Design Engineering
Showcase

Bei

Students
Li Jinzhao, Stephen Devlin, Shen Yiyang & Frederick Phua
Course
Innovation Design Engineering
Supervisor
N/A
Theme
This is Going to Help

BEI is a way for families with newborn babies feel close even when they cannot be together.

1 in 7 new-born infants are born premature or sick and need special care. They are taken into neonatal wards where their first days of life are full of unfamiliar sights and noises. Hospitals, with a priority on physical health, switch their focus to the child, while parents are sent home feeling anxious, confused and helpless. This separation can last for months with long term impacts.

BEI allows parents to feel close to their new baby even when apart. With a discrete comfortable armband, they can feel the movements of their child and speak to them from anywhere and at any time. This connection and exchange reduces anxiety and increases bonding between babies and parents, while the sounds of parents voices have been proven to reduce stress and pain levels of infants during medical procedures.

The Invention

Bei is a model that focuses on both “Parent Care” and “Infant Care”. It is the link for emotional bonding between parents and premature babies when actual physical contact is impossible. It comprises a base station, with an inbuilt camera and speaker, in the baby's incubator and a discrete armband that is worn by the parent. When movement from the baby is detected in the incubator, signals are sent over the Internet to the armband and the movement is conveyed to the parent through an array of haptic actuators. Parents can speak to their babies at any time by sending real-time audio back to the base station through an inbuilt microphone in the armband. This special physical and auditory experience helps parents and babies feel and stay connected at all times. Bei also provides a sense that the baby is an ever-present part of their life, any time of day or night.

 — Bei
Bei product.

Inspiration

Very often in health care, the priority and focus are always on the patient. But the pain and stress families and close ones of the patient are going through at the same time is unparalleled.

Every member of our team has had close relatives that have gone through the horror of having their young ones separated from them for treatment and understand the torment they have to go through every day.

We are driven to provide care to both families and patients, to reduce anxiety and promote quicker recovery.

How It Works

The base station incorporates a microprocessor, a camera, a small amplifier and speaker. Using computer vision software the base station is able to detect and classify the baby’s movements. Movement of limbs, hands and face are recognised as different gestures. When the processor detects movement from the camera it sends a message over the Internet to the wearable device via the parent’s smartphone.

When the armband receives a message, it conveys this to the parent through an array of haptic actuators. The armband includes 8 actuators which physically press the wearer’s arm and work in unison to convey different types of movement. Rather than use traditional haptic devices such as vibration or linear resonance motors, we adapted audio exciters driven at very low frequencies by an amplifier. This provides an extremely lifelike sensation similar to the touch of fingers.

The armband includes a small microphone which can be activated by the wearer to send real-time audio to the base station. This means that the parents can speak to their infant and the baby can hear the daily life of mother and father just like in the womb. This has been shown to have a calming effect on babies in neonatal care. To enhance the effect we filter the sound to remove high frequencies.

The flexible armband is cast from medical grade silicone. The necessary electronics are distributed around the band, allowing it to be breathable and simplifying re-use. The silicon can be replaced without discarding the electronics and battery).

The base station is cast in ABS plastic. In order to avoid clutter in the cot or incubator, the base station is battery powered and completely wireless. The rechargeable battery lasts for several days. It attaches to the incubator or cot by using a magnetic clip.

 — Bei
System explanation.

The Design Process

Problem identifying and understanding:

Nearly 15% of newborn infants are born premature or sick and need special care. In the UK alone the annual total is over 100,000. Babies in neonatal care spend their first days of life surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds and noise, while their parents can only see, hear and touch them in the hospital ward. In the short term, parents primarily experience stress and anxiety about the health of the infant. This is compounded by a sense of helplessness.

Although the gold standard is for parents to be by their babies' side, demands of work and other commitments can render this extremely difficult. Moreover, few countries provide 24hr visitations with some countries like China, only allowing 30minutes per day.

Interviewing:

We interviewed a wide range of health care professionals in the area of neonatal care, including doctors, midwives and nurses. We met with various neonatal charities as well as parents of premature and sick babies that had spent time in neonatal wards. We also reviewed various design projects and products that had previously tackled this subject.

Design & Modelling:

We developed a range of designs for parents ranging from desktop to handheld and wearable devices, including wrist straps, earrings and rings, before settling on an armband as the ideal compromise between size, convenience and discretion.

 — Bei
Ideation

What Sets It Apart

Two-way communication, from babies to parents and from parents to babies. Firstly Bei allows parents to speak to their babies at any time by allowing them to stream real-time audio to the incubator. Hearing their parents’ voices has been proven to both calm and stimulate brain development in infants. It also allows the parents, who often feel helpless, to know that they are making a positive difference to their child.

Secondly, the system conveys the real-time movements of the child to parent through a wearable device. This special physical experience helps parents feel connected and allows them to get used to the wake-sleep patterns of their new infant. It also provides something more subtle. A feeling of closeness. Parents feel that the baby is part of their life, any time of day or night.

Especially for the armband, testing the working prototypes on volunteers generated very positive feedback. Compared to the usual haptic feedback methods (usually reliant on some form of vibration), the testers reported lifelike sensations of touching and stroking.

 — Bei
Technical components.

What The Future Holds

We envisage the Bei system being developed and operated on a not-for-profit basis. Units would be priced on a cost-plus basis and purchased either directly by healthcare providers or on their behalf by non-profit organisations and charities. Hospitals and clinics would typically install one base station per incubator or cot and would provide the armbands to parents for the period of their child's stay in the neonatal ward.

The silicon casing is designed to be easily removed from the electronics so that the main parts of the band can be reused hygienically and the used outer casting can be recycled.

 — Bei
Validation

Comments

Voice is an important stress reliever for babies. What is the background noise level and s/n level at babies end?

Raj Shah

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