Design Engineering
Showcase

Imperial College London

Student
Jordi Albanell-Flores
Team
Design Engineering Research Team
Supervisor
Dr Lorenzo Picinali
Role
Game Designer
Sector
Technology, Media and Telecommunications

I worked on the BEARs (Both EARs) research project, which aims to develop a package of Virtual-Reality games to train spatial hearing in teenagers with bilateral cochlear implants (CIs). I worked closely with an auditory therapist from Guys & St Thomas Hospital who helped me design the games, as well as get me in contact with a primary CI user. I designed two different games on Unity; one game is to assemble a song by putting together the vocals, drums, piano, and guitar; and the other game is to repeat back a melody played by the computer on a spatial environment.

 — Imperial College London
 — Imperial College London
Double Diamond approach during my placement.

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

At the beginning of my placement, I familiarised myself with the task at hand by doing extensive research and reading case studies to understand the problem statement and be able to empathise with the user group. To better define the problem, I spoke to Chris Rocca, an auditory therapist from Guys & St Thomas Hospital, about what issues she encountered on a daily basis with kids with CIs.

Once I had a good idea of what the project was about and who I was designing for, I decided to create a Virtual Escape Room. Now, it was time to iterate on two different softwares, Max MSP and Unity. After several games were designed, I decided on two to complete. Towards the end of my placement, I was able to have an online interview with a CI user, where I got a lot of positive and useful feedback on my games. Here you can see the video I used when conduction the interview.

The first minigame is called Build a Song, and it consists on the player assembling a song of their liking by putting together different components of it.

 — Imperial College London
First mini-game – Build a Song.

The second minigame is called The Focus Game, and the task is for the player to replicate a melody played by the game. At first, the player is presented with two piano keys in front of him. However, as the levels increase, the player has to identify where the sound came from.

 — Imperial College London
Second mini-game – The Focus Game.

Role and Contributions

My work positively impacted the BEARs project in various ways. When I first started the project, I got told by Chris Rocca that one of the main issues she struggles with children with CIs is that the exercises she gives them are boring and lack motivation. The work that I did generates motivation as it has a personal connection with the user by either assembling or repeating back a song or melody of their liking. This was assured by a CI user, as she was enthusiastic in playing both games, and said that she would happily play these in her own time.

During my placement, I learned to use programs like Unity and how to properly code in C#. By doing this, I showed initiative as I was assigning myself tasks independently and sharing my accomplishments back to the research team. I maintained constant and open communication with the team by having calls every morning on Skype and weekly check-ups with my supervisor. This allowed all of us to keep each other informed and involved with each task that everyone was working on.

Summary

Working on the BEARs research project was very rewarding. I learned how to adapt to change and make the most out of the experience I was given. I was able to become more empathetic with my user group as well as creative with my designs. I recommend DE3 students to be patient when applying to companies, to start applying as early as possible, and to have an ideal job but also a safe choice.

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