POTALK: Mind Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

POTALK Stanford Longevity Design Challenge


Team Lead: Cindy Tung
University: National Chiao-Tung University (Taiwan)

POTALK is a potted plant with watering system triggered by a microphone, encouraging isolated people to talk with others. Team members from the Biomechanics department and Medical Application Laboratory at the University were encouraged by their adviser, Professor Bing-Shiang Yang, to enter the Challenge. Says Tung, “He often encourages us to think, ‘What do elders need? What do they really want?’”

Inspiration for POTALK
“It began with a debate between two of our team members, Tony and Cindy. One day, Tony mentioned the difficulty he had when chatting with his grandma, since they speak different dialects and have very different backgrounds. Every week when he went home and tried to chat with her, it was very hard to understand each other, to the point where Tony would sometimes give up trying.

“Cindy, however, had a different experience with her own grandma, whom she met only once per year. Like Tony, she had difficulty understanding her at the beginning of their chats. But then the longer and more frequently they chatted, the better she’d understand her grandmother.

“From these conversations and others, the team agreed that the best way to improve communication between generations was to design an object that reminded families not to give up trying.”

Prototyping POTALK
“It took about half a year, and we are now making the third version of POTALK.”

Lessons Learned from designing POTALK
“We think the best design should touch the users’ hearts and make people want to own it, and fit into their existing lifestyle and daily activities. We think that the needs of seniors are actually not so different from the needs of youths: a social life with family or friends, a chance to share their experiences, and mutual consideration for others.”

Future Plans for POTALK
“We will keep improving POTALK, test our prototypes with more users, modify them based on that feedback, and then select a factory to mass produce the final protect. Whether we win the Challenge or not, we’re dedicated to bringing POTALK to the market.”


Dex: Mobility Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

DEX Stanford health wearable app

Dex (Mobility)

Team Lead: Elyn Wu (Designer)
University: National University of Singapore

Dex is a fitness system incorporating a smart insole with pressure sensors and a health-monitoring app which monitors a user’s gait and then based on it, recommends game-based exercises. Team lead Elyn Wu was inspired to create Dex by her grandmother, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes and encouraged by her doctors to live a healthier lifestyle.

“However,” says Elyn, “mundane exercises and lack of motivation makes her feel even more reluctant to do exercise. My grandmother is not the only one. More and more people are living sedentary lifestyles with long durations spent sitting down. Therefore, I decided to motivate people to get on their feet and experience the joy of playing games while exercising.”

DEX Stanford health shoe app

Designing and Iterating Dex
“The project started a year ago and went through several stages of development. From initial concept sketches, working with different healthcare professionals to review the idea, prototyping and researching various manufacturing techniques, to user testing it at elderly centers, Dex went through several iterations to optimize and improve its functionality. The product is currently in its third version and hopefully I will be able to develop it further with this Challenge.”

Design Lessons Learned from Dex
“For me, I think the most important thing about design is the ability to empathize with others and utilize the ability to connect knowledge from different disciplines to form possible solutions that suit people’s true wants and needs. Throughout the design process of Dex, I have learnt that there are many seniors who are overwhelmed by the changes they experience as they age. As their physical health takes a toll, these changes slowly nudge them into giving up on being active and living positively each day. From there, I decided to get them up on their feet through my design, and hopefully, be able to change their mindset towards aging independently and positively.”

Future Plans for Dex
“I definitely hope to make Dex a reality so it can reach the right people who need it. If possible, I will also make a developers kit for like-minded individuals to create other interactions in Dex through an open source platform. This will help build a developer community to further enhance Dex while bringing people from different walks of life together.”


Memoir Monopoly: Mind Winner in This Year’s Design Challenge


Memoir Monopoly (Mind)

Cho Szu-Yang (Designer)
Cheng Ya-Fang (Designer)
University: National Taiwan University of Science and Technology

A tablet-based rehabilitation game platform for dementia patients, Memoir Monopoly integrates photos from the players’ lives into interactive challenges that exercise their memory and recognition abilities. The team was driven to create the design in order to help the increasing number of elderly dementia patients — especially in Taiwan, where team lead Cho Szu-Yang says products and services for this group are lacking.

