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Checking on baby for the hearing-impaired

12 November 2012

Fil’o comprises a toy that detects sound, a watch that vibrates and displays the baby’s condition, and a light that blinks to alert the parent

Wei Ting is the inventor of the parenting aid

How do hearing-impaired parents know when their infant is crying and tend to its needs?

This was one question Jaren Liow Wei Ting, a recent graduate from NUS School of Design and Environment, asked and took action to address. She realised that a boy of a deaf couple she was teaching was unable to adapt to a normal hearing environment and had difficulty socialising as he entered primary school. That intrigued her to pursue the issue for her final year thesis project.

Her efforts resulted in the development of a kit called Fil’o, a concept comprising three items: a toy for the baby, a watch for the parent and a standing light for the room environment.

The toy doubles up as a sound detector that picks up sound from the baby and transmits it to the watch. Depending on the volume of the cries, the watch vibrates with different rhythms and displays the information visually, alerting the parent about the child’s condition. For a parent more sensitive to light than vibration at night, the lamp can light up and blink to alert the care-giver.

The most innovative aspect of Fil’o comes from its parent-baby connection where information about the infant’s situation is easily captured and understood, compared with using a video or constantly checking on the child.

The invention targets a niche sector where the need is not addressed and often overlooked, said Wei Ting. She admitted that her biggest challenge was dispelling prejudices and misperceptions about deaf parenting, such that she could objectively assess and analyse the realistic requirements based on research. She met with different age groups of children with hearing-impaired parents, the deaf and volunteers from various associations to get feedback for her creation. The Singapore Association of Deaf is the main support organisation and its members are testing out the kit.

While seeking a job that would further benefit the children of the needy society, Wei Ting is currently finetuning and building a prototype of Fil’o, with support from the NUS Design Incubation Centre. A post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Industrial Design is also helping to further research the parenting aid’s function in deaf families. She hopes the product can be launched within two years.

Wei Ting was the only finalist from Singapore this year for the James Dyson Award. Run by the James Dyson Foundation, a charitable trust, the award aims to encourage the next generation of designers to be creative and invent for the community.