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Master student in Advanced Product Design
WIM - Packaging.jpg

Project aim

WIM emerged in a course at Umeå Institute of Design in collaboration with the Swedish corporation ABB, focusing on the future of collaborative robotics. During our initial research phase, we learned that computer enabled rehab robots can quickly help to carry out repetitive tasks. We saw this as an inspiration with the potential for the rehabilitation environment.

With research in several rehabilitation institutes in Sweden, we got a profound insight into what a stroke means for the patients. We developed our idea alongside the professionals in ideation workshops, user tests, and built Arduino prototypes for that purpose. Finally, We presented in front companies, several therapists at the Stroke Centre, and to various design awards and we're proud we got positive results.

Project outcome

WIM is an award-winning playful therapy to address all senses. It is designed to be a helpful companion with personality. The product reminds, supports and challenges you with different exercises throughout the day.

Through light, sound, and vibrations WIM comes alive and offers a unique form of therapy. Accompanied by an armband measuring muscle activity in the arm and hand, WIM is able to adjust every training session providing a personalized treatment based on your current ability.


Team project
with Jenny Holmsten

10 weeks

BraunPrize 2018 | Student Gold
Core77 2018 | Student Interaction Notable
Core77 2018 | Student Consumer Product Notable
FastCompany '18 | Innovation by Design Notable
IDEA 2018 | Best in Show
IDEA 2018 | Student Gold

Feedback partner
ABB Corporate Research Västerås
Strokecenter Umeå
Neurorehab Sävar

Created at
Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden

15 million people
suffer a stroke
each year.

World Health Organization



Caused by the sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen. Induced by blood flow blockage or rupture of an artery.

Impaired senses

Affected senses can include vision, haptics,
memory, hearing, and muscle memory.

Short and frequent training

Sessions of 2min each hour throughout the day have proven to be most beneficial.


What happens after a stroke?

Stroke is a life-threatening condition of the brain caused by the sudden death of brain cells. The people that survive often find half of their body either fully or partially paralyzed. This state is called hemiplegia.

Immediate, continuous, and correct rehabilitation is crucial to fully recover. Within 24 hours after the attack, the therapist wants the patient to train again to relearn the skills lost before. If the brain’s potential to “rewire” itself is not activated immediately, then disabilities can last.

Focusing on brain activity rather than solely on muscles is crucial to fully recover since stroke primarily is a brain injury affecting memory, speech, haptic senses, vision, hearing and muscle memory.
Most robots used in rehabilitation today are focusing on the muscles, i.e., not the brain, leading to compensation.


The patient journey


Focus on the home environment

During our research, we found out that stroke patients are well supported during phases at professional rehabilitation institutions.

However, the real challenge arrives at home. It is then solely up to the patients to keep up the motivation to repeatedly exercise without the feedback, reminders and professional support they were experiencing before.

This insight shifted our focus to the support of the patient in the privacy of the home.


Introducing: WIM

Visual Storytelling


The starter kit

The first package the patient receives is the starter kit. It contains an uplifting introduction as well as the armband and WIM in the form of a sphere. In addition, there is a companion app providing more feedback about the training process. WIM is focusing on the upper limb rehabilitation.

WIM Introduction
WIM Starter Kit Sphere

In the comfort
of your home

WIM enables patients to reach their goals and fully recover in the comfort of their own home. It is designed to blend into the home environment with a human character rather than a sterile medical appeal.
It was essential for us to design a non-stigmatizing product since the patients are feeling extremely vulnerable in this condition. In combination with WIM’s personality, it is a therapy device to enjoy.

WIM is “living” in your home, making sounds to grab your attention and you can never be really sure what to expect during training sessions. This makes the therapy fun and entertaining throughout the lengthy time of home recovery. By adding this kind of personality to a therapy product, the user will connect on a personal level, almost as you would with a pet.

WIM Home Sphere
WIM Home Top-View

Training module & measuring armband

WIM Passive and Active

The passive armband

Made of soft materials that stretch, the armband comfortably nestles on the skin. It measures, records and analyses the muscle activities during the day. Therefore, WIM is able to offer a new type of personalized therapy continually changing exercises and adapting to the level of the patient.

If the patient double taps on it up to five LED lights will shine to indicate how often the hand was actively used during the day.

Through tiny electrodes on the inner side, the armband can detect electrical muscle activity and evaluate it in a process called electromyography (EMG). Together with the readout of the integrated motion sensors – an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnetometer – WIM can analyze and interpret hand and finger motion.

WIM Passive Armband
WIM Active Training Module

The active training module

WIM wants the user to find and tap lights as they appear on its surface, creating a new type of interactive gamified therapy. The therapy makes you twist and turn the training module. One is guided by lights, sounds, and vibration which stimulates all senses.

To break the border between technology and human perception, our focus was to design and fine-tune all sounds, lights, and rhythms. That way WIM becomes more than a tool. It becomes a unique pet like character which people relate to.

WIM is equipped with motion sensors that share movement data throughout the training with the armband. One of the core features we focused on, is WIM's pet like personality. It is enabled through an integrated light-emitting diode system, a sound system, vibration motors that allow a force feedback system. A small computer unit, as well as a built-in battery, empower WIMs mobility.


