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Muhimu - New


SCAD - Thesis Project

Duration: September 2015 - March 2017
Focus: Industrial Design, Service Design, Interaction Design
Awarded by: Global Grad Show, IDSA International Design Excellence Awards, Core77 Design Awards, European Product Design Award (EPDA), International Design Awards (IDA)



The Brief

For my senior studio, I had 20 weeks to find an area of interest, identify a problem and conceptualize a solution. I structured myself around the double diamond process restrained to time periods for each design phase.

From previous observations, I decided to focus on deaf people, specifically students and their day to day lives within auditory based environments.


deaf culture

ASL (American Sign Language) “has the capacity to
transmit a culture, a way of life, and happiness".

For deaf communities, deafness meant the same as
having dark hair. A simple trait one is born with.


Mannualism = Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is mainly visual, differentiating among cultures to regional location. It is the most basic sign language further from english grammar.  English Sign Language (ESL) is the direct translation from spoken english grammar. Pigeon Sign falls in the in between ASL and ESL.

ASL is the primary language for deaf people communities. 
Different in pronunciation, word order, and gramma across locations.


Psycho-Social Facilitators

Looking into deaf students in auditory-based school, only 25% of the students enrolled actually complete their studies and graduate. On the other end, the remaining percentage pertaining to. drop outs, are due to four unfulfilled needs:   

1. Language

2. Support

3. Accommodation

4. Identity


Attention Guidance

The auditory-based classrooms unfairly increase the cognitive load of deaf students by requiring them to constantly engage in splitting their visual attention


15 interviews

Since this subject was all so new to me, I dove right into interviews that helped me get a better understanding of the context. I approached the interviews by creating the set of questions for each type of interviewee. I spoke to deaf students, but also to their professors, classmates, and even interpreters. I also tried to get involved with the deaf community by talking to non students to see other perspectives, empathize with them and understand their culture. 

The interviews were pretty overwhelming in many occasions. The procedures were not the same as I was used to. I interviewed via chat some deaf students which one interview took 1.5 hours. Yes, I was pretty brain dead afterwards 


"I don’t like interrupting conversations to ask for translation, is not natural”





Through empathy mapping I was able to arrive to my persona, Annie. I started to re-create scenarios and journey maps that would allow me to see each touchpoint through Annie’s actions. I validated with deaf students, and came up with one major scenario, a team meeting after class. Then, I looked at other scenarios to explore if there was a pattern on the same pain point. Looking at the journey maps and finding pain points allowed me to narrow down my scope in the project.

I was constantly reminded from my professors and peers, “you can’t boil down the entire ocean”. So I had to choose where I wanted to focus to solve for. 




Something that...

-assists Annie to communicate better with others.
-educate hearing on approaching Annie.
-helpsAnniee visualize information to share with others.
-benefits everyone in the classroom for collab/learning.
-makes Annie more aware of sound surrounding
-informs eachother of emotional state when talking
-let’s Annie express herself to others



Once I started to move forward with brainstorming, I first looked at direct and non direct competitors. I researched on existing products out there, their offerings and the services available to deaf people. I placed the competitors in different axises, which enabled me to see a repeated pattern and therefore to find the gap. Most of the products out there, if not all, relied purely on visual sensory capabilities. Likewise, to the use of real time interpreters through assistive devices. Finding the gap essentially became the opportunity which drove me to the design direction I ended up taking. Still, lots of Post-It action along the way. 


Speech Impact


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Through the use of sound tracking technology, facilitated by the set of smart rings with connected app, Muhimu filters surrounding noise by analyzing and identifying the sound and matching it with a pre-recorded library of stored sounds



Vocal Analysis

Added vocal analysis technology to amplify message’s content, tone, and voice identity. Enabling deaf students to be informed of conversations in real time without waiting on a summary.

Feel & See

Identified noise is sent to the Muhimu rings in the respective haptic pattern behavior, alongside the respective visual feedback on the app if desire.




The development process was quite hectic. I ideated shape and form through sketches, CAD models, and 3D printed prototypes using different materials such as resin, FDM, rubber, and wax. (Small rings = cheap price = win). For the final development of the silver rings, I collaborated with a Jewelry Design student that got me access and guidance on the right tools and methodology.  

Alongside, I explored on the digital experience of the mobile app. What was the most suited interaction modal that worked seamlessly with experience of the physical rings. I tested different flows through the creation of paper to quick InVision prototypes. Meanwhile, defining a visual design language that allowed for the brand Muhimu to be born.




The Rings

The set of smart rings with bluetooth, haptic, and sound sensory technology.
Paired with the connected app, the rings respond to sound identified through vibration patterns.


The Charger

Portable charger to bring along the entire Muhimu set anywhere. It contains the set of smart rings along with the two desired Muhimu cases.


The App


My Sounds

A list of sounds Annie is responsive to. From a cloud-based library of ambient sounds (noise), Annie has available to download and be responsive to these noises that will help her be more responsive to her environment. 

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Sound Settings

Each sound detail screen contains the output customizable settings for visual and haptic. The user can view or edit the haptic patterns outputted through the rings when having identified the sound. Likewise, a user can mute a sound's tracking sensitivity to avoid feeling or seeing that singular sound. 




During conversations, the "listening" feature facilitates Annie to follow up on those group meetings. Muhimu when set, through voice ID identifies the teammates and uses speech to text technology to provide Annie with the content of the speech. Emotional interface, beyond showing just what others are saying, it shows each tone behind every message sent through the use of emojis. This gives Annie the ability to understand in context how things are said, giving her better perception whether someone is excited, sad, or even angry. 


Seamless Across All Devices



wear it your own way!

Muhimu is all about personalization. To bring the rings onto another level, Muhimu offers Annie the ability to wear each ring with her own taste and style. Varying from material, color, and texture, the possibilities are endless! 


Where to Start?

By going into, Annie can order her own set of rings customized at her own taste. From color, material, size, and more, she is able to have her favorite style of Muhimu rings along with the corresponding portable charger and covers of her choice. The website offers Annie not only the rings but also the different covers available to her. Nevertheless, she is able to see what are the sounds available to download from Muhimu library.


A Service that Expands

Scalable to other services to improve the experience deaf people's integration through Muhimu. With the ability to send your own STL. file, or 3D print at home with an open platform for Muhimu covers, to service implementation in traveling or security environments. 


Physical Prototypes




Muhimu has been globally recognized among many design organizations for it's concept and implementation. Below some of the awards and publications Muhimu has received.