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First Glimpse of R+



Reimagining first responder's communication. 

R+ is a radical new approach to the communication devices used by first responders during their shifts; it reduces the time, error, and weight added by these devices and makes the most fundamental aspect of their duty - communication - always accessible, easy, and understandable.


The objective of R+ is to reduce the physical weight of existing radios and eliminate the need for extra steps, and limbs when operating and communicating with dispatch. 


Rapid Prototyping
3D Printing
Usability Testing
User Interface


Rhino 3D
Pen and paper
Foam / 3D Printing

IDA 23-Gold.jpeg
A police Officer wearing R+

R+ is a reliable new take on First Responder communication

First Responders make Split Second Decisions

Even small mistakes, inconvenient procedures, or extra steps can cost lives within fractions of a second. With multiple heavy and complicated devices on their bodies, they find it difficult, inconvenient, and time-consuming to juggle equipment in the heat of the moment.

Fire Fighters need to deel with heavy and dangerous equipment with their hands
Using one limb to operate a radio

Very Physically demanding tasks

During Emergencies having all their resources is a neccesity

Awkward situation for officers

During Emergencies, it is impractical for officers to lose one of their limbs to communicate (operate the radio), when they could be tending to the situation at hand.

Firefighter wrapped in cables

The body is wrapped

Fire fighter bowing to communicate

Need to bow to speak

Fire fighter bowing to communicate

One limb occupied

"Current radios are not reliable enough, as they get in the way and unclip easily, be hard to connect with other officers while requiring additional resources to operate - up to a point where first responders sometimes tend to use cell phones to communicate"

A futuristic Render of cops using R+

A new age communication device for the new age force. (Human Models by Nicole Padhila)


First Responders Communication

Positioning Matters

​Instead of having to clip, or be stuffed inside pockets, where the Radio becomes the first to detach from the person of the officer, 

R+ softly hugs the officer's neck and can always transmit any command with its flexible body.

R+ being used by Paramedics
R+ being used by police Officers

Having the radio so close to the mouth ensure better sound quality 

R+ being activated by head and shoulder movements

Handsfree operation

Personalized head and shoulder gestures lend R+ to start broadcasting messages to others without the use of hands, helping officers focus better and be more aware of their surroundings.

A simple head tilt, or shoulder shrug will activate R+

Long time Comfort

A day of first responders is filled with a lot of patrolling, waiting around, and low intense moments, with sudden jerks of high-stakes events. 

The R+ comfortably sits on the neck, without squeezing the neck, while being lined wth washable Alcantara Fabric. 


Police officer comfotable sporting the R+ during non rush hours
R+ comfortable snuggling the officers neck

U-shape flexible form is easy to wear in rush events.

Flexible construction 

A Flexible construction lends the R+ the ability to securely stay on officers necks during physically intensive activities while being comfortable and adjustable to different neck sizes.  

Designed for Duty

R+ is designed for being always present for the officers, while still not coming between them and the task. The compact nature allows it to be worn under uniforms and with other equipments, and also doesn't mess with the hair of women officers. 


R+ worn by a Female Officer
R+ beign worn under unifrom

Easily fits along with and under existing unifroms / equipments.

Police officer wearing R+
Volume controls on R+
Channel controls on R+
Department informed branding of R+

Avoiding Clutter

R+ prioritises the controls most needed by the officers on field like channel and sound control, and provides tactile physical buttons, instead of different knobs, screens and buttons

A single tap to change volume and channels

Uninterupted Use

Quick and easy battery replacement for long shifts. With just a click of a button, and a tug, the battery detaches, allowing officers to replace the radio's batteries within seconds, and go on with their shifts. 

Different Variations

R+ is equipped with different features depending on which branch of the first responders they are catering to, followed by other colorways and materials. 

The Different colours used in different scenarios

Sneak Peak on the inner components of R+

All of the electronic components of R+ are packed toward the back of the body, enabling the body to be flexible where needed. 

Officer wearing R+ on uneventful patrols
Officer wearing R+ on uneventful patrols
Paramedic Wearing R+ During emergencies

Used in uneventful patrols

Used during emergencies

R+ completely innovates on the way the radios are used, by taking it closer to the mouth, it makes delivery of cleaner audio more reliable, by using gestures, it makes it more reliable to initiate it without using hands, and makes it more reliable to stay on during high stake events.

Extended use of R+ with surgical rooms

Inside surgery rooms

Extend use of R+ in construction sites

On Construction sites

The Unique form and function of R+ lends itself to be used in a ton of different scenarios everything from inside surgery rooms, helping surgeons stay connected while not using electronics that could fall off easily, to being used in construction areas, where workers usually have all their arms already used up. 

