EasyOpen (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

Sze Cheuk Ching, Hil Tung Lam, Yan Yan Law, Ka Hei Tang

Abstract

The EasyOpen is a small, inexpensive device that is simple to operate. It aims at helping those with hand tremors, weak wrist stability, poor vision and poor eye-hand coordination to insert the key into the keyhole in a convenient and effortless manner.

Introduction / Background

Inserting a key into the keyhole to lock and unlock the main door is a usual daily routine for everyone. However, good finger dexterity, wrist stabilization and eye-hand coordination is required to complete the task effortlessly. For clients who have visual impairment or problem of hand tremors, putting a key into a keyhole accurately may become a difficult task.

Problem statement

Locking and unlocking a door seems to be a simple task to every one of us. However, this task does require different prerequisite of body condition.

An elderly claims that locking and unlocking the door with key is sometime frustrating. It is also observed that some elderly may have difficulties in putting a key into the keyhole when their physical condition deteriorates. Additionally, the corridor of the public housing estate in Hong Kong is sometimes too dark that prevents the elderly to locate the keyhole accurately. Thus, locking and unlocking the door with a key sometimes would be a challenge to the elderly.

As a result, we design the EasyOpen to facilitate the key insertion task. In addition, we aim to motivate and encourage the elderly to engage in outdoor activities by simply improving the performance of locking and unlocking the door, which makes going outdoor an easy and satisfactory task for them.

Design and Development

Figure 1. Design of EasyOpen

It is a funnel shape device with a smooth inner edge guiding the key moving towards the direction of keyhole smoothly. It can easily assist the user to find and insert the key into the keyhole with less finger dexterity and strength in wrist stabilization. In addition, a motion sensor with LED light output is built with the device. When a user approaches the device, the motion sensor will be activated. The LED light will then provide additional light source for locating the keyhole and better visual acuity for the locking and unlocking process. Velcro is used for simple installation allowing client to take it off from the door for changing batteries and maintenance.

The device is designed to be operated easily. The client will need to install it by matching the bottom opening of the device and the keyhole of the main door. After installation, when the client approaches the door, the LED light will turn on automatically. Afterwards, the client holds the key in the proper direction and places the key into the device. The client then touches the key onto the bottom half of the inner edge of the device. Lastly, the client just needs to apply a slight force and allow the device to guide the key into the keyhole.

The product was fabricated at a low cost manner, in which the total cost for each device is about $5. This allows more client to be able to afford for the device and be benefit from it.

Evaluation and Results

After the prototype was made, a group of clients with Parkinson’s Disease was invited to join the user experience group. There were totally 10 participants (4 male, 6 female; mean age 65.8). All of them have tremor hands induced by Parkinson’s disease. Eight of them have presbyopia and two of them have cataract. A short questionnaire was administrated after participants’ trial of the device to collect their feedback.

The participants were asked to grade their difficultly of inserting a key in a keyhole. 70% of the participants reported that they experience difficulties in doing the task in their daily life. After trying our device, 90% of them reported that they find it useful. In addition, 70% of them claimed that they are willing to purchase our device if it is available in the market.

One of the participants in the user experience group was invited to attend a follow-up interview. She has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and cataract. She has both resting and intentional tremor which is worsen by the end of the effective state of the prescribed drug. She rated 7 out of 10 for the difficulty in inserting the key into the door lock. Due to her poor vision and tremor, she needs longer time to put in a key in most occasions. Compensation by touching the keyhole in order to put in the key was often used.

She found the device very useful and rated 8 out of 10 for the usefulness of the device. With the help of our device, she claimed that she no longer needs to look at the keyhole to fit in the key. She commented that the funnel shape of the device led the key into the keyhole quickly and it was very convenient to her. She believed it would also be helpful to other clients with tremor. Another advantage of our device is the reasonable price. She thought that many elderly people could be benefited from it for its usefulness and affordable price.

Discussion and Conclusions

Currently the device is designed for most types of main door keyhole. Technical problem in installing the motion sensory shall be resolved to allow the device to be more handy and simple in its outlook. Other than that, there is a vision to further develop the device so as to allow adaptation to different kinds of door locks, and electrical outlet plug-in.

Acknowledgement

This device is a study project at Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, we would like to thank Dr. Kenneth Fong and Mr. Peterson Chui from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for their guidance; Mr. T.W. Chan and Mr. N.S. Wong from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for their technical advice; Ms. Carey Chan from Hong Kong Parkinson’s Disease Association for arranging the user experience group; Mr. Dou Fai Wong and Mr. Sing Chung for filming the product video; Mrs. Wan for participating in the product video.

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