Connect the Community - The SoundboxFollow article
One of the challenges faced by the visually impaired living in isolation in my country (Singapore) is having to overcome delivery problems.
During this period, all public dining is banned, and citizens are encouraged to order food online and consume meals from home. The visually impaired are no exception and are able to make orders on delivery apps.
Messy Food Delivery Problems
However, the problem arises when a food delivery person arrives at the gate, and the visually impaired resident may not be able to open the gate in time.
This results in the delivery person (who is likely to be in a rush to run another delivery) leaving the food hanging on the gate, and the resident, who may not realise the food being hung on the gate, opens it, causing food and drink spillage. Not to mention the hassle of cleaning up, especially if the visually impaired resident lives alone with no caretaker.
Introducing The Soundbox
The Soundbox is a low-cost, easy-to-install, retractable storage container that solves that problem by:
- Sending a motion alert to the resident’s mobile device, once the delivery person deposits food into the box
- Producing consistent audio feedback in a series of beeps, once the items are successfully deposited into the box, so the visually impaired resident can reach out easily to retrieve the items in the right direction. When the container is emptied, the audio stops.
Inspiration Behind The Idea
Being associated with local social enterprises and welfare channels such as Tomowork, Social Impact Catalyst and Engineering Good in my daily course of work has deeply inspired me to come up with ideas leveraging on Assistive Technology to improve the lives of persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Helping PWDS, Inspired by IKEA
That’s where I set my sights on PWDs, which led me to do my own research on some of the problems that they are currently facing during the pandemic.
That’s where I discovered an online article highlighting the food delivery problems that the visually impaired in my local community have had to grapple with. And that’s how I developed a solution around those problems.
In terms of the design of the product, I was inspired by IKEA’s philosophy of democratic design: bringing products into the world that combine form, function, and quality – all at a low price – AND with a Conscience.
How it works
The Soundbox comprises a retractable box (with a top lid), affixed to a nail-free wall mount, see Diagram 1:
The whole system can be mounted on the owner’s wall just next to his gate. When in use, the Soundbox can be retracted in full to make space for food delivery items. When not in use, it can be retractable backward to occupy less space in the resident’s corridor. See Diagram 2:
Upon arrival, the delivery person would see a big bright visual instruction on the side of the Soundbox (see APPENDIX B) to deposit the food items into the box.
This triggers 2 events:
- A motion alert generated by the Nordic Thingy:52 sensor is sent to the resident’s mobile phone (“You’ve got an item! Please collect now.”) – See APPENDIX D
- Audio feedback will be produced by another separate motion sensor (via a series of continuous beeps) until the items are fully removed from the Soundbox
First of its Kind
At the moment, there isn’t a similar product, at least in my local community to aid the visually impaired in terms of the problem that I’ve identified, though there are smart doorbell systems such as the Ring Video Doorbell which can be purchased online which some visually impaired individuals are known to be using.
However, existing Ring Doorbells systems cost up to USD221.99 including shopping and service fees to Singapore.
Based on project estimates and potentially some funding from social enterprises in Singapore, it is my intent to make the Soundbox available at a very low retail price of SGD39.90, which is well within the affordable range of most people.
Ideally, I recommend the Soundbox to be installed by a caregiver to the visually disabled resident. All it takes is a 1-time setup. An app would also need to be installed on the user’s mobile device (see APPENDIX C-1 and C-2).