Vistas Case Study

Katherine Ng
5 min readJan 2, 2021


Role: sole Researcher & Creative Director // Duration: 4 months // Tools: 3D modelling, Arduino, Adobe CC // Skills: Speculative Design, System Architecture, Interactive Mockups

Vistas is an interactive installation that tackles the issue of elderly social isolation. Its main goal is to promote community involvement and social interaction with the people in your neighbourhood. Make meaningful connections and improve overall health and wellness.

User Pain Points

Family Commitment: The elderly currently depend heavily on family involvement for social and physical connection.

Health and Wellness: The elderly need to maintain mental and physical activity to achieve proper health and wellness.

Technology: VR technology is all the rage but engages elders passively and doesn’t encourage active social interactions.

Community: The elderly need a sense of community and independence to live fruitfully.


There are 2 systems in place to make the installation effectively tackle elderly social isolation, they are called Vistas and Links. Vistas are used to get people engaged in the community and Links add a component to gamify the experience.

Vistas are public touchscreen panels placed along major paths and landmarks as an interactive map and exploration game.

On the surface, Vistas aid people of all ages to better navigate their city using the interactive map function. But it’s more than just a map, Vistas is a collectible point-based system that rewards you as you find, and interact with each Vista. The goal is to activate all the Vistas and complete the map.

The Vistas system is the first stage to increase community involvement. It encourages people to step outside to explore the people and places around them without financial, cultural, or technological barriers.

Vistas works in tandem with Links, which is the next step in this system and is the backbone to improving social interactions with the elderly.

Then what are Links you ask? They are the main feature to improve social interaction by adding a gamified experience. Links are collaborative walks that are found in certain Vistas. In order to collect the Vista and finish the map, you must complete the walk with at least one other person and is done by placing 4 hands on the Vista panel to trigger the Link to start. This system provides an opportunity for the elderly to socially interact with people in their community and to better their physical health.

Unlike other products on the market, Links address the issues within elderly social isolation without the need to rely on familial relationships. The concept was built from seniors’ desire to attain health and wellness through a popular activity of walking in parks. Walking with other people within your community builds social trust and explores interaction with people past the generational restrictions within our society.

Arduino Model

The Arduino is a model of the Links system. It uses proximity sensors to capture motion activity, displaying visual and audible queues to help direct users through a path.

The Arduino was built to demonstrate an interactive response to gestures that would be intuitive to the elderly, removing any form of technological barrier. The Arduino showcases inclusive design as the audible and visual responses better incorporate user accessibility in interacting with the technology.

Research Summary

User group: socially isolated seniors are more at risk of negative mental and physical health behaviours, having a 4–5 time greater risk of hospitalization. They fend off social exclusion by interacting with family and friends, participating in community activities, and feeling a sense of comfort in their neighbourhood.

Target audience: seniors likely to experience the most social isolation are the ones who are older, living in urban areas, have no partner, were born outside of Canada, or have lower levels of education.

Market: the current technology to battle elderly social isolation includes Rendever, Paro, and Alcove VR. Users who have financial or cultural differences can’t access or intuitively understand this technology. The current products on the market also target people who currently have social relationships and disregard those without close family or friends.

Current technology: Rendever VR engages elders passively and does not encourage active social interactions. Paro attempts to imitate human attributes but is harder to attain financially.

Experience: the elderly need a sense of community and independence to feel comfortable, commonly seeking out public parks to reach out to their community.

Read the research paper below.

Key Takeaways

This project was a study of using speculative thinking to build a model system that could be implemented in a future society. It was an assignment that was substantially different from everything else I learned at YSDN.

This is what I learned.

1. Speculative design thinking

2. How to present concepts

3. Arduino integration in design

Using an Arduino to model our interactions was a new way of learning how people respond to different sensory outputs. I mainly struggled with being able to present conceptualized thoughts, but the experience working with Arduinos and 3D modeling tools helped me understand how to better communicate to an audience.

Implementation Plan

My final goal is to receive government funding for this project through the ‘New Horizons for Seniors Program’. This program supports projects designed to encourage seniors to share their skills and experience with people in their community.

In order to receive this grant, the project must:

  • promote volunteerism among seniors and other generations
  • engage seniors in the community through the mentoring of others
  • expand awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse
  • support the social participation and inclusion of seniors
  • provide capital assistance for new and existing community projects and/or programs for seniors



Katherine Ng

A product designer from Toronto dedicated to user experience.