ic_excursion Excursion 10

Human design and Orbel

In 2007, Adam Sutcliffe was studying for a Masters degree at the Royal College of Art in London. Prior to his studies at RCA, Adam had served in a variety of industrial design roles, from mechanical to entertainment products. As part of a human-centered design course, he visited a hospital to explore how design influences medical care. He had recently learned about the emerging problem of MRSA, infections resistant to antibiotics. The primary solution to transmitting MRSA is hand sanitization: regular hand washing or administration of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. Adam realized that solving the problem did not require a technological solution-- it required a behavioral solution. Adam’s highly specialized capability was combining a technological approach with an almost naive behavioral perspective. He realized that “hand-washing” was a non-instinctive behavior; any technology solution that required finding a dispenser or hand-washing station required non-obvious behavioral adaptation. The natural response to dirty hands is to wipe them on the nearest available cloth-- most commonly one’s own clothing. This is effective for removing food and dirt; we learn this behavior as children. But it is ineffective or even counterproductive in a medical context. Adam designed a hand sanitizing device that relies on the “wiping reflex.” The Orbel™ is attached to clothing precisely where the hand rests, so that the wiping reflex results in sanitizing the hands rather than transfering more germs onto them.

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