Inspiration for Memoir Monopoly
“We met an experienced occupational therapist involved with the long-term care of seniors with dementia, and who wanted to enhance the quality of their rehabilitation activities. We were inspired by his passion. We also collaborated with multidisciplinary professionals including physical therapists, information engineers, and UX designers, all hoping to innovate products and services for the aging of Taiwan, and contribute to understanding the problems they face.”

Time Developing Memoir Monopoly
“We have been working on this project for three years. We adapted the research-through-design paradigm and user-experience innovative design process to develop the Memoir Monopoly project. We went through three iterations of UXD and UXT, revising design details for a better user experience:

“First, working with an occupational therapist, we visited daycare centers and observed seniors’ current reminiscing activities as led by caregivers. We conducted user experience research (UXR) of current tools used by the senior dementia patients in rehabilitation activities to reveal user needs in interactive reminiscing games.

“Second, we conducted user experience design (UXD) based on our UXR findings. We worked with software engineers to build multiple working prototypes and held discussions with caregivers and therapists.

We made more than four prototypes, and used feedback that we received from the users to refine our iterative design, resulting in the development of a highly flexible reminiscing rehabilitation computer game called Memoir Monopoly, which allows users to upload personal photos and preferences into a customizable game map for use with applicable materials based on personal experiences.”

“Third, we conducted user experience testing (UXT) to examine the final working prototype. Memoir Monopoly was successfully applied in field tests with 30 rehabilitation groups at daycare centers. Based on observation and post-interviews with the therapists and caregivers, we found that the senior dementia patients who participated in the activity were more willing to share their stories through their own photos and movies. They also showed more interest in playing the reminiscing games on Memoir Monopoly than playing previous paper-based games.

“The results of this preliminary research demonstrate that our design resolved problems found in the UXR. Now, we are bringing our service into six daycare centers in Taiwan, hoping to bring our design and services to more seniors.”

Memoir Monopoly 2 SCL Design Challenge

Key Takeaways Learned While Developing Memoir Monopoly
“Our user experience research (UXR) of current tools used by the senior dementia patients in rehabilitation activities revealed several user needs for creating interactive reminiscing games:

“Sequence activities: The game should be clearly structured into a sequence of warmup, physical orientation, main activities, and review. That way, seniors know what they are doing at every step, which minimizes confusion.

“Create complementary activities with suitable goals: Reminiscing, sensory stimulation, cognitive training, reality orientation, and activities with suitable goals all provide joyfulness and achievement, while also reducing problem behaviors.

“Integrate personal experiences of players: Most of the existing reminiscing games do not directly link to the seniors’ personal memories. When an elderly person looks at memory cards, it is hard for them to share stories, as there is not enough personal experience to stimulate their memory. It is also difficult for the caregiver to facilitate reminiscing activities and keep everybody interested in the game.

Consequently, we created a senior-friendly interface, with information on the UI
displayed step by step, so the group of players can focus on one goal at a time. The interaction design is simple and intuitive, using easy gesture to interact with the game, so seniors are able to play by themselves — enhancing their willingness to play.

“Avoid lack of interactivity: Senior participants find it difficult to follow the instructions because the tools are not intuitive enough. They are often confused about which game piece belongs to them, where they should place the piece, and which stage they are at in the game. These kinds of problems are frustrating and may interrupt the activity, and seniors may even quit. Therefore, it is also difficult for the caregiver to lead participants in reminiscing activities. This is why Memoir Monopoly provides sounds and visual instruction to encourage and give feedback to seniors, giving them a sense of accomplishment and achievement during the game.

“Make games customizable: It is difficult for game leaders to prepare suitable and different level of difficulties materials that are suitable to the participants’ condition. In Memoir Monopoly, game leaders can easily create a customized game based around different difficulty levels and rehab goals of the seniors through personal photos, music, videos, and question cards.”

