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DING is an intuitive communication tool custom designed for my grandmother to help her connected to her family and loved ones. It’s a series of devices mounted on her wall like photo frames, running an easy-to-use web APP.  Each frame represents a different family member, she knows where to find us when she needs to.


Interaction Designer, Developer (Individual work)


Vue.js, HTML, CSS, Firebase, Twilio, Fabrication


ITP Thesis week 2018,  May 2018


Like most of the elderly population in China, my grandma isn't a smartphone user. Operating technology can be a very frustrating experience for her. She loves to use the functionalities she is already familiar with, like making phone calls, however with her recent hearing loss, calling her on the phone became difficult.  


Yet to connect with her family means so much to my grandmother, especially when most of us are living in different countries.

After failing to teach her how to send a voice message through existing APPs many times, I realized it’s not her fault that she isn't able to operate these 'simple' technologies, it is our fault for expecting her to use something that was not designed for her generation.


That lead to my design challenge:



"How can I make it easier for my grandmother to stay connected with her family and loved ones?"
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My user

Ermin Ding (81 yrs old)

​Loves her family more than anything

Got two children and 5 grandchildren living abroad


& Needs

  • Get in touch with family members with minimum technology

  • Feel confident operating tools

  • Feel loved



  • Hearing loss

  • Low vision

  • Memory loss

  • Hand tremor



  • Technophobia

  • Self-doubt when not able to keep up with the tools

  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness

  • My grandma's favorite communication tool was the telephone, but that is no longer an option with her recent hearing loss.

  • Memory loss didn't just make learning to use smartphone hard for her, but also cause loss of the cellphone itself all the time.

  • When she fails to operate a smartphone, she feels a drop of sense of her self-value.



Broader User Research
  • Tools: 73.84% of older generation uses phone calls to contact their family 

  • Time spend: More than 70% of the older generation can devote more than 1 hour per week to contact their family while less than 20% of the younger generation can do the same​


Set up as photo frames

The devices look just like photo frames when not in use, serve as ambiance accompany by showing each family member’s photos. Grandma knows exactly where to find us now.



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Easy to use 4 pages

The devices look just like photo frames when not in use, serve as ambiance accompany by showing each family member’s photos. Grandma knows exactly where to find us now.




DING generates captions for every voice message grandma received and read every text message to her so that she can both see and hear every message.



Simple input

The message sending function is simplified as voice message only as typing is hard for older adults, grandma can start talking with one click and send it with another.



 Social media feed

When we’re not able to engage with her, grandma can browse through our social media feed and interact with them by likes.



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 Color coded

Although the App has only four pages, each page is color coded. It helps grandma to navigate through the App and never need to worry about where she is at.




how it works

Speech Recognition

with SDK

Baidu yunyuyin

Sending text message

via Twilio API


Web App with






as backend


Mounted in

custom made

photo frame


Web App

Running on



Family members sending a text message from their phones


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