The Reaction Pad

Giving Graham, a partially tetraplegic man, his voice back.

How might we help Graham to communicate again?

Two years ago Graham, a man in his 50’s, suffered a stroke and as a result he is almost completely paralysed and unable to speak. Since his stroke Graham, his wife Zoe and their children have faced a daily battle, adapting to new and often painstaking ways of communication.

Graham’s condition allows him a small amount of motion in his left hand, but the action of typing, or using eye tracking software, can be so strenuous that he may only manage one word a day.

Graham and his family desperately needed a way to improve their communication.

Amplifying personality & finding his own voice

We helped to design and develop the Reaction Pad: an iPad application that allows for rapid communication and expression by allowing Graham to select from a curated list of predefined phrases. It also enables quick control of his environment by connecting to other smart products.

The early concept for the Reaction Pad was an iPad application that would take emotive audio clips from films, TV and music as a means of giving Graham an outlet for expression. This idea encompasses a digital pallet of expressions to be quickly and easily accessible with minimal steps. The key differentiator is that the Reaction Pad focuses on personality rather than exact wording or transactional communication. This proved fundamental to portraying Graham's personality.

Built on a grid system, the app is made up of four sections. Attention and Quick Statements contain a selection of phrases that when selected are sounded through the iPad. They spread across a full range of language – even including expletives. The Emotions section contains expressive content from clips of his favourite films or TV and the Environment section connects Graham to his smart products, enabling him to alter his surroundings such as: increasing the temperature, changing the lighting, or playing music.

Reliance on fixed phrases would quickly get tiresome so the app was designed with a companion website where Zoe can update and rearrange audio clips or change the action on an environment button. Future development of this application could include greater sound banks and editing directly from the application.

When Zoe found old videos of Graham before his stroke it was possible to extract the audio and construct words and phrases in his very own voice, boosting the personalisation of his platform to a whole new level.

Enabling independence & natural control

The Reaction Pad has given Graham his voice back, injecting it with personality and boosting his independence. He can jump into conversation more naturally and control his environment with much greater ease.