Future Plans for Memoir Monopoly
“We plan to expand our platform to include an app, more customized games, and a database of memoirs. We also hope to keep on bringing our service into day care centers, households, and beyond. Occupational therapists can visit elderly individuals and collect personal experience with their families, such as photos, videos, and songs, then use Memoir Monopoly to create customized rehab activities. These professionals can record the family’s reaction and give useful feedback to family members, such as interacting skills and rehab activities which can be carried out in their daily lives.

“Memoir Monopoly has been successfully brought into 40 group rehab events in six day care centers, played by up to 200 attendees, and is now a regular service in several day care centers. From this, we learned that our game was not only a memory tool, but had become a new kind of activity for the elderly. They enjoy Memoir Monopoly with groups of friends, gathering together to play and share stories with each other, building trust and bonds within the group, further enhancing their social relationships and satisfaction in life.”


Bath Chair: Mobility Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge


Bath Chair (Mobility)

Tzu-Ping “Dawn” Hsu
University: National Yunlin University of Science and Technology (Taiwan)

Bath Chair is a portable bath designed to help the mobility-impaired safely wash themselves while remaining in a seated position. “My grandfather always sits on a chair to take a shower, which gave me the idea,” says Tzu-Ping Hsu, explaining the inspiration for her Bath Chair design. “I wanted to do something for seniors, so I entered the Challenge.”

Time Spent Developing Bath Chair
“A year. After endless trials, I created about four versions before deciding on the final design. This Bath Chair is my final year project at the University.”


Lessons Learned Designing Bath Chair

 “Bathing seems to be a simple thing in daily life for most of us, but for those seniors with declining physical function, things are not as simple as we suppose. We should be more concerned about the needs and life quality of seniors.”

Future Plans for Bath Chair

“Continue improving the Bath Chair. Hopefully, I can someday make it real, so it can benefit seniors and help improve their quality of life.”


Veevo: Mobility Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

Now that we’ve announced the twelve finalists in our third annual Design Challenge to Optimize Longevity, we’re going to feature all entries before the grand prize announcement on April 5th. This week’s entry is for the Mobility category of the Challenge.

Veevo (Mobility)

Team lead: Sarah Ahart
University: Virginia Tech


Veevo is a compact, in-home workout station which folds out into five different exercises – then folds back into a usable end table. The design team had actually been working on Veevo prior to learning of the Challenge.

“We realized that the idea behind it, helping promote activity in the elderly, could have some serious benefits in the real world, especially considering the increase of elderly adults from the baby boomer population,” team lead Sarah Ahart explains. “We finally stumbled upon Stanford’s Center on Longevity’s Design Challenge, which was searching for ways to promote health and mobility in the aging population as well.”

Inspiration for Veevo
“Our initial approach to this project was very general: ‘To help enable independence in the elderly’. When trying to break down the project into a more specific area, Adam on our team mentioned that his grandmother had fallen, broken her wrist, and had to come live with his family for several weeks. We did more research and found that falling was one of the biggest reasons the elderly lose their independence.

“When trying to solve this problem of falling, we wanted to take more of a proactive approach, rather than reactive. We conducted research with our own grandparents, people in retirement homes, and even physical therapists who work with elderly adults. After that, we decided that we’d take on the objective of promoting physical activity in the elderly to improve strength and balance, and reduce their risk of falls.”


Prototyping Veevo
“We spent about 10 weeks working on the project, and a lot of our time ideating and prototyping with cardboard and foam models. Once we finally found an idea that we liked, we spent about a week in the wood shop calculating dimensions and building a fully functional model. With that model we were able to take it to our user group and get feedback about our design.”

Lessons Learned from designing Veevo
“We all know that falling is a major problem with seniors, but we wanted to design a solution that would prevent the falls from happening in the first place. We learned that seniors don’t need hardcore exercise in order to stay in good shape. A few simple daily routines will go a long way in keeping them healthy and able to do the things that they want to do. During our design process, we narrowed in on the workouts that were most important for seniors, focusing on flexibility, balance, and strength, rather than trying to include activities that may not benefit them as much.”

