User Trial Planning, Case JoyHaptics iXu Smart Bear


In February 2020, HIPPA project experts and occupational therapy students of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the elderly care staff representatives of Myllypuro Senior Centre got together with JoyHaptics Ltd’s CEO Jussi Tuovinen and Product Development Manager Kai Martesuo, to discuss the user trial planning of iXu smart bear. The company wanted to obtain additional data to support the bear’s product development. In particular, the company wanted to understand the benefits offered by iXu smart bear, and the situations in which they are created. The effects of the product on a single user’s functional capacity were not on the scope of the user trial, nor the company needed any support in the development of the technical features of the product or its commercialization. So the actual development of product features was left out of the scope of the development work.


Metropolia’s user trial was initiated in Oulu

Before cooperating with Metropolia, JoyHaptics Ltd. had already cooperated with Oulu UAS and the City of Oulu’s HIPPA project staff. In October 2019, JoyHaptics Ltd’s representatives presented iXu smart bear to the representatives of Oulu UAS and the City of Oulu in a remote co-creation workshop. In the workshop, the assisted living experts told about the operating environment of assisted living (senior citizens’ residential assisted living facilities and homecare, as well as accommodation services for special-needs groups) and the clients’ needs. iXu smart bear’s usage cases were outlined in co-ideation, and the benefits of the bear to the clients and the required product features in assisted living environments were discussed. The participants also touched upon questions related to the commercialization of iXu smart bear. 


iXu smart bear

iXu smart bear transmits a human touch from one person to another, when the user caresses the back of the bear or the mobile phone screen. For example, when a user in Finland caresses the image of a bear on her phone, the receiver – even on the other side of the world – feels the movement of the bear’s paw against her own body. The smart bear includes special-structured electronics and the internet connection may be created by smartphone. With this technology, the touch data of a near and dear person can be wirelessly transmitted to the receiver. According to Jussi Tuovinen, the smart bear has a calming effect on its user, however, the touch experience is always connected to the mood and the surroundings of the user.

User trial planning session

In the planning session, Tuovinen and Martesuo told about iXu smart bear and its development. They pointed out that the bear is not yet fit for institutional use because, for example, the solutions related to its durability and washing and hygiene features are still in progress. After the product presentation, the participants were invited to try how iXu smart bear feels and tell about their first reactions of holding the bear when he hugs the holder and waves his paw. In this way, the participants gained a better understanding of the product and also of the factors to be observed in the user trial, from the point of view of the students and the company.

After this, a framework and a plan for the user trial were drafted. During the planning, essential questions related to the implementation of the user trial were discussed, such as the division of tasks, data collection, analysis methods, implementation period and reporting.

As a result of this joint discussion, the participants decided that the user trial be implemented in collaboration with Metropolia UAS HIPPA project experts, students and the company. The project manager of Metropolia UAS HIPPA project is responsible for the user trial and the UAS lecturers for recruiting the students and implementing the trial. It was also agreed that the trial be incorporated in the students’ respective studies.

The students were tasked to find out the benefits of and the people who benefit from iXu smart bear and to report these to the company. During the user trial, the students have one iXu smart bear and a smart phone with the application at their disposal. The company is responsible for the product presentation, for the introduction of iXu smart bear and the smartphone application and responding any questions thereof, and for the delivery of the relevant technology to the students. The company is also responsible for the user interface of the service.


User trial implementation plan

The stages of user trial implementation: 

  1.  Introduction to the use of the product
    The students and HIPPA project staff participating in the user trial are introduced to the use of the product. The students use the product under the supervision of the HIPPA project staff. The company delivers the product for the duration of the user trial. After the trial, the product and the related devices are returned to the company.
  2. Implementation of the user trial and collection of data
    During the user trial, students produce data by testing iXu smart bear and responding to questions set to the user trial. HIPPA project staff supervise the user trial and contact the company representatives if needed.
  3. Analysis and reporting of the user trial data
    The data created during the user trial is analysed and reported by the Metropolia students and HIPPA project experts. A PowerPoint presentation of the user trial is produced in Finnish or in English.
  4. Discussing the results with the company
    After the user trial, an event is organized for the students to report its results to the company and HIPPA project staff.

Further work was agreed upon at the end of the planning session. On the basis of this discussion, HIPPA project representatives promised to draft a development plan to be sent to the company for verification and signing. It was also agreed that HIPPA project’s lecturers will launch the recruitment of students. The company was also told about the risks involved in aiming to recruit voluntary students to participate in the user trial.


At the end of the session, the company representatives concluded that they were happy with the user interface development and the fact that both occupational therapy representatives and elderly robotics experts were involved in bringing in some cool ideas. They also thought that collaboration facilitates product testing and productization and paves the way for production, job creation and business.

The following items were also added to the Development Plan:

  • The development cooperation with the company finishes when the company has been delivered a summary of the user trial results and the company has given its feedback on the implementation of the user trial to the HIPPA project.
  • The development work is terminated or suspended if it does not meet the objectives agreed upon with the company and the goals set to the HIPPA project.
  • Data related to the product/service which is created in the user trial may not be forwarded without the company’s permission in such a way that the company and the product/service can be identified.
  • The students sign a non-disclosure agreement.
  • In addition to the development plan, a working life cooperation agreement and a de minimis support notification are drafted with the company.

iXu smart bear’s visit to Myllypuro Senior Centre

The HIPPA project enabled the visit of the company representatives and iXu smart bear himself in the Myllypuro Senior Centre. A video of the visit is available in the beginning of this article. iXu smart bear was held by Anja, one of the centre’s residents. Anja held the bear on her lap and started to talk to him. Anja liked the bear’s hug and when he waved his paw when he was talked to. Anja was the first person to test iXu bear and therefore her thoughts were particularly valuable to the company.


How the user trial was implemented

In spring 2020, the pandemic prevented the implementation of the user trial as students were ordered to study remotely. Also the user trial planned for the autumn was cancelled. Finally, the user trial started in January 2021 so at the time of writing this article, the results were not yet published.

Video production:
Script, direction, videography and audio: Minna Kilpeläinen
Cutting: Minna Kilpeläinen and Tuukka Lindholm


Leila Lintula, Master in Health Sciences, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Metropolia UAS
Kirsi Jokinen, M.Sc., Senior Lecturer in Informatics and Statistics, Oulu UAS