Blind World Magazine

An all-in-one device for the visually impaired.

November 01, 2005.

//MUKANA (the Finnish for aboard, along, in, on, part, with and within) is a piece of cutting-edge smart clothing for the visually impaired. It connects technology with textiles and thus promotes new approaches to dressing up. Users were given the main focus in the design. A group of visually impaired participated throughout the process of development. The final prototype was thoroughly tested by them.

//MUKANA includes a cell phone, a wireless headset, a Global Positioning System (GPS) module and voice recognition software. The system takes account of the special needs of the visually impaired. Users can ask //MUKANA to tell them their location, to give information on what route to take to their destination or on the timetables of public transportation."

With //MUKANA, people can use the phone and operate the guide system with the help of a Bluetooth® enabled wireless headset and an integrated 10-key Braille number pad for the visually impaired. Extra batteries are included to guarantee the long-term functioning of the system and the cell phone. There is a pocket where the headset can be charged and stored, as well as a pocket for keys and a wallet. The Braille keypad is located in front of the garment, rotated 90 degrees from the normal position to support ergonomic hand movement.

//MUKANA is made of materials, which have special sensory qualities. It is designed to appeal to the visually impaired. Neoprene®, a very durable and flexible material has been used for the structure of the garment. Water resistance has been secured with a special coating, glued seams, and water repellent zips. The outer seams are finished with reflective piping and the keypad is covered with reflective material to enhance the security of the design.

The design and production were carried out in collaboration between Paula Löppönen and Ville Tikka. Löppönen is an industrial designer specialized in usability and ergonomics. Tikka, who has a Master's degree in psychology, was in charge of the interaction design of the project. The realization and technical interpretation are by fashion designer Päivi Haaksiluoto. The design and realization of the multimedia presentation is by industrial designer Tatu Marttila.

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