Future Plans for Veevo
“If we win the Challenge we are hoping to be able to get Veevo into the homes of people who will benefit from it mos. We will go forward with more user testing and modify the product based on feedback. We will also be designing three or four facades, so that Veevo will blend into any home environment.”


Announcing the Finalists of Our Third Annual Design Challenge!

Today we’re very proud to announce the twelve finalists of the Stanford Center on Longevity’s third annual Design Challenge. University students from around the world submitted dozens of excellent entries around this year’s theme, “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity”, with finalists coming from as far away as Taiwan and Turkey to as close as Berkeley and San Francisco.

This year’s Challenge has two categories, Mind and Mobility, reflecting the Center’s mission to help people reach old age mentally sharp and physically fit. In alphabetical order, the 2015-2016 Design Challenge finalists are:

  • Bath Chair: Portable bath which helps the mobility-impaired safely bathe while maintaining a seated position. (Team lead: Tzu-Ping Hsu, National Yunlin University of Science and Technology)
  • City Cart:  A combination walker and cartdesigned to help users with mobility issues safely and easily take shopping trips. (Team lead: Brandon Lopez of San Francisco State University.)
  • Dex: Smart insoles with pressure sensors and a health monitoring system which monitors users’ gait and recommends game-based exercises on their smartphone. (Team lead: Elyn Wu of the National University of Singapore.)
  • Echo: Audio simulation kit helping people recently visually impaired to develop auditory awareness of their surroundings. (Team lead: Yee Jek Khaw, National University of Singapore)
  • FamilyTree: Pairs of potted plants integrated with Internet-connected sensors, so families separated by distance can help each other monitor, care for, and grow their plants as a shared goal. (Team lead: Carrie Gladstone of UC Berkeley)
  • FILLanthropy: Volunteer matching service for people of all backgrounds and interests to help share their time and talent with each other. (Team lead: Annabel Chen, Stanford University)
  • Memoir Monopoly: Rehabilitation game platform for dementia patients, engaging them through interactive challenges. (Team lead: Szu-Yang Cho, National Taiwan University)
  • PicMemory: Therapeutic mobile app helping people with dementia organize their life stories while facilitating family interaction. (Team lead: Hung-Chi Lee, National Taiwan University)
  • POTALK:  Potted plant with watering system triggered by a microphone, encouraging isolated people to talk with others. (Team lead: Hsin-Yi Tung, National Chiao-Tung University)
  • Sturdy Swivel: Helps the mobility-impaired enter and exit vehicles while in a seated position. (Team lead: Jessica Hsueh, University of California at Berkeley)
  • Veevo: A compact, in-home workout station which folds out into five different exercises – then folds back into a usable end table. (Team lead: Sarah Ahart, Virginia Tech)
  • Yedi70: Social network and informational resource for seniors connected to an online marketplace. (Team lead: Ozge Armutcu, Koc University at Istanbul)
  • In coming weeks, a full description of all these entries and their designs will be posted here and the Challenge’s Facebook page.

    All twelve finalists will win sponsored travel to Stanford University, so one representative from each team can pitch their designs to renowned industry leaders for final judging on April 5. In total, finalists will receive over $50,000 in prizes, mentorship and sponsored travel, with the two grand prize winners receiving and over $10,000 each in cash prizes – seed money to turn their designs into real products.

    Follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for updates as we highlight the finalists and announce the grand prize winners!

    Much thanks to all our sponsors who helped make this challenge possible:

    Platinum Sponsors
    Halbert Hargrove, Target and Fidelity Investments

    Gold Sponsors
    LIXIL and Care Innovations

    Silver Sponsors
    Home Care Assistance, Airbnb, the Davis Phinney Foundation and Eskaton


Three Finalists of Our Design Challenge Are Taking Their Successes to New Heights

SCL BLOG - WINNERSWe’re lucky to get incredible design submissions from the best and brightest students from around the world, and overjoyed that several of our past finalists and winners have earned some amazing opportunities for participating in our Design Challenge. Here’s a quick glimpse at some of them:

Sha Yao, Eatwell, Winner of the 2013-2014 Challenge
Sha’s Eatwell dishware set is in the midst of mass production. Not only has her IndieGoGo campaign raised over her target goal, Sha and Eatwell have been featured by a myriad of different news outlets:

Eason Chow, Flipod, Finalist in the 2013-2014 Challenge
Since winning our Technology Special Prize in 2014, Eason was invited to the 2015 World Economic Forum to present his Flipod project, which helps seniors and the disabled turn over while in bed. His design has also been awarded a “Proof of Concept” Grant through the National Research Foundation of Singapore. This grant will help Eason continue to research and develop Flipod into a real product.

