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Make it Humane

The tactile brick made by NIKE grind can transform cities from being modern to being humane as well!

Photo of Tony Liu

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You walk to the subway station and turn to step down the stairs. You pull out the MTA Metrocard from a wallet and swipe it through the slot. You pass the gate after you hear a beep and keep moving to the platform. Perfect! A Manhattan-bound express is just arriving so that you can chill and enjoy an Old Fashioned in a bar in East Village before your friends come. This is the everyday life of New Yorkers. These daily moments come as naturally to them as breathing and they can perform these routines even with their eyes closed.

But no, for people who really live in darkness, doing these "routine" tasks are quite challenging. The truth is that the stations have never been designed for blind/visually impaired people. While you may think to fall onto the tracks is the biggest hazard for blind/visually impaired people navigating subway stations, the truth is it is difficult for blind people to even reach that stage. They first have to figure out how to step down the stairs. Then they have to figure out where the card slot to swipe their cards is. After passing through the gate, they have to be in the right direction and walk cautiously to the platform. There is actually a very low probability for them to move close enough to the edge to fall off the platform.

For most blind people, taking a subway is like throwing themselves into the Hunger Games. The subway is a concrete jungle whose design doesn't serve them at all. The streets are congested with hundreds of people always in a hurry to be somewhere. However, the tactile brick made by NIKE Grind could make the urban design of New York City more humane now. A well-designed tactile brick and paving can improve present obsolete systems to create a more inclusive and universal access to guide blind/visually impaired people on a city tour. Our vision is to have the tactile brick installed at all possible public spaces so that a blind/visually impaired person can commute with ease and full independence! Be it metros, libraries, parks, courthouses, grocery stores, and many more. 

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

NYU, Design Thinking, Team [Tea-M]

Which Nike Grind materials will your idea utilize?

  • Rubber Outsoles
  • Rubber Flashings
  • Rubber Granulate
  • EVA Foam Sheets & Blocks

How specifically will these materials be incorporated into your solution?

The tactile bricks can be made by the rubber granulate and EVA. The idea is to make tactile brick portable, and easier to install and remove or for a temporary usage in public spaces (like an exhibition in a museum). In collaboration with Smart Tiles, the lower surface of the tactile brick will have a peel-and-stick adhesive substrate interface between itself and the ground.
Using rubber granulate should make the tactile brick resistant to wear and tear since thousands of people will be stepping on it every day. The tactile brick has two types of pattern, rows/stripes, and flat-topped circular blisters. Since NIKE had a product like Walkway surface, it should be easier to achieve mass production of the blind brick by using the compressive molding or cutting a sheet by the machine. Moreover, because this product is designed for visually impaired people, the patterns should be simple enough for straight guides helping lower the cost of production.

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

*1st Prototype: Exchanged ideas and made prototypes of two patterns of tactile brick by cardboard and shredding rubber.
*2nd Prototype: Using foam sheet and a plastic sheet to simulate the real brick

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing
  • Prototyping

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

The following are the customer segments we believe will benefit from having a tactile brick pavement.
1. City Administration
2. Construction Companies
3. Interior Designers
4. Public and Private Hospitals
5. Architects
6. Public and Private Schools
7. Service/Rehabilitation Centers for Blind/Impaired People
And this product will obviously benefit the blind/visually impaired people (and even other sighted people to make the commute in the city easier and intuitive)

How will you scale your idea? Please describe in detail your plan to scale your concept.

1. The Tactile Brick should not have a problem with compatibility in the present market, regardless of the price or quality. (rubber brick 300*300*25mm costs 1pcs / 2-10 USD in the market)
2. We envision the tactile brick to have a solid holding in establishments catering towards training and rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired people. During our interviewing process, we sensed a strong need and positivity towards the tactile brick.
3. Right now, the benefits of this brick we see are high enough to overcome obstacles thrown at it.

How is your idea innovative?

Our product is innovative because it serves a two-fold benefit--serving the environment and helping a social need. Using NIKE Grind towards creating a waste-free economy and providing a portable and easy product to make the lives of people easier! Because isn't innovation about filling the gaps!

What inspired this idea?

Three months ago, I saw an old blind man rambling in the station. Many people offered to give him a hand. But this warm story turned into a cruel truth when I suddenly realized in a history with more than a hundred year, the development of this public service was never designed for the blind people!

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

We are NYU MOT students and our team is a mixed batch coming from different cultural and academic backgrounds with varying skill set and interests. We have members from China, India, Mexico. I am from Taiwan with a material science background.

In what city are you located?

New York City

In what country are you located?


What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

New York University, Tandon School of Engineering

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

We interviewed people at VISIONS, a training and rehabilitation center for the blind and visually impaired people. We heard them out and found there was so much need of citywide facilities to help them travel and be confident. We genuinely want to make a difference and push this product out in the market. Making use of our engineering background to apply advanced technologies such as bluetooth, electrical circuits, RFID, GPS etc on the design to even further refine the product!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Tony Liu and team. Thank you for this update. I'm sure Lauren Ito  will love these. Great job on the prototypes. Congratulations on getting users' feedback. It's great also to know that the direction of Vision is interested in partnering with you and doing a pilot of the tiles in their space. Looking forward to seeing this idea evolve and impact visually impaired people's life.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Tony Liu Sanya Ambegaokar Joselo @Ermin Li @Shengnan Zhang I went this week to see an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and saw a project that was the perfect complement of your idea: http://www.tactilecity And the project is based in NY!Lauren Ito adding you I'm sure you'll find this interesting.

Photo of Tony Liu

Anne-Laure Fayard Awesome, I think I will visit the museum for this next week, and to see if anyone wanna come together. Thank you!!!

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