How to play

When it is time for the next session, WIM lights up and generates subtle sounds and vibrations to get your attention. When you pick it up, WIM turns on play mode: It will start to pulsate a light in one spot of the surface and light up at two more places.

Once you have found the pulsating light, you place your thumb on top. Next, you set your indicating and middle finger on the two other spots and press. If you put all fingers right and used enough pressure, WIM will show your success with a sound and vibration.

If your fingers are misplaced, a short error buzz and sound inform you, so you can try again. Directly after a new set of lights shine, so search and placement start over. Once you completed all gamified tasks, WIM will light up at all areas and make a sound for your accomplishment.

WIM keeps reminding you several times throughout the day. It takes into consideration how you behaved last time, and also checks the weather, for instance, to know when to train and when not to disturb.

WIM How to Play

Difficulty levels

At each stage of the game-therapy, WIM wants you to search for the lights. For many stroke patients this is problematic. Their visual field can be impaired on the side that got affected by the stroke.
The search process trains movements from shoulder to wrist whereas tapping the lights strengthens the fine motoric skills up to the fingertips.

To adapt to the patient’s level, WIM keeps track of the timing, position accuracy of the fingertips, applied pressure. Each session, WIM changes the training. It steers how many fingers you need to place, with how much force you need to press, and how much time you have to complete the tasks.

WIM Difficulty Levels

A family of products

As you improve, WIM will adapt the difficulty level not only through interaction but also through the shape. For starters, WIM comes in the form of a sphere for general motoric movement training.

At a later stage, it will be replaced by a cylindrical shape similar to a pen challenging more fine motor skills. At a final stage of the therapy, WIM will appear in the form of a small cube making sure you regain the last bit of critical motoric skills. The armband stays the same throughout the whole therapy.

WIM Product Family

Making progress transparent


for therapists

WIM Patient and Therapist App

for patients


Patient-Therapist communication

Your collected training data can be further processed through an application used by both the therapist and the patient. In the app, you can follow your progress and get personal tips directly from the therapist.

The therapist benefits from a centralized overview of your progress. It includes a weekly track record of the patient's muscle activity and a detailed progress analysis. This enables adaptations and changes to your personal rehabilitation plan and a continuous dialog throughout the time at home. This is something many patients expressed they were lacking.


The design process


Process overview

To get insights into the daily procedures and activities of patients and therapists, we visited two stroke care institutions in Sweden: Neuro Rehabilitation Center in Sävar and the Stroke Center in Umeå.

The focus of the project was collaborative robotics. Therefore, we especially researched the medical robotics market. The examples we found, however, mainly focused on muscle growth when they should be focusing on brain stimulation.

Additionally, we realized that most of the rehabilitation training in Sweden is done in a rehabilitation environment the first weeks after the stroke attack, i.e., not at the patient's home. We decided to focus on enabling stroke rehabilitation in the home environment. To narrow down our scope, we decided to design for upper limbs only.

Ideation Workshop

After our research, our ideation phase commenced. Jenny and I held a workshop with fellow students to broaden our scope and generate ideas.

We gave all participants an individual creative task that they should quickly illustrate on a piece of paper in a given time frame. Different keywords within the task were leading to a greater variety of generated ideas.

The ideas were shared in each group at the end of the individual task. Each group then identified the best idea, refined and/or combined it with other ideas and showed it in a final presentation. This way Jenny and I received a pool of ideas that we clustered and refined. This influenced our further process and project direction.


Testing the therapy

To test how difficult it would be to train with our rehab buddy, we gave the attendees differently shaped prototypes. The challenge was to tap colored dots we glued to the fabric with different fingers and to recognize which sound would give feedback of success or failure.

We wanted to check the difficulty of the task was for a healthy person. After a short learning curve, every attendee completed the excercise.

WIM sound design


The current setup

WIM Research 3D Pen Training
WIM Research Stigmatizing Table
WIM Research Stigmatizing Puzzle

Stigmatizing tools

Today’s market does not provide any tools to practice motoric skills efficiently outside the rehab environment. The patients are forced to train in the rehabilitation centers with wooden puzzle pieces, and gloves at an uninspiring and stigmatizing table.


The physical prototype

WIM Prototype Arduino Code
WIM Prototype Module Inner Workings
WIM Prototype PC Unit

The functions of the prototype

We spend one phase of the project to address the sensory experience and the characteristic behavior of the training module. Therefore, several prototypes were created with different levels of technology integration to present and test vibration-, sound- and light-patterns.

To bring the prototypes to life, an Arduino in connection with a soundboard runs software that controls the inner workings of the training module, WIM, connected with a cable with multiple lines. Through trial and error testing, I learned to write code that created a harmonious feel for a responsive, human-like behavior during training and beyond.

Building the prototypes, we learned how to refine how the training works and what makes it challenging. Through CAD and rapid prototyping techniques, wire soldering, and Arduino programming we eventually created a prototype for the final presentation.


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Thomas Helmer

Industrial Designer, MFA