The massaging wall

The project started by answering a set of questions i.e. what are the characteristics of a back massage in terms of pressure and motion?, How do we achieve a relaxing massaging experience: with a static material tactility combination; or is it necessary to provide a dynamic set of combinations to elicit different experiences?

These questions were answered through literature studies about massage; which advanced to an exploration of the products available in the market for self-massage. The findings were discussed and enriched during consultation with a TUDelft physiotherapist.

Next to this the tactual experience of the existing self massaging products (S.M.P) was described and analyzed, using The Tactual Experience Guide as a tool (Sonneveld, 2007). This was important to apprehend how designers have faced the problem or translating hand strokes into products. The answer to these questions allowed the project to have an extensive understanding about massage and the impact it can have in a persons well being.

Following this an empirical study was done to answer the main research question: Which material properties (e.g. texture, hardness, temperature, weight) combined with specific movements elicit a gratifying massage in a person’s back?

The study consisted on the assessment of (x) stimuli passively touching ones back. In this study the modes of interaction for self-massaging people’s backs are taken into account to evaluate the stimuli. The results served to create a material and tactility matrix.

The matrix and research insights defined the main material properties to be integrated in the product, to provide a relaxing experience. This process also inspired the ideation process, were one idea was selected: The Massaging Wall. This idea fitted the design goal i.e. design a material-inspired massage for self-use; and vision i.e. enable people to shift from being passive recipients of health care to active practitioners of self-care by massaging their body. Following this, a hand-on materials exploration was done to facilitate quick learning cycles on the aesthetic assessment of the product ,which led to the development of three concepts for the massaging wall.

These concepts were prototyped as experiential prototypes to test and evaluate the concept. Each concept portrayed one of the three design directions developed: meditate, play and embrace. The design directions represented starting points on the level of body language, which allowed the designer to frame the desired behaviours in the context of a massaging against a wall. Based on the findings from the experiential prototypes test, two concepts were selected and integrated for further development, which from part of the final product proposed: MURMUR.

MURMUR is a self massaging wall installation which is meant to be placed in designated areas for relax in working environments. The design is inclined to activate your body, interrupting body stillness. MURMUR offers you ‘Materials For Care’ Relaxing massage through materials & tactility the possibility to massage your back, inviting you to lean against it and moving your body enthusiastically. It was within our interest during the concept development to allow the ‘you’ to perfect your personal massaging style or technique. MURMUR consists of two parts, one which is meant to warm up your muscles, preparing your body for the second part; which allows you to deeply massage one are of interest.

We believe that the you are the master of your own body, thus the one that understand your pain. By exploring the product’s surface you can naturally relieve your body. The product’s structure responds and understands your movements, to accompany and secure the interaction.

MURMUR was prototyped in a 1:1 scale, and exhibited in the ‘Made off..” the materials library of the industrial design faculty in TUDelft; where visitors were able to experience the product and massage themselves effectively. The exhibition was meant also for visitors to contemplate the materials used.

The final stages of the concept development focused on understanding and exploring possible and valid ways in which MURMUR could guide you and communicate its intentions to massage your back. To represent these, this thesis concluded with the formation of meaningful scenario to be explored, that expresses a set or implication for future development of the product within the Light.Touch.Matters (LTM) context. LTM is a research project, which focuses on developing innovative, meaningful products for care and well-being, made of smart material interfaces.

Goals of the project

The goal of this graduation project was to design a product for ‘relaxing massage’ for individuals (self touch- not done by others) with a particular focus on materials and tactility for an enchanted self-massage experience (mainly back self-massage). The target group addressed was healthy adults (males and females).