The Link

Regain control of your social life, even when you are sick.
Key words : Service design, Physical prototyping, screen prototyping, children, play, health
Skills used: Physical prototyping, flash prototyping, user research, interaction design
Team members: Thomas Stovicek, Erez kikin-Gil

The Link overview
The Link is a service designed to allow sick children to cope with the change in their social networks.

Our preliminary questions were:
• How can we help kids deal with long term illnesses?
• How can we improve the quality of life?
• What could be done to improve a child’s day-to-day health?
• can we connect them better to surrounding communities (kids, doctors, caregivers, friends and school)?
• Are there other things they can benefit from, are there other things that could be improved?

With long-term illness, a child life change in many ways. Often the child’s social circle is severely altered; parents become mediators to the rest of the world, caregivers move more closer, and peers may be pushed away. Being sick assigns the child a different identity and places them within an unfamiliar community.
The goal of this service is to reduce isolation, assist communication and provide activities for the children and their social circle.

This service does that by allowing sick children to easily connect, communicate, share activities and play with their social networks.



We created two demos for our solution, one to demonstrate the invitation feature and the other to demonstrate the enhanced network game play. The demos were created in the form of task walk through. They demonstrate how the UIs of the various components are used together during a task.For this walk-through, we created screens and architectures for portions of the cell phone interface and PC application interface.

The invitation demo shows how sick children can create an invitation to the game. Surrounding this task, we added features and value that make it easier for the children to send messages for each other, and to create some hype around the game event to help entice kids into the activity.





Igloo: Portable Intimate Space

Multi-Player Game Experience

Remote Control Game

Remote Control experience prototype

Enhanced Networked Games

Enhanced Networked Games

Design explorations

Based on the research insight, we created few experience prototypes, which gain us with better understandings.

Igloo: Portable Intimate Space
How can Long-term ill kids negotiate with moving to hospitals? How can we help them keep their sense of privacy, of independency, of home? What will happed when they will be able to "invite their friends” in a virtual way?
In order to investigate those questions we have build the "IGLOO", a privet movable intimate space, which contained a demo of conference abilities. Our users entered that space and talked about their experiences, feelings and recollections.

The secluded space and ability to connect to the remote friends seed attractive to most people. it seems that the challenges with this solution would be the logistics at the hospitals.

Multi-Player Game Experience in the same room
In this user test, we wanted to observe friends playing network games. We wanted to see how their experience is being change by the near presence of their peers. We compared this situation with another networked game which each player is playing in separate room.

We saw that there was a lot of communication outside of the game, both visual and auditory. Head gestures, body language and vocal communication enhanced the group interaction.
In the separated games, we noticed a much more isolated experience, which concentrated in achievements on the game rather then collaboration with the group.
We observed that group bonding was enhance through communication and bonding with piers.

Remote Control Game
Aiming to explore how will a remote child participate in a remote physical game. We had a child in another room remotely controlling an actor and playing a game against another child.
The game was still fun for the parties involved but because there was no direct communication, there was not much interaction between the players.

The remote users experience can is a challenge both in the way the remote location is presented for him as well as his identity will be manifested at the remote arena. The remote user experience can be changed by the type of the game and will be enhanced in a group activity rather then in a one to one game.

Enhanced Networked Games
Our goal was to enhance the networked game as an activity which would promote group interaction. We gathered four kids, a network game, computers with web cams and microphones. We set each kid in a separate room, enabling them to talk, to see and to hear their peers during play.

We wanted to see how well kids communicate, interact and play at the online public arena, how strong is their will to belong to a group or will they play by themselves?

Kids react to communication devices in a natural way.
Group play is a potent force to kids.
Acknowledgment by the group can be strong motive.


Tony, Family doctor, Ivrea – illnesses are a part of life. It is important for the child to learn they can get sick, but the body can fix its self.

Research insights

Our preliminary research, which was composed of mediated research, as well as interviews with doctors, parents and experts, provided us with several insights.

Children are people too
Many processes and practitioners in the health care industry do not treat children as people with specific needs. Often, practitioners will talk down to them, simplifying issues. Children need to be given appropriate information, so they can assume responsibility for their life. Children need to have solution designed to their needs and desires, while understanding that they have a great capacity for understanding information.

Sick is a part of life
Being sick is a natural part of life. Everyone gets sick, and our body was designed to combat day-to-day illness. Fever, cough and vomiting are all mechanisms the body has for us to recover from benign illnesses. Treating illnesses as a part of life, not making a child an outcast and being calm about this issue makes the recovery and treatment better for everyone.

Change of a social network
Around the child is always a social network. Obviously it depends on the child’s age, lifestyle etc. but it exists. People in this social network can include parents, family, friends, siblings and more. The people in these networks also have personal issues to deal with both related to the Ego and not related to the Ego, or indirectly attributed to the Ego. Unfortunately, sometimes alters fall out of the ego’s social network.  

A new community is formed
Being sick places the person into a new community. From the healthcare workers, to other children around, a new social network is formed. This can often times be a positive thing (especially in the case of long term illnesses, diseases and disabilities) as support among peers can be more valuable then other resources because they can relate more directly to the child.

The Hospital is designed for Illnesses
Hospitals approach treatments from the point of view of the illness. They place machine and patient in a clinical environment trying to combat illnesses and diseases. While hospitals make provisions for a few amenities like visitations, in general they do not nicely accommodate the patients (they are starting to).
Hospitals, especially hospital staff, are very reluctant to incorporate new unfamiliar system that they are not comfortable with. As a result, it is left up to foundation and non-profit organization to try to address some of the more psychosocial needs of the patients.
Much of the equipment was designed for the medical community "with a 50’s aesthetic". Children often find these things boring, or cannot relate to them.

A New Identity
For more serious illnesses or medical issues, the child may follow changes that lead them to a new identity. Children must learn to cope with this new identity in a positive manner so that they do not feel like a victim. Children must learn to deal with a possible lifestyle change as well. Learning about how to talk about it with peers is an important step.

Back to School
Children that have gone through a long-term Post-Illness situation have to read just to life back at school, but often it is not the same as it was. Regain one identity and not acting like a victim are very important in a return to one’s social circle. Peers will also have difficulty in adjusting to one’s return; they may be shy or want to ask questions.

A New Mediator Is Created
When a child becomes sick, his family becomes a mediator between him and his social networks. Family members would organize visitation and manage connections to school.

It’s Family Problem
Parents have day-to-day tasks that they must perform in order to provide for their family. When children are sick, this can interrupt the normal schedule. For longer-term illnesses, a permanent change will probably occur in their lifestyle. Changes could include modified work hours, attention to siblings and organization between family members. These changes can cause many anxieties within a family.


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