'Connection' with a baby

International SmartHealth Lab

BOBO Technology Ltd.

(Hangzhou, China)

Product concept design for fetus heartbeat detection and monitoring in Pregnancy care

International SmartHealth Lab, BOBO Technology Ltd. (ISHL) works in the area of ‘smart’ wearables for adult heart rate monitoring by using the pressure sensor technology.


The goal of our collaboration was to explore the possibility to use the pressure sensor technology in Pregnancy сare. The focus of my work was to come up with concepts for a product that can be used by pregnant women to monitor baby’s heartbeat in home based context, and to explore different ways of representation and visualization of real data.

The first step was to explore previous studies and already existing solutions for ‘at home’ fetal heartbeat monitoring. As the second step, a thorough User research was conducted with pregnant women via interviews and an online survey to explore their pregnancy routine, and, more importantly, to understand their emotions, thoughts and feelings during their pregnancy. The findings of these responses show that pregnant women really value being able to feel a connection’ with a baby by knowing that the baby is doing well. In that case baby’s heartbeat is actually the best ‘sign of life’ for the expectant moms and dads who wish to bond with their unborn baby, and also for the rest of the family members who is also interested ‘how is it going with the baby?’


The initial purpose of the design project was to meet a design challenge with the question: How the product should look like, that based on baby’s heartbeat will give the feelings of the emotional bonding between an unborn baby and a mom (and preferably the rest of a family)?

Design of a tangible interface for pregnant women that allow them to feel a 'connection' with their unborn baby based on the baby's heartbeat

Design statement

Concept and prototyping of the INPUT

A concept named ‘Smart’ maternity pillows was created based on some of the existing maternity pillows of different shapes. This was a concept of a product (i.e., INPUT), which by using the pressure sensor embedded inside can ‘read’ baby’s heartbeat when pregnant women use it while resting and relaxing at home.

Pilot tests

The first pilot tests in China with the sensor and with the prototypes of the pillows with pregnant women showed that it is possible to specifically extract fetal heartbeat from raw data collected by the sensor.

Concepts and prototyping of the OUTPUT

Several concepts, such as ‘Smart’ bracelet, ‘Creature’ on a phone (Visualization on a mobile phone) and ‘Live’ toy, were created as potential options for developing a second product (i.e., OUTPUT) that could visualize and represent the baby’s heartbeat real data. First prototypes of the mentioned concepts were built with using fake data at the early stages of the Concepts development.

Online User tests

To gain comprehensive understanding if potential users would actually like the ideas, Online User tests were conducted with international pregnant women and also women who had just delivered their baby (in total 49 women from 15 countries were involved). In the tests all concepts were shown in a form of a video and the users were asked to give their feedback about the ideas.

The results show that the main idea of making existing maternity pillows ‘smart’ by embedding the pressure sensor inside for baby’s heartbeat monitoring looks quite attractive for the potential users. The idea‘Creature’ on a phone (Visualization on a mobile phone) seems more promising for representation and visualization of the real data.


“Awesome idea to use pillows! It's very necessary for a pregnant woman. But the greatest here that using the pillow you can not only rest, but also get a heartbeat of your baby! Very interesting!”

- Participant 1 - 


“As about visualization I prefer a mobile phone. Mobile phone is always with me and no needed to buy and carry new devices”

- Participant 2 - 

Future development

Currently ISHL took responsibility for conducting long-term technical tests with larger number of pregnant women in different stages of pregnancy with the prototypes. Results of these tests will show actual possibilities to turn the concepts into a real product for the market.

My contribution: the whole project was my individual work

In collaboration with: Biyong Zhang, Jun Hu