If You Can’t Hear Your Baby Cry, Check Your Watch

SINGAPORE – After teaching the son of a deaf couple for two years at Sunday school in church, she noticed the boy becoming more withdrawn, “unable to adapt to the social life of the hearing world” as he moved from pre-school to primary school.

It sparked her interest and Ms Jaren Liow Wei Ting started researching the difficulties deaf parents and their children face. She went online to read about the problems they encountered, visited the families and interviewed the children.

Now, at 24, the graduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS) has designed a new parenting aid for deaf parents, which she hopes will hit the shelves within a year or two.

The Fil’O device, which alerts deaf parents to a baby’s cries, comprises three items: A watch for the parent, a baby toy, and a standing lamp.

A sound detector within the toy picks up the baby’s cries. The information is transmitted to the watch, which will display a graphic and vibrate at a certain rhythm according to the volume of the baby’s cries.

For parents who are more sensitive to light than vibration at night, the lamp will blink to alert parents.

The product differs from other baby monitors in its ease of use, said Ms Liow, who started working on the device as an Industrial Design thesis project at NUS before submitting it for the James Dyson Award. She is the only Singaporean finalist of the award run by the James Dyson Foundation, a charity supporting design, technology and engineering education, medical research charities and local community projects.

Explaining why she designed the device, Ms Liow said babies need the most attention and physical comfort, and mainly express themselves through sound.

“However they are unable to gain (a) deaf parent’s attention through sound if they are not within (the) parent’s visible range. Deaf parents mainly use visuals to understand their children, for example facial expressions, body language, gestures,” she said.

For instance, they put their finger into the baby’s mouth to test whether the baby will bite their finger, which means he or she is hungry. Being able to better provide for their child’s needs would lead to a stronger relationship between parent and child, she added.

The innovator said she chose the watch design concept “because it is always on the wrist and you can see it easily”. She spent about a year coming up with the device, from research and design to prototype and testing.

“And from there, I came up with possible solutions; and through testing and prototyping, gained feedback on the feasibility of the concept,” she said.

Currently developing the device with the NUS School of Design and Environment’s Design Incubation Centre and the Singapore Association for the Deaf, she hopes the product can be launched in a year or two.

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