Iterative design followed to develop R+

How R+ Was

Design iteration leading to final solution

Primary and Secondary Research

Secondary (Market, Competitor, price, material) and Primary Research

How physical the work of first responders is
How physical the work of first responders is
How physical the work of first responders is

First responder's work involves quick decisions, reactions, and a lot of physical effort

Intensive Physical work 

Radios become the best friend for first responders, where staying connected ensure everyone's safety - But using the radio can become cumbersome

First responders find it difficult to operate while having one of their limbs used up in operating the radio
First responders find it difficult to operate while having one of their limbs used up in operating the radio

Communication is Key to their "survival"

The current radio is not designed for first responders


Bulky radio units, fall off during duty - not designed while keeping the officers in mind

Their are multiple pieces encaging the officers

Seperated Pieces

Discomfort due to the radio being spread into different pieces across the body

Having to bow down affets their focus


Speaking closely into the mic to deliver a clear message - causing bowing to the mic level

Pressing the button to speak might not be an option always

Repeated motion

Same motion repeated over and over to achieve a simple task

Choppy Signal

Main recievers are situated near the waist, forcing officers to hold mic near their head to achieve better signals.

Bad Audio

Mic and speakers are often situated away from the mouth of the officer, making sound quality worse

Multiple Device

Multiple devices are being used like mobile phones and radios to talk to the same group of people

Single Sense

Only audio is used to notify an incoming message, causing many messages to go unattended.

Insights from the problems faced
by officers through research

"If an officer can't use their radios, then  only god can save them" 

Ideations and Iterations show with a compilation of sketches

Reimagining the Radio to fit more seamlessly with the officer's duties

Initial mockup making

The ideation process began with a quickfire sketching session to analyze many radio design options. The research quickly revealed which ideas were worth pursuing.

The Concept was chosen because it was the most reliable and followed the design criteria that were set after the research. 

All the chosen designs were modeled first on foam to easily user test them, and then one was modeled in Rhino 3D to give users an idea of the design's potential.

First Roadblock
A Compilation of sketches and models
Self Testing prototypes
Self Testing prototypes
Self Testing prototypes
Self Testing prototypes

Self -Testing different initial concepts

First Edition

Headbands seemed promising after a thorough ideation process because they were hands-free, didn't interrupt the user, and were in a prime communication location. A simple model and renders helped the user understand the concept during testing.

User Testing 3D printed prototype with firefighters
Usability testing with security personal

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. 

Female officer testing prototype
Officer user testing prototype
Fire Chief Testing Second Prototype

...The Neck-Band Design was a hit!

Somya Chowdhary Prototyping R+ mockups
Second Attempt

Back to the 
Drawing Board

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. 

User Testing with Peers
Understanding Scenarios
Experimenting different wearable locations
Testing fit of final prototype
iteration photo.jpg


A concept where the walkie-talkie might be mounted on the shoulder of the first responders.


Concept B, where the communication device would be mounted on the head of the user


Concept C, Focusing and iterating on a very discrete form mounted on the neck - this would suffer on functionality


Concept D, Neck mounted design, where the model fits under uniforms of first responders, while having same internal volume as existing models.


Form directly transfered from foam prototyping

Slightly exageraated back, to make it look like a boomarang

More contemporary and  minimal take on the form

A little more bulky form, with more defined patches

A more neutral approach to the main form

Field Test
sketchpage copy.png

Iterations over

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. 

Product Teardown
Closely examining each prototype

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.

Officer wearing final prototype of R+
Wearing R+ prototype under existing uniform
R+ being flexible to securely fit different people
R+ prototype adjusting various hairstyles

Testing fit

Somya Chowdhary conversing with fire department

Had an amazing group session, where they were testing out each aspect of R+


Second Edition

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. 

Photoshoped Render of Officer wearing R+

Hugs the neck softly,
moves with the officer

Photoshoped Render of Officer wearing R+

Does not clamp the neck

Photoshoped Render of Officer wearing R+

Camouflages with the officers day


Having the radio on the neck prevented officers from losing it, forgetting it, or having it dangle off their crowded uniforms.

Previously, a physical button was used to send a message, but now a series of sensors (proximity, force, and gyroscope) embedded in the radio body pick up on slight gestures like a shrug of the shoulder and a neck tilt and start transmitting the message hands-free, giving a physical feedback.

Art showing gestures to control R+

R+ gets activated after a series of shoulder shrugs

Police officer calling backup through R+

R+ being handsfree helps in freeing up officers limbs that they can use to tend to the matter at "Hand", making everything more seamless.

Made from a flexible material (Ultem) which is overshot over a titanium core to give it the flexibility and strength required for such a product.

Somya Chowdhary with Prof Jeehoon Shin

Thankful to all my mentors, my professor (Jeehoon Shin), all the first responders and my friends who helped me throughout the project.

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