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Knowl: Desktop Hearing Aid

A minimal desktop app to make classroom learning more inclusive

knowl homescreen


  • Universities primarily focus on meeting the educational needs of profoundly deaf individuals, leaving a gap in attending to the requirements of the mild to moderately deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) community.

  • "Knowl" is a minimalistic solution, strategically designed to provide this demographic with an equivalent learning experience in traditional classroom settings.

My Role 


12 weeks (Sep - Nov 2022)


Figma, Zoom

  • ​Planned and implemented research activities.

  • Collaborated with designers to brainstorm and refine solutions.

  • Led the team through research and design phases.

  • Documented and presented to academic and industry experts.


2 researchers, 2 designers


Knowl is designed to seamlessly integrate into existing classroom environments, by utilizing in-class resources such as peers, Meeting Owl (recording tool), and laptops. The application is a floating widget designed to minimize visual clutter.

Advocate for information needs
Request peers for information missed during the class or view previous requests to stay on track.
Position Independence
Access live transcription using audio input from the meeting owl irrespective of your distance from the speaker.

Take smart notes using highlights, comments, and AI summaries.
Enable active participation
Get live transcriptions using voice recognition in group discussions for better comprehension.



Make traditional classroom learning more accessible for mild to moderate Deaf/HH community.

What barriers do Deaf/HH with mild to moderate severity experience in classroom learning at the university?

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Secondary research uncovered the breadth of challenges and solutions. 

  1. What are the characteristics of people with hearing loss?

  2. What concerns are raised across online forums/communities regarding classroom learning?

  3. What existing solutions aid learning for individuals with hearing loss?

  4. How are facilities designed in special schools for deaf/heard-of-hearing?

Primary research deepened our insight into the severity and implications of specific challenges and solutions. 

Affinity Mapping

We condensed our findings on challenges and solutions using Affinity Mapping, yielding 13 distinct categories of user issues.

Research Insights I - Setting the primary focus

After two rounds of filtering and modification of the 13 categories, three directions surfaced.

Missing out Information

Despite using tools such as hearing aids, students with mild/moderate hearing loss periodically missed information during lectures or discussions. Retrieving this missed information in the classroom was challenging, leading to an acceptance of reduced learning capabilities.

Social Isolation

Informal discussions outside of regular classroom discussiona are often overlooked aspects of classroom learning. This could create a sense of disconnect or isolation for students with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Everyone is unique

Figuring out assistive tools that suit their needs proved to be a significant challenge for users. Factors raised by users ranged from emotional and financial impact as they experiment with different tools, to personal comfort and dressing styles.

After carefully considering resource limitations, we decided to focus our solution on addressing the first theme - missing information in the classroom.

Research Insights II - Implications for design

To create solutions tackling the issue of missing information in classrooms, our analysis resulted in formulating three "How Might We" statements.

Access to Information

How might we reduce the barrier to access contextual/oral information missed in classroom?

Position Independence

How might we reduce the dependence of seating position in the classroom for effective listening?

Active participation

How might we reduce the effort to consume information shared in group environments to enable active participation?


We crafted a persona to visualize the user needs and characteristics outlined by the HMWs. This was pivotal in the ideation phase, allowing a critical evaluation of the relevance and adoption of the brainstormed solutions.



Brainstorming Ideas

To broaden our vision of the solution, we embraced the worst possible idea method concerning feasibility, to fuel innovation. We explored a spectrum of solutions ranging from AR glasses to digital applications.

Expanding our vision

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We decided on a digital desktop interface, to stay rooted in our goal to seamlessly integrate into traditional classroom settings.  We sketched ideas inspired by our exploration of the wide range of solutions.

Refining our vision

We conducted a cognitive walkthrough on the designed functionalities, refining the sketches further into mid-fidelity prototypes.

Before creating our final prototype, we conducted a concept evaluation with a user and an academic expert to assess our design decisions.

Examples of Design Choices

Balancing conversation experience without distraction

It was crucial to balance the representation of the request as a conversation without turning it into a distracting messaging channel. To achieve this, the following features were implemented:

  1. Limiting the number of text replies per request.

  2. The notification for a request is minimally intrusive, with a subtle highlight on the "request" tab.

  3. User anonymity during requests and replies.

  4. Once a peer accepts a request, the notification vanishes for others.

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Reduce nuances in transcriptions for group discussions

  1. Group members can be manually added or automatically detected via Bluetooth.

  2. As voice recognition accuracy may widely vary, users are provided the ability to correct recognition errors by editing the person label associated with a transcription.

  3. Users can customize what is considered noise for their context, distinguishing between in-group and out-of-group information.

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Accepting limitations yet pushing boundaries as researchers and designers

I learnt that first acknowledging the limitations of research and design to address certain challenges enables to push towards the most optimal solutions.

Transfering context from research to design

Collaborating with designers during brainstorming emphasized the importance of integrating contextual knowledge from research insights into ideation.

Evaluating impact of design decisions in ethical and social contexts

I learned to be more conscious of my responsibilities while making strategic decisions, particularly when involving vulnerable populations.

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