Jessica Vea and Gayle Lee, Bachelor of Creative Technologies students at AUT, have designed a simple yet powerful answer to the distance and isolation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The students’ project has been selected as a finalist in the Lexus Design Award competition.
Their concept Heartfelt, showcases creativity, innovation, empathy, and design skills that were adapted to a Covid-19 world and developed as part of the local Lexus New Zealand design awards.
Gayle and Jessica developed their project prototype as part of their Bachelor of Creative Technologies course work. As finalists, they will receive USD $25,000 to complete their prototype for Heartfelt and participate virtually in a workshop with one-on-one mentoring from world class design professionals.
New Zealand’s first Level 4 lockdown in March 2020 was a catalyst for Heartfelt. After participating in the funeral of a family friend through Zoom, Gayle describes feeling hugely disconnected. “It was the most distant feeling – not being able to physically connect with people gives a new dimension to grief and suffering.”
Developed with the idea of a virtual hug in mind, Heartfelt is a product with two individual parts, each designed to be kept by separate people. The small, heart-shaped device acts as a means of wordless communication between two individuals, with the ability to warm up when both are being held at the same time.
The device will also be able to pick up on the heartbeat of the person holding the corresponding piece, enabling them to feel connected, appreciated and seen, even when they cannot be together physically.
Director of External Engagement for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, Dr Yvonne Chan, says the opportunity to partner with Lexus New Zealand to encourage entries into the international competition gave AUT students who participated in the paper gained a huge amount of practical knowledge and skills through the process of creating their concepts, supported by excellent mentors from Resident, who enabled them to look at their projects critically.
“It is fantastic to see the students proposing imaginative solutions that anticipate the needs of people and society – something that seems more relevant than ever this year. We are very proud of Jessica and Gayle and see this as a wonderful experience for them both.”