MSE Genie is an iOS app and piece of hardware that allows the equipment in a sensory room to be controlled using an iPad. The app allows the person in charge of the room to configure the interface presented by the iPad around the specific needs of the room’s user. The interface can be as simple as a single button or as complex selection and control of specific pieces of equipment.
TFH special needs toys are a UK manufacturer of assistive toys and equipment. They are one of the leading global suppliers of equipment for Sensory Rooms (or ‘Multi Sensory Environments’). As their Managing Director Peter Tidmarsh explains:
“Sensory Rooms are places where people who have little control in their day to day life are ceded a great deal of control over their environment”
We worked together to create a system that allows TFH’s existing Sensory Room products to be controlled from an iPad. Moving away from physical controllers to the iPad allows the teacher or therapist to configure a bespoke interface around the needs, preferences and capabilities of each individual who is using the room. It also allows a single controller to control many individual items or even the whole room at the same time.
The project started with a proof of concept to establish that TFH’s existing products could be reliably controlled from a mobile device over bluetooth using a new piece of hardware which we engineered in collaboration.
With the major risk closed out we worked together to define the functionality we needed, to give sensory room users the experience Peter understood they would appreciate. Once these were agreed we designed and built the app entirely in house.
Peter explains and demonstrates the capabilities of the system
Even before MSE Genie was formally released through the App Store TFH were able to use it to help close major orders to fit out new Sensory Rooms. Since then it has been installed in over one hundred sensory rooms around the world delighting users like this young lady in Canada.
It was great to work with a client who had such a clear idea of the kind of product they wanted to build and how it would help their customers. Additionally Sensory Room equipment is (intentionally) viscerally pleasing, a sense enhanced by the extremely low latency control we were able to achieve with the hardware and app we developed. Because of this working on the project has been very enjoyable as we have always wanted to switch on the equipment, pick up the app and use it.
As the hardware, firmware and software elements had to be developed concurrently, close and effective collaboration with TFH’s own engineering team was essential. We were delighted with the support they gave us throughout the development process and are proud of the end-to-end integration we have been able to achieve together.
On the user experience side the main challenge was handling the many different ways the final user interface could be configured by the teacher or therapist. This presented two difficulties; first in creating a simple to use but still relatively powerful configuration process or the teacher or therapist to use, and second then rendering the different possible permutations of that interface as the controller for the end user.