Nick Steigmann & Maiya Jensen, SPAN, Winners of the 2014-2015 Challenge
Nicholas and Maiya are in final user tests of SPAN, their mobility assistance tool for seniors and the disabled, which has since attracted wide interest, from physical therapists to the President’s Council on Fitness. They’re now aiming to release SPAN as a real, mass-produced product, and have filed for a patent on the device. They were recently featured on PSFK, a prestigious site featuring ideas for innovation, new thinking in business, design, retail, tech and travel.

Don’t forget! Our submission deadline for next year’s Challenge is December 11 all details for submitting are available here. This year’s Challenge consists of three categories: Mind, Mobility, and Financial Security, each with its own expert judges, including many well-known figures and companies in the tech industry. Finalists will be able to jumpstart their careers with over $50,000 in total cash prizes and sponsored travel to Stanford, where they’ll receive mentorship and a chance to present their designs to industry leaders. And since entrants retain all rights to their Challenge submissions, finalists and winners can join Sha, Eason, Nick and Maiya, and begin turning their designs into full-fledged products and companies.


Om Malik, Robert Scoble & Many Other Tech Luminaries to Help Judge SCL’s 2015-2016 Design Challenge

UntitledWe’re very proud to announce that a number of renowned Silicon Valley high tech executives and influencers will be helping us judge our 2015-2016 design challenge, open to students at all accredited colleges and universities who want to submit their designs for products and services which optimize long life for us all. These judges include Robert Scoble, longtime tech evangelist and Rackspace‘s Futurist, and Om Malik, founder of GigaOM and Partner at True Ventures, among many others.

Our submission deadline is December 11all details for submitting are available here. This year’s Challenge consists of three categories: Mind, Mobility, and Financial Security, each with its own expert judges. Finalists will be able to jumpstart their careers with over $50,000 in total cash prizes and sponsored travel to Stanford, where they’ll receive mentorship and a chance to present their designs to industry leaders. Since entrants retain all rights to their Challenge submissions, several past finalists are well on their way to turning their designs into full-fledged products and companies.

Om Malik and Robert Scoble are joined by many executives associated with well-known tech companies and organizations, including:

Much thanks to all our judges for helping encourage the creation of products and services which improve mental sharpness, physical well-being, and financial health — and help inspire young designers and entrepreneurs to think about products that help people throughout their entire lifespan.



Mobility Challenge Winners Press Release

Finals Talks >
Finalist Presentations >


Palo Alto, CA – April 10, 2015

The Stanford Center on Longevity, in collaboration with Aging2.0, announced Nicholas Steigmann and Maiya Jensen from the California College of the Arts and their project “SPAN” as the winner of the second annual student Design Challenge, the finals of which were held yesterday, April 9, 2015 at Stanford University.

The Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge is a global competition aimed at encouraging students to design products and services to improve the lives of older adults. In this second year, the Challenge focused on ways to motivate / empower mobility among older adults in their daily lives, both inside their homes and in their community.

SPAN, the winning project, is a portable structure that provides older adults with a secure platform to get up and down from the ground in a safe and independent manner. It addressed the fear and functional limitations that many seniors have, and allows them to build (or in some cases, rebuild) the confidence to engage fully in their lives again. The team was awarded a $10,000 cash prize.

“When we think about mobility, we generally only consider horizontal movement. These young inventors have discovered a need to support older adults in their vertical movement and then created a convenient, supportive tool to make that movement safer and easier. Thus, maintaining and restoring the independence and confidence of older adults,” said Teresa Do, Senior Manager of Technology Partnership and Investment at LG Electronics and panelist during yesterday’s event.

