Co-design with scientific users: Conceptualization of a neuronavigation software for multi-locus transcranial magnetic stimulation (mTMS) application

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
A non-invasive brain stimulation technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), can support the brain research and the treatment of neurological diseases, such as depression and stroke. With neuronavigation software integrated with the TMS system, the operator can personalize the stimulus visually according to the patient’s brain anatomical structure. However, the task of shifting targets with the widely used single-channel TMS relies on manual operation, which is sluggish, imprecise, and even laborious. Considering the above, ConnectToBrain (C2B) research consortium proposes multi-locus TMS (mTMS) as an alternative to enhance the robustness of the stimulation, which can switch stimulation spots electronically in a specific region within a few milliseconds. Starting at the early stage of the six-year C2B project, this thesis focuses on conceptualizing and redesigning a novel neuronavigation software compatible with mTMS characteristics and exploring its integration with other modules in the system. Much research suggests that the co-design approach is an effective means to design products and interactions for scientific users. This thesis aims to provide an empirical case of co-design practice with inventive scientific users in the context of scientific software development. Furthermore, this thesis explores the necessity and benefits of the co-design approach as a more general methodology in the software development activities in the professional domains with the user-dominant innovation pattern. Therefore, the main research question in this thesis is how a co-design approach can contribute to the early-stage conceptualization of a neuronavigation software for mTMS application. Understanding of the context and requirements from scientific users was generated by listening and observing (i.e., expert interviews, contextual inquiry, and focus group). To obtain domain knowledge, the designer self-studied developed products and widely used commercial products. Three design questions were determined with stakeholders in the focus group, during which the abstract concepts were generated collaboratively. The concepts were materialized and collated into an empathy probe, mTMS Playbook, and shared with stakeholders to review as the first operator’s manual by paper-prototyping. The Playbook engaged stakeholders to co-explore the low-fidelity concept design, evoked the inspirational feedback, and facilitated the participants’ creative expression. Active participants were then invited to the cognitive walkthrough to evaluate the mid-fidelity prototype, which is the outcome of this thesis in a practical aspect. This thesis draws three conclusions. Firstly, the co-design approach benefits for making sense of the context in a highly professional domain by leveraging the users’ knowledge of using and developing products and facilitating the users’ expression of creativity. Secondly, the co-creative design approach is suitable for inventive users because they have a better capability to learn new things, materialize, and even realize design ideas than lay users. The designer’s role in the co-creation is a facilitator of co-design sessions, a producer of agreed concepts, and an architect of the co-creative framework in the design aspect. Thirdly, the co-design tools play an essential role in promoting co-design, as they facilitate the process in different stages engagingly and playfully.
Uusitalo, Severi
Thesis advisor
Korhonen, Juuso
Kirjavainen, Senni
co-design, co-creative design, scientific users, transcranial magnetic stimulation, neuronavigation, interaction design