Edinburgh College is a further education college for adults, located in Scotland’s capital city. Thirty individuals from the college attended the Project Soothe workshops, and seven expressed an interest in taking part in the Young Citizen Scientist Project. The team, named ‘Milton Minds’, was formed of five of these individuals, who decided to create a sleep pod with tactile experiences inside.
The soothing images would be viewed on an iPad, and the team had the idea to include objects for tactile experiences in the pod, to help soothe. Although the team managed to design their tool and collect feedback from their pilot participants, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns unfortunately meant the team did not manage to fully evaluate their wellbeing tool. But the Milton Minds team have written about how they designed their tool and shared the feedback they received from pilot participants.
How did you come to design your tool?
We began designing our tool in October 2019. Since the beginning of our planning and designing journey, our team has grown and shrunk in numbers, and we have proposed many different ideas collectively. We tried out VR and bought many tools to help with our design process but quite a lot fell through. Now our group is back to small numbers, we are more ready than ever to progress with our design. After a lot of planning and trial and error, we have decided on a tool that we all love. We are very proud of how the design is coming along.
Did you encounter any obstacles during the design process?
At first, our team decided on using virtual reality as part of our tool. The plan was to acquire headsets and noise cancelling headphones online, which we did, with the aim of creating an immersive experience for people to take part in. Through the headsets and headphones, we were going to show a video of selected soothing images with relaxing music. We got quite far with this plan; we had tents and loungers for participants to relax in and had almost everything we needed to create the full tool. However, we had trouble with the full design process, and we decided it would be too difficult and impractical to involve VR. And so, we carried on but decided to take a simpler approach. The result, we have decided, is ultimately more soothing.
Can you please describe to the readers what your tool will look like?
Yes, we will have a small dark room with three large tents inside, at the outer ends of the room and distanced away from each other. For our research, we will have one to three people taking part at one time, each allocated a tent. Inside the tent the participant can relax on the lounger and sit somewhat upright to face an iPad at the foot end of the lounger. We have decided on using iPads as they are simple, easy to use and very portable. On the iPad, they will watch a short video of soothing images accompanied by relaxing music which they can listen to through headphones provided. We are also considering having other things involved that the participant could interact with, engaging all five senses. For example, we could have some sand to touch, which would create a beach experience. We could also have some leaves and plants to touch as if they had been collecting things off the floor of a forest. For taste, we are thinking about having a piece of fruit for the participant to take on the way out so they can have a heathy snack to aid their physical wellbeing. For smell, we have talked about possibly involving essential oils in some way, ones related to the themes of the images. The goal is for the participant to feel more soothed after the experience than before they took part.
We know that the lockdown has made it difficult for your team to fully evaluate the tool, but you were able to collect some feedback from a few pilot participants. Would you be happy to share some of the feedback with our readers?
Of course. The feedback is quite encouraging really:
“It was amazing. I felt as though I was actually walking in the forest”
“I felt so chilled. I fell asleep”
“I would love to spend every 15 minutes in a pod every lunchtime”
“It was lovely to get away from the noise in college. It was just so peaceful.”