy to use? Simple to clean? Did it fit with how real healthcare providers really practice medicine in developing countries? Thousands of photos, hours of video, and boxes of notes will now provide the answers.

One of the challenges of this type of field research is bridging the narrative gap – that is, overcoming the difficulty of communicating effectively through translators. That’s why it was so important to take along an “alpha prototype” of Otter, the first prototype version that looks and works like a finished product. Handing over the prototype and observing the doctors’ reactions was the most effective way to assess their responses without getting anything lost in translation.

The doctors and nurses taught the DtM team not only about the opportunities for Otter but also about newborn care in general, so the team can make even smarter products in the future.

The weeklong trip to Vietnam also allowed the DtM designers to meet up with manufacturing partner MTTS. In addition to showing off their own innovative medical devices, MTTS researchers helped negotiate the many hospital visits, translated countless flashcards, and kept the long days running smooth thanks to many cups of Vietnamese coffee.

The Otter alpha prototype was completed last summer as designers shuttled back and forth between the DtM studio in Salem and the Autodesk BUILD Space in Boston. Relying on Lenovo’s ThinkStation P910 and ThinkPad P40 Yoga to create CAD renderings for all Otter iterations in Autodesk Fusion 360, DtM produced a full-fledged prototype that made the Vietnam trip possible.

Once all of the field data from Vietnam is processed along with findings from other healthcare sites, DtM hopes to finalize Otter as soon as possible so it can get out into the world and start changing lives.