To attend the 2019 UCSD ECE design hackathon, we got a chance to interview Parkinson's patients, and each team was supposed to create a technological device for improving the quality of patients’ lives. This experience was a practical chance for software, electrical engineering, user designer, and researcher students to cooperate together and completely achieve a product idea. The competition emphasizes the design processing and interview interaction with patients. In the end, each project would be evaluated with a score and the popularity among audiences after project presentations. 

3D Unity


UX researcher 




4 months


Anson Lee, Christian Lay Geng, JJ Sood, Vincent Wu

The Product

After talking with interviewees, we decided to implement a virtual driving simulator, which can test Parkinson’s patients’ reaction time, motor control, and flexibility. It aims to reduce any anxiety by simulating realistic driving and offers a comprehensive report about their driving safety, which they can always improve with practice!

Product links
Background Research
Design Question

How can we improve the life quality of Parkinson's disease patients and the people around them?

Background research! Let's understand Parkinson's disease patients!

Before starting interviewing patients in person, we did slight research ahead and have the basic knowledge about this disease and the symptoms.

Background research summary

Parkinson’s disease, a common neurodegenerative disorder, can disrupt daily movement and slow the reaction time of patients due to the drop of dopamine happening in their brains. During the background researching, surprisingly to find out, sleep disorder has a relative connection with the disease, and the sudden excess of dopamine may cause patients’ sleep behavior disorder. So there are two questions that come to mind as hypotheses.

  •  Is there any way to assist patients’ the level of dopamine? 

  • Is there any way to protect them to keep away from uncontrollable behavior or the danger of sleep behavior disorder?

User Research

We need to interview participants in person and observe their life routine to begin problem-solving.

What is the research purpose?🤔

We need to interview participants in person and observe their life routine to begin problem-solving.

What is the research questions?
  •  What does their life routine look like? 

  • What kind of habits or routine do they do daily to improve their disease symptoms? 

  • Do they feel inconvenience to bother life, which comes from the symptoms? 

  • How do they feel about being Parkinson’s disease patients?

How can we help patients? 
  • There are five categories of problems we observe from participants during interviews and continue to analyze what practical ways can approach each problem. 

Interview Summary
  • We categorize the life inconvenience and specific symptoms from interviewees into different sections and brainstorm how we can approach each issue. Also, improving the life quality of PD can also dress on other audiences like their personal caregivers, doctors, and even family members.

The Solution
Our project wants to assist patients' uncontrollable movement

Initially, we met with patients and interviewed them thoroughly during the early stages of the competition. Here we have an idea-acting session where we gathered common problems and sentiments that Parkinson Patients endure in their daily lives. Eventually, by confronting these problems and organizing the top 3 resonated problems among participants, we think our project can assist their reaction or cognitive thinking in some way. 

Resonated Top 3 Problems
  • Reaction time

  • Cognitive thinking

  • Sleep quality/REM sleep disorder

So we made the decision. 🤩
  • After considering our software capability and users’ demand, we decide to make a driving simulator. Parkinson’s patients need a way to simulate and test their driving skills to see whether they should continue driving. The target population is Parkinson’s patients (and their caretakers) to gauge their current driving abilities if they meet the safety standards for being able to drive by themselves before heading to the DMV (tremor, reaction, depth). We will visit a couple of patients to try out the first prototype and collect their reaction time for driving for evaluating purposes.

TestVroom, a virtual driving simulator could give participants more chances to improve their reaction more

Prototype & Implement
  • At the beginning of brainstorm, we were thinking either to build the 2D or 3D simulator. A 2D scrolling game would measure the reaction time and see if the patient was consistent, which was easier to code. In 3D, we could build a 3D model virtual city and connected with a steering wheel or a VR headset for participants to experience virtual driving. In the end, we chose the 3D with a steering wheel and implement it with Unity because it would be more immersive and more familiar for participants to practice reaction timing through the virtual reality world.

  • We brainstormed navigation many times because we wanted it to be randomized in each game. If a participant missed a road then a GPS would need to reset and recalculate a new path based on possible arrows, which was very complicated. Our solution is to place large physical arrows on every intersection and it would randomly highlight a direction on the trigger with the Focus. Therefore, no calculation was needed since the arrows were locally triggered.

  • To evaluate patients’ driving capability, the driving testing will have a scoring system. If the score of the user gets lower than some predetermined passing score, the game will stop and the patients will receive an alert to stop driving and their scores will show up on the screen.

  • A steering wheel and pedal controller

  • Unity 3D Engine

A/B Testing
First Feedback
  • TestVroom included basic handling of automobiles. We received some feedback from our rough beta versions and we improved upon our design to be more user-friendly to include instructions and make it more realistic.

Online Survey Feedback
  • Before the second interview, we discussed if we should implement the simulator with a connection of local DMV or medical survey, but part of team members was considering if we have the permission to collect patients’ personal medical records. Also, the idea of accessing DMV actually threatens patients based on online surveys result. Some of them were wondering if the simulator can takeaways their freedom of driving, which is against our original idea, helping them to drive with more security. 

Last Feedback & A/B Testing
  • We did our best to implement this driving simulator to let audiences have a more realistic experience. During the last interview, participants gave us practical suggestions about the break and traffic light timing to improve the realistic level.  Unfortunately, “virtual driving simulators still can not compete with real driving experience,” said an interviewee. Users can not feel the gravity and they were feeling it was too gaming to give patients a sense of practice. However, it still could remind the importance of driving safety to participants.

What can it be improved from this experience?
  •  Confirm permission of collecting patients' medical record

  • Understand patients' psychological feeling and thinking during the interview  

  • Consider the gravity and realistic effects in this driving simulator project

Final Solution
Final Design: Menu
  • TestVroom is a driving simulator that connects to a USB gaming wheel and brake. The player will pass 15 lights, and in the end, will receive a score, which calculates with the number of missed turns and number of collisions. A tutorial mode was also included with simpler and larger turns so that the player could get accustomed to the simulator's sensitivity. 

Final Design: City
  • The city is made of downloaded Unity assets and the road is surrounded by colliders. Collisions are calculated by the number of times the Tocus hits one of the invisible colliders.

Final Design: Navigation
  • The driving simulator is made in a third-person perspective with speedometer and GPS is placed on the top of the screen. Also, a reverse function was installed in one of the steering wheel's handles, and the navigation arrows were made invisible and changed into an updating UI arrow based on user testing.

Final Design: Score
  • The score will appear on the screen after participants passed 15 intersections in the simulator experience. After receiving a score report, Patience, their family, caretakers can have a better understanding of the symptoms and reaction time. It can ensure participants' driving safety in the future.

Complete Implement
  • We created a fully functioning simulator with a scoring system that would hopefully raise awareness for the safety of Parkinson patients while driving. From the scoring system, the patients receive useful information as to how to what parts of their driving to be more aware of.

Design Exploration
  • Throughout our interview process with the patients, we realized that retaining their independence after diagnosis is essential for them, and thus being able to drive by themselves is very important. So that’s why our simulator’s main focus is on a patient’s safety since you have to drive safely to be able to drive independently.

Other Projects

Alchemist Motion Graphic

Data.Gove Management Web

TestVroom Driving Simulator

MotivateMe iOS Application

  • Email Icon2
  • Grey LinkedIn Icon
© Joy Wang 2019
TestVroom testing

Describe your image