In the Easing the Street aka Homeless studio, we all had the same goal: to design and create a device that would make being homeless either in or outside of the shelter easier. We visited a homeless shelter in the beginning of the week, and talked to several people who work closely with homeless people. Homeless shelters are incredibly helpful and important, but visiting made it clear that homeless people lose their autonomy there. For example, there were extremely strict restrictions on when people were allowed to come and leave, how much they could eat, what they could do while at the shelter, etc.
Our team came together and knew that we wanted to focus on giving homeless people their autonomy back. After a few days of brainstorming, diagramming, mocking-up, and discussion, we decided to work on a sensory replacement/modification helmet that would give the user the ability to replace 3/5 of their senses (sight, hearing, and scent). Our final project did accomplish this through using: a viewing port with adjustable filters, a small tray placed directly underneath the viewing port that could insert any scent, and a 3-piece plastic ear cavern that replicates the sound of the ocean.
This was a thought-provoking project not only in that it straddled the line between conceptual and practical, but there were deeper layers behind our intent as well as our final product. Yes, our entire aim was to give homeless people autonomy through giving them control of their immediate surroundings. But we still end up being the ones dictating what their choices were.