Better performances through the right mix of colors, sounds and vibrations.

“Our collaboration was perfect from day one. We continuously found the right perspective to realize my wishes. Working on a project like this was very educational for me and fun to be a part of."
Thyra Koeleman
Founder of the method 'Ervaar het maar' ('Experience it')
14 July 2020

“A great wish has come to fruition,” says Thyra Koeleman, while holding the LapTray which Julia van den Heuvel designed for her. For her Industrial Design bachelor assignment, Julia worked on Thyra’s assignment which was submitted through Novel-T SMART. The LapTray is a therapeutic tool to use on your lap. It provides different types of impulses, such as sounds, vibrations and colors, through which people with an (multiple) intellectual disability are able to perform their work and learning tasks in a better way. In order to create this tool, Julia used a creative combination of technical solutions. She made a lightweight and compact prototype from scratch, which is comfortable to use and completely safe. By doing so, she got a high grade: a solid 9.

Getting started

“Thyra knew exactly what she wanted, and because of that I was able to start rather quickly,” tells student researcher Julia van den Heuvel, who was able to finish the theoretical phase rapidly. “Thyra was able to explain very clearly how she wanted to offer people a mixture of vibrations, sounds and colors while they performed their learning and working tasks. She wanted to be able to set up these impulses individually. The LapTray enables you to offer different vibrations and colors – as well as the intensity of the colors – in combination with sound or a song.”

Light and unobtrusively present

The LapTray is surprisingly light and is comfortable to the touch. While their favorite light color shines on their face from under their desk in an enjoyable way, the user feels the vibrations very clearly and pleasantly. Besides that, the device is unobtrusive; that’s how light and inconspicuous it is. While working, the user has their hands freely available to them to perform tasks at their desk or work station. Another option is to use the LapTray upright on the desk or work station, by flipping open the smart wooden sides. In that case, only color and sounds can be offered while performing the tasks.

Creative use of materials

All functionalities are hidden in the sleek body of the device. Julia made this possible by using Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) plates of varying thicknesses. All the different functionalities fit within the device, because Julia cut the plates and stacked them in a clever way. “I took the vibration actuators from an old game controller. They provide the exact vibrations that Thyra wanted: a low frequency, a medium frequency and a higher frequency which is still pleasant. As for the colored lights: I was able to cut out used LED strips and solder the strings back together. Together they create a bright and well adjustable light source. Furthermore, for the sound I used a bluetooth box. I had to dismantle it first in order to place it in the cut to size MDF mold.”

Smooth sailing

At the start of the project, Thyra couldn’t imagine that Julia would be able to create such a usable prototype in just three months time. “It’s plain to see that Julia went about this assignment systematically, with expertise and ergonomic insight,” she mentions. “Moreover, our collaboration was smooth sailing from day one. Together we kept finding the right perspective to bring my wish to fruition. To me, this project was educational and incredibly fun to be a part of.”

Follow-up assignment

The next step for Thyra and her LapTray is to gain user experience with a significant number of children and adults. As of now, she doesn’t know if the LapTray will be marketed. However, she does know what the next step in product development will be: replacing the large control box and thick cables with a smaller version, or even a mobile app. “I will submit a follow-up assignment at Novel-T SMART,” Thrya says laughing. Julia adds: “A micro controller based on an Arduino electronic platform should be doable.”

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