Mockup Prototypes in Dementia

People with dementia struggle with abstract thinking as it is difficult for them to comprehend or engage with new concepts or ideas. Therefore, concrete prototypes or objects can be a valuable tool in overcoming these difficulties and elicit valuable feedback on the interface and functionality of technology. In the design process of the Tumbler, we designed three mockups for listening to everyday sounds with different interfaces, such as buttons, knobs, or tokens. The mockups were constructed with paper and cardboard and contained a functional speaker. The speaker was connected to a laptop via Bluetooth during the session, as the sound output was simulated using digital soundboard software as a Wizard of Oz technique based on the interactions with the mockup.
The mockups were based on iconic music devices, such as a music box, radio, and record player. People with dementia could play everyday sounds with the music box by opening or closing the lid. The radio mockup had an on-off button, a knob for adjusting the volume, and a second knob for selecting the everyday sounds. And lastly, people with dementia could play everyday sounds by placing a sound disk on the record player mockup. They could select additional everyday sounds by pressing the ‘sound’ button that triggered a sound event, a short sound fragment related to the selected sound set. People with dementia could also trigger a story cue, which is a short narrated anecdote related to the personal soundscape.
After exploring all mockups, people with dementia and their partners selected one mockup and customized it to their liking. They were handed craft materials to alter the appearance, but also buttons, sliders, and knobs to add or remove certain functionalities. Customizing the mockups was a fun and engaging activity for the participants and their partners to ‘make’ their own prototype.  Despite limited cognitive and physical abilities, the couples were able to present their personal audio player.
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