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Talki Talkie


A product-service system that empowers elderly in nursing homes to communicate their healthy eating opinions through voice agents

for elderly healthy
eating in nursing 

M1.1 Design 

prof.dr. Yuan Lu 

Project member: Chia-Hsiu Liu;
Expert: Romano Rombout - van Hoeckel 
(food producing company)

Archipel: Frank Hendriks & Lincy van den Endert

Xipei Ren; Jim Steenbakkers; Julie Hornix (van Berlo)

Talki Talkie is presented at the Drivers of Change exhibition of Dutch Design Week 2020

in short

Design research challenge, approach, methods, results & contribution

Talki Talkie is a product-service system that empowers the elderly in care homes towards choosing what they eat. A personal voice agent gives notifications of the food production process. This raises transparency and enhanced communication. Through a non-intrusive and slowly breathing light ring, the elderly get to know the circumstances of their food. Sound playback and voice recognition enable easy communication about food choices. Additionally, caretakers can provide feedback on the residents’ choices through a corresponding digital platform.


This project ended up into a product, Talki Talkie, and a service blueprint, which are included among a product-service system that explores the needs of the elderly healthy eating in caring home ecosystems. We have done eight exploratory interviews and observations with the stakeholders, as well as validations with the elderly with the realized design concepts. First of all, we utilized the contextual design approach to build up the first concept theoretically. Following with the evidence we found through the validations with the elderly, we applied service design approach to collect qualitative data from stakeholders, including the food company and the caretakers to build up the service blueprint. The design process comprises two phases. The first phase represents the definition of the project scope through contextual design including the first and second design concept around meal co-creation. The second phase is mainly focused on design, including interaction, dynamics and technology. From these design iterations, we built up our interactive prototype and voice agent, Talki Talkie, which aims to improve the communication of elderly with the other stakeholders in their eating process and experience the food producing process of the food company providing their meals. With introducing Talki Talkie to the caring home for the elderly, we gain the insights of the elderly that they require a platform to transfer their opinion and look forward to the feedback. The findings are translated into two design opportunities for a future step. We highlight and discuss practical examples from our positioned explorations that how voice agent plays a role in raising up the autonomy of eating for the elderly in caring homes and building up an interactive platform with multi-stakeholders inherent to these complex and dynamic ecosystems. 



Why I loved this project?

The collaboration with my project member Chia-Hsiu Liu, who had a different cultural background (Taiwanese) and a more business and service design educational background. Being with just two project members, I was highly involved within every phase and activity in the design process. I learned a lot from my teammate's thorough and detailed way of working, and her enthusiasm was affecting. The other way around I had the chance to convey my user-centered design research experience to her, resulting into an Excellent project.

The fact that the outcome of the project, the design of Talki Talkie together with the service blueprint, was so different than expected in the first iterations made this project very interesting. We went from designing a meal co-creation tool to the design of a voice agent and multi-stakeholder service around it. Through designing Talki Talkie we embodied the "simplest" interaction, namely talking, to empower elderly in nursing homes to communicate their healthy eating opinions and enhance transparency and autonomy in the food choosing process. This may have seemed logical, but it required deep dive multi-stakeholder data collection and interaction concept evaluation with the elderly themselves. That made the project so fun, we realized the unimaginable within the nursinghome healthy eating context.

Furthermore, the warm collaboration with Archipel (client / nursing homes), Archipel's various employees (chef, caretakers, speech therapist etc.), the multi-disciplinary coaching and unexpected collaboration with van Hoeckel (the food producing company) made this project into a great learning experience and provided a great addition to my network!

Finally, the fact that Talki Talkie got selected for the digital Drivers of Change exhibition of the Dutch Design Week 2020 was amazing!


Starting this project I had mainly set goals within the areas of Creativity & Aesthetics and Technology & Realization. However over the course of the project I made important and unexpected growth in User & Society and Design Research Processes too, changing perspective on my overall competence as experience designer.

To align with my vision, of experience designer, most important for me was to gain the skills for designing interactive systems through technology prototyping. This, to create experiences in my prototypes and final designs to validate through the user’s interaction. I learned to program all interactive and experiential functions of the Talki Talkie prototype using a variety of programming languages and communication tools as Processing, Arduino, websockets, serial communication and libraries (sound, websockets, serial communication). Most valuable was that I learned how to approach and plan technology prototyping of a design. With the help of experienced students I learned to first find the programming languages, sensors and communication tools needed for all interactive functions of the prototype; later on divide what needs to be programmed into blocks of code and electronic circuiting e.g. its notifying breathing light in different colors, pick up using IR sensor, speech recognition, sound playback and serial communication to finally combine into the final program and circuit to test iteratively. Furthermore, this process improved my problem solving mindset and flexibility, dealing with unexpected break downs in program, circuit wiring and sensors which in the end gave me lots of satisfaction. Doing this for 2.5 weeks made me enthusiastic to take these learnings with me to a higher level in my upcoming master projects. 


Next to the technological learnings, I learned to use some tools for aesthetical interaction design by thinking through design dynamics (e.g. multi-user game rules in the first co-creation concepts), interaction and experience moodboards, design scenario diagrams and expert discussions.


Because of my experience within user research I had not expected to learn this much within User & Society. I have learned to organize, prepare, set-up and lead different types of validations than done before with as main difference dealing with insights collection from multiple stakeholders at the same time, having different backgrounds and values; such as in the co-reflection workshop with caretaker and a chef. Leading these validations improved my presentation skills, learning to convey project purpose, workshop purpose, what is expected and helping solve misunderstandings and guide discussions. Furthermore, I got the insight in using a variety of interesting tools during interviews and observations to validate design directions in a more exploratory way, other than design sketches, verbal explanations or one mid-term prototype. For example, the resident experiment regarding “choosing from real food” using real food choices learned me to gather valuable insights fast and in a simple way. The same holds for the video validation session in iteration 5. 


Regarding Design Research Processes, I have learned to apply a service design approach in the project. From previous projects I had experience involving multi-stakeholders but often translated their insights to iterate on the (interaction) design itself. From this project I learned to get in touch with unexpected stakeholders doing multi-stakeholder interviews (food company visit, speech therapist interview) and learned to design from their evidence an overall service in a service blueprint, in which the design functions as tangible touch point for most important stakeholders (user, caretakers, food company).


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