Savannah College of Arts and Design
R+ Is a modern reimagining of the conventional radio systems (Walkie-Talkie) used by emergency workers / first responders to communicate with each other and their dispatch. It dives deep into understanding their pain points and delivering an innovatively new product that helps them focus more on their duty by making communicating seamless. It also aims to reduce weight, the number of items carried by the officers, and actions taken to perform simple tasks.
Pen and paper
Foam / 3D Printing
Design iteration leading to final solution
First Responders like Police officers and Firefighters, are always on the front line, betting their lives on the equipment they use. This project aims to explore how their experience with their "Walkie-Talkies" can be improved
Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and Even security guards for many institutions usning the Radio (Walkie-Talkie) as a primary means of communication.
The Market is dominated by a few large brands like Motorola, Harris, And Kenwood. Although with the presence of a few big names, These products are not seeing any drastic innovations.
Developing a product that might be under-par in comparison to the industry standard, or put officers' life at risk.
Intensive Physical work
First Responders make Split Second Decisions
Emergency workers function on a time scale of fractions of a second, where even small mistakes, inconvenient procedures, or extra steps can lead to lives being lost, convict escaping, or people being trapped in fires. They do all this while carrying multiple heavy and complicated devices on their bodies, which become difficult, inconvenient, and time taking to juggle when in they are in the heat of the situation.
Communication is Key to their "survival"
The Radio becomes their
most trusted friend
During Fending fires, or chasing after suspects, their best bet to stay alive and relay information is the radio, Even with new technology in the form of LTE connections (FirstNET by AT&T), the radio Is the most reliable, over long range, where newer radio switch to LTE connections in inside cities (better connection with LTE to communicate within a concrete Jungle.
But the Radio because of its physical form and technological drawbacks, often become inconvenient, forcing officers to use their phones or not rely on communication at all.
"If an officer can't be reached on their radios, then only god can save them"
Primary and Secondary Research about Radios with Police officers, firefighters, and security personnel.
The Friend (Radio),
becomes a Foe
While the current form of the radio has been a gold standard due to almost no actual innovation within the space, the radio has become more and more unreliable for first responders over the decades.
Modern highrise cities increased equipment on officers' uniforms, and the individual products not being designed to fit with the officer's body, instead are designed to be rugged, reliable, and durable.
Officers also are not able to communicate with just one device having to switch for longer and direct conversations. Also as alerts are only sound-based many times important messages are missed, and sometimes unintended messages are sent.
Expanding concrete jungles create a tough time for radios to relay messages.
Bulky radio units, fall off during duty - not designed while keeping the officers in mind
Mic and speaker quality always lack and officers find it difficult to comprehend messages.
Discomfort due to the radio being spread into different pieces across the body
Multiple devices are being used like mobile phones and radios to talk to the same group of people
Speaking closely into the mic to deliver a clear message - causing bowing to the mic level
Only audio is used to notify an incoming message, causing many messages to go unattended.
Same motion repeated over and over to achieve a simple task
Insights from the problems faced
by officers through research
Reimagining the Radio to fit more seamlessly with the officer's duties
Initial sketches to better understand how to integrate the Radio system with the Officers.
Redesigning The Walkie-Talkie
The Ideation process started of by an initial quickfire session of sketching where a lot of ways to adorn the radio were analyzed. The insights derived from my research quickly helped me understand which ideas were worth persuading further.
The Concept was chosen on the basis of which design was the most reliable (being activated when needed) while not interfering with their movement and functionality. The design also should be naturally understood by officers and not something very alien.
All the chosen designs were modeled first on foam to easily user test it and then one was modeled in Rhino 3D to give an easy idea to the users for early user testing - to better understand if the chosen design is desirable.
Self -Testing different concepts
After a thorough ideation process, the concept of headbands seemed really promising, as it was hands-free, not interrupting the user, and was in a prime location for communications. A quick model and renders were drafted to help the user understand the concept, coming in handy during testing.
Too overcrowded, messed with hairstyles, and applied too much pressure on the forehead.
Headband was a bust...
On reviewing the multiple prototypes created, the chosen direction with the headband was the least liked, with female officers it interfered with their hairstyles, and with male officers, it would put a lot of pressure and crowded the already crowded head area.
In contrast, The Neckband Design was loved by all participants, where even though it was large in size, they liked that it sat loosely on the shoulder and the neck, while it moved with them, not obstructing them, and also helping them not care about the whereabouts of the radio.
...The Neck-Band Design was a hit!
Back to the
With the initiation towards a different direction, the project now demanded many more prototypes to be made for the neckband design. And to avoid the feeling of a very tight fit, many iterations were done, which were immediately tested among close friends and mentors, and with similar scenarios to nail the neck-band form.
Through the simple process of trial and error, the design went from being a very large and loose neckband to something that was small enough to hug the neck softly - while still adhering to the body and moving along with the officers. It also had a similar internal volume as an existing radio to accommodate all the internals.
The second edition of the R+ wearable radio system builds from the vast number of iterations done with different materials, and tests with people with different body structures and routines.
Hugs the neck softly,
moves with the officer
Does not clamp the neck
Camouflages with the officers day
Having the radio sitting on the neck helped officers not worry about the device falling off, forgetting it somewhere, or having it dangle off of the already crowded uniforms.
But having a reliable way to send a message, previously which was done by a physical button is now replaced by a series of sensors(proximity, force, and gyroscope) embedded within the body of the radio, which working together pick up on the slight gestures such as a shrug of the shoulder and the tilt of the neck, and start transmitting the message totally handsfree, also giving a static feedback notifying that such an activity has started.
R+ gets activated after a series of shoulder shrugs
R+ being handsfree helps in freeing up officers limbs that they can use to tend to the matter at "Hand", making everything more seamless.
Back to the
R+ was also shown to the squad of firefighters and multiple security personnel, and it underwent the real test, with different people, different body structures, hairstyles, and use scenarios.
The firemen tried it on with a whole fireproof suit, where the radio properly sat underneath the layers, without causing hindrance to the officers. The unit also conformed with all the security officers' bodies, without causing discomfort, and the risk of falling off. The flexible form conformed to each person's neck comfortably.
R+ still received a few scopes of improvement, where there was still scope to increase the length and make the overall design a little bit more compact, and have different standard sizes.