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Interview

Winner of the Connected Future Innovation Challenge: Ari Horowitz

Ari Horowitz is a senior studying Industrial Design at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Ari was the winner of the 2015 Autodesk Connected Future Innovation Challenge.  He’s interested in design entrepreneurship and creating innovative products.


Tell us more about your design background.  How did you become interested in 3D design?

Ever since I was young I’ve been interested in design. I was fortunate to grow up with an assortment of power tools, soldering irons, and a basement full of RC cars, planes and other toys. The toys never lasted long and were soon thoroughly scavenged for parts and repurposed for my next invention. 

I knew I wanted to create new products, so I began my undergrad as a mechanical engineer. The time I spent studying engineering helped teach me practicality, but I also realized I was more interested in the design process and ideation, and soon discovered Industrial Design as a major. Making the switch was one of my best decisions because I now love what I do.

How do you get inspired for your creative projects?  Do you have a design idol?

It is hard to for me to choose a specific idol when there are so many people creating incredible innovative projects each day. I get a lot of my motivation from browsing crowdfunding platforms and exploring upcoming technologies and trends. Seeing so many people supporting and investing in a stranger’s ideas and passions is inspirational.  Design blogs are also a great source for exploring creativity!

What’s your design process like?  

My design process generally begins with a problem, whether that’s found through research, talking to others, or during day to day activities where I question if I can redesign something to be made better.  I then try to learn as much as I can about the problem area, and research solutions that may currently exist. Next, the concept exploration phase works best for me when sitting in a quiet room and letting my mind explore different scenarios while jotting down and roughly sketching key aspects. The idea is then refined, and the form, function and beauty of the product are explored through sketching and 3D modeling. The concept is then prototyped and design iterations are made with feedback recorded along the way until the project has been perfected. 

What’s your favorite design project that you’ve worked on?

My favorite project I’ve worked on so far has been an assistive chair for the aging population. 

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A chair built for users having trouble with sitting and standing

One of the most common difficulties for the elderly is their inability to sit and stand with comfort and confidence. The chair is designed to help with this problem through the use of angled armrests and an assistive spring seat. When sitting, the user’s weight loads a gas spring located under the seat with potential energy and slowly eases them into the chair. This eliminates the feeling of falling while sitting. The spring unloads when standing to give the user the extra assistive force needed to get upright. Additionally, the angled armrests encourage the user to lean forward, allowing them to roll their weight forward. To prevent sedentary sitting, the chair takes use of the assistive spring by allowing a bouncing motion, similar to the soothing motion much loved from rocking chairs. 

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A section cut of the chair in use shows how the seat pivots to assist the user in sitting and standing.

This was one of my favorite projects because it involved a large amount of research, as well as constructing a working prototype. A fully adjustable chair was constructed for anthropometric studies and tested on people ranging in size. I then 3D modeled a prototype of the chair, which was followed as an instruction manual when constructing a fully functional prototype. 

Please tell us about the Connected Future Competition.  What piqued your interest in connected devices and encouraged you to participate?

As an industrial design student, our curriculum is heavily focused on designing consumer products. Objects that fall into the category of IoT, or the Internet of Things, have become very popular due to their ability to collect and exchange data between a network of objects and be used to gain insight, take an action, or make a needed change. The Connected Future Competition challenged students to create a concept for a connected consumer product that would help to improve lives, save money, make us healthier, and create a better world. 

Describe your winning design from the Connected Future Competition.  Why did you decide to design this?  What were some of the challenges you faced in the process?  How did using Fusion 360 help you in your design process?

I created a concept for a smart toothbrush system designed to help improve your dental habits called the SoftStroke 360°. I came up with the concept originally when researching methods to prevent dental cavities and gum disease. Over-brushing teeth with too much pressure is a common occurrence and leads to gum recession and the scratching of tooth enamel. The SoftStroke 360° is ergonomically designed to be held by your fingertips, encouraging a finer, controlled, and gentler brushing. The 360 degree bristle head is molded from medical grade silicone as one piece, eliminating the crevices which may harbor bacterial and viral pathogens. The toothbrush also connects to a smartphone App to record important brushing information and assure proper brushing. The brush is able to learn the user’s sleeping and brushing schedule, and will send a phone notification if a skipped brushing session is detected. The brush also calibrates to the mapping of a user’s mouth using a combination of smart sensors and shows where you have brushed and where you have missed through a visual diagram. 

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SoftStroke 360°- an electric toothbrush designed to improve your dental habits.

It was interesting to venture away from the typical shape of a toothbrush and find an ergonomic form through iterations of carved foam models. It was important for the shape to be intuitive to the hand, especially since we are all so accustomed to using a cylindrical toothbrush with a hammer like grip. Fusion 360 enabled me to easily manipulate the form into an aesthetic model that matched the ergonomics of my final foam model. I love Fusion 360’s rendering cloud because it allows me to simultaneously create high quality images along the way without interrupting my workflow. 

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A series of study models created from carved foam.

Are there any other connected devices you want to design?

I’m currently working on bringing a simple product to market that I have designed, and am now in the manufacturing stage. Once finished, hopefully I will have gained enough knowledge and experience to make this concept or others like it a reality.

What advice would you give to other students interested in 3D design?

Take every opportunity you can to learn new things and get experience. 3D design is a field that is always changing, with new products being released and updated constantly. Explore design resources to see what others are working on, and gain inspiration from their stories. Don’t be afraid to share your own ideas; listening to feedback and criticism is important for successful design. Also take the time to identify what you struggle with, and improve on it!

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Two ergonomically shaped handles joined by a high contrast black rope. Lathed wood beads suspended in the center allow for back/shoulder massaging.