Prizes were also awarded to HandleBar (second place: $5,000), Luna Lights (third place: $2,000) and Flipod (Stanford Longevity Technology Prize). The Stanford Longevity Technology Prize, in collaboration with Qualcomm and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, awarded Flipod with $5,000 and the opportunity to travel to Dalian, China in September and present at the WEF’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC).

The day-long event marked the conclusion to a global competition that kicked off in September 2014, and saw submissions from 42 student teams across 31 Universities and 11 countries. The event featured presentations by the 8 finalist teams delivered to an expert judging panel. “We were really impressed by the student presentations this year. The caliber was outstanding, and every one of the finalists would have made a worthy winner.” said Ken Smith, Director of Mobility at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

The day also featured keynotes by noted world experts, as well as a Corporate Panel focused on designing for scale.

The full list of finalists was as follows (in alphabetical order):

Fitness Hunt – University of Parma – Encourages home-based exercise via a “hunt” through a smartphone-based application and sensor system. The system uses social (intergenerational) interaction to bring together older adults with their grandchildren or family members, in an effort to increase physical activity throughout the home.

Flipod – National University of Singapore – Assistive bed rotation device for non-ambulatory individuals. This airbag-enabled device uniquely targets individuals at the lowest end of the physical activity spectrum (muscular dystrophy patients), and allows them increased independence through moving about their bed without the aid of caregivers.

Getting Active Outdoors – San Francisco State University – Modified trekking poles optimized for older users encourages exercise opportunities by providing people specialized instruments to traverse natural surroundings.

HandleBar – University of California, Berkeley – Ratcheting stair assist railing for older people to safely ascend and descend stairs in their homes allows for increased independence while still encouraging individuals to climb under their own power.

Physioart – College for Creative Studies (Michigan) – Combines physical therapy with art therapy using Microsoft Kinect technology. This program is optimized for both stroke recovery and in increasing daily levels of activity while allowing users to generate savable works of digital art.

Luna Lights – Northwestern University – Sensor-based automated lighting system that utilizes data analytics to prevent falls and keep older adults independent and mobile at night. The system provides physical and visual guidance for traversing one’s home, reducing risk of falls during one of the most common fall times.

SyncAlong – Holon Institute of Technology (Israel) – Synchronized exercise program with a family member or friend, promotes social connectedness via interactive feedback with another person over a video feed.

SPAN – California College of the Arts – SPAN is a portable structure that provides the user with a secure platform to get up and down from the ground in a safe and independent manner. The device provides the senior with physical and emotional security while engaging with their lives.

The day also included talks from experts from academia and industry, including:

Laura Carstensen, Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy, Professor of Psychology, Director, Stanford Center on Longevity
Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
James Landay, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University
Ken Smith, Stanford Center on Longevity
Lauren Grieco, Stanford Center on Longevity
Stephen Johnston, Aging 2.0
Benjamin Sarda, Orange Healthcare
Alexis Kantor, Target
Teresa Do, LG Electronics
Amber Cartwright, Airbnb
Dennis Lin, EatWell Co-Founder

Next year, the 2015-2016 Design Challenge will focus on “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity.” Students will be posed with three challenge tracks and can choose to participate in the “Mind Challenge: Delight the Mind,” the “Mobility Challenge: Discover the Motion,” or the “Financial Security Challenge: Engage in Conversation.” More details will be available at

About The Stanford Center on Longevity
The mission of the Stanford Center on Longevity is to redesign long life. The Center studies the nature and development of the human life span, looking for innovative ways to use science and technology to solve the problems of people over 50 by improving the well-being of people of all ages. For more information, visit the Center’s website.

About Aging 2.0
Aging2.0 is a global organization on a mission to accelerate innovation that will improve the lives of older adults around the world. Aging2.0 connects, educates and supports innovators through its global chapter network, Academy startup program, consumer panel, conferences and corporate partner programs. In less than three years, Aging2.0 has become the premier global platform for discovering and cultivating innovations focused on aging and senior care