Health tech with heart

Some of the world’s brightest minds are working together in Melbourne to make human-centred design ideas a reality.

Leah Heiss – a designer with a passion for health and nanotechnology – shared some of her work with the community at Melbourne Knowledge Week 2018.

She has created an array of health technology innovations including jewellery to administer insulin through the skin for diabetics, biosignal-sensing emergency jewellery, and swallowable devices to detect disease.

Recently, Leah worked with Blamey Saunders Hears to design Facett, the world’s first self-fit modular hearing aid.

The acclaimed design features an intuitive magnetic charger, and its form is inspired by the mineralogy collection at Museums Victoria.

‘Real empathy and deep engagement takes a lot of time and effort.’

‘My goal is to humanise wearable health technology through engaging with users to really understand their experiences of using these devices,’ Leah said.

‘Many people who wear hearing aids feel shame, stigma, embarrassment and isolation. We wanted to bring those emotions to the foreground of our design-thinking rather than simply focussing on function.

‘In short, we wanted to move hearing aids from disability to desirability.’

The Facett hearing aid

The Facett hearing aid
Photo: Matt Harvey, courtesy Blamey Saunders Hears

Leah and the Blamey Saunders Hears team showcased Facett’s design process at Melbourne Knowledge Week’s Future Hospital event, offering the community a unique insight into the extensive, iterative design process.

Museums Victoria has since acquired 130 of the prototype models – alongside drawings and the final product – for their heritage collection, recognising Facett as a great example of Victorian innovation.

‘It is critical that human-centred design doesn’t just become a buzz word. Real empathy and deep engagement take a lot of time and effort,’ Leah said.

‘We need to evolve products that actually resonate with people’s lives. For this, designers need to be at the table for longer than just six weeks at the beginning of the technology development.

‘Melbourne is a great place for this work because art and design is so fundamental to our city. This mindset is the perfect foundation for our biotechnology industry, business incubators and start-ups.’

Councillor Dr Jackie Watts, Chair of the Knowledge City portfolio, said Melbourne’s extraordinary number of knowledge-sector organisations – so rich in creativity, innovation, design and technological capabilities – is a key strength in the global knowledge economy.

‘Melbourne’s start-up and innovation ecosystem is producing world-class solutions to human-centred problems,’ Dr Watts said.

‘Throughout Melbourne Knowledge Week, we showcase the work of our most exciting innovative thinkers and thought leaders in a diverse range of industries or areas through mind-expanding discussions and workshops.

‘Knowledge Week events aim to encourage everyone in the community to engage, participate, and potentially  collaborate with those who share cutting-edge expertise and skills.’


What knowledge can you share with the community? Applications to speak or run an event at Melbourne Knowledge Week 2019 are open until 20 September.

To find out more, visit Melbourne Knowledge Week.