But large medical-device makers aren't the only companies paying attention to the market. Adaptive Path, a San Francisco user-experience design strategy consultancy best known for its Web-design work for companies including Intel (INTC), Crayola, and Wells Fargo (WFC), recently created a concept for a diabetes device called Charmr, which looks like a necklace charm. The concept was inspired by an open letter written by diabetic Amy Tenderich (author of the site Diabetes Mine) to Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs.Well done, Amy.
"Most of these [diabetes] devices are clunky, make weird alarm sounds, are more or less hard to use, and burn quickly through batteries," wrote Tenderich. "In other words: their design doesn't hold a candle to the iPod." She called for Jobs to sponsor medical-device design contests, to enlist Apple design head Jonathan Ive to remake the contest winners into feasible products, and to fund an Apple medical design school. To date, Tenderich says Jobs has not responded to her letter.
After reading Tenderich's post, a group from Adaptive Path decided to respond; they applied their experience at designing user interfaces to creating a concept for a diabetes-management tool that might have the consumer appeal of an iPod. Their goal was not only to challenge themselves as designers but also to work on a humanitarian product to which they could apply their knowledge of user-centric interface design. "The language of the Web and the digital are moving into the physical," says Dan Saffer, an interaction designer at Adaptive Path who worked on the Charmr project. Saffer and his colleagues wanted to see if they could apply Web-style navigation elements and intuitive graphics to a medical device.
So this past summer the team spent nine weeks designing a two-part device consisting of a wearable pump and a controller that can be plugged into a flash drive to upload a diabetic's health data and transmit it to a caregiver. While Charmr exists only as computer renderings and in a faux-promotional video that's circulating on the Web, the idea, Saffer says, was to prompt other designers, consumer-electronics companies, and medical-device manufacturers to develop more user-friendly diabetes-tool designs.