Metaphysiks — a startup active in the field of health and well-being
Metaphysiks, collaborated with a designer at the beginning of its product’s industrialization phase. A very positive and learning experience that helped the company save a lot of time.
Founded in 2019, Metaphysiks Engineering SA is a spinoff merging the expertise of the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab & the Robotic Systems Lab at EPFL.
The startup builds silicon-touch, “haptic” devices that can stimulate a sense of touch through vibrations and changes in pressure and temperature. STill is Metaphysiks’ first product. It combines cutting edge technology with neuroscience to help recover or enhance well-being. It offers users multi-sensory experiences by immersing the human mind and body into the digital world to improve sleep, relaxation and meditation.
“You really believe you are by the sea or lake. Hearing the sound of the waves. Feeling the water touching your skin. In addition, an expert guides you through the sensations you are experiencing. Everything the expert says happens under your feet, making the practice much more effective “, explains Simon Gallo, co-founder of Metaphysiks and postdoc with EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute.
The importance of design and aesthetics
For Simon Gallo the design in the development of STill was of critical importance. “It is essential to develop a product that makes users want to test it. It must inspire confidence at first glance and the story must be told directly through its design,” he stresses.
The tests of the first prototypes, with about 300 people, helped the team realize the importance of integrating design as quickly as possible in the development of the product. “Our first prototype consisted of a very simple, square black box “, says Simon Gallo. “When we started testing, more than once users looked at the prototype and were hesitant to put their feet on it,” he recalls.
Thanks to Enabled By Design, the Metaphysiks team had the opportunity to collaborate with the designer Sumegha Mantri. “This collaboration came at an opportune moment, as we were in the industrialization phase. We were able to integrate Sumegha’s work into the process and adapt our devices accordingly”.
The challenges that Mantri had to face were diverse. “Our product is intended for use in the health and wellness sector, whether in SPAs or clinics. It was therefore necessary to develop an aesthetic that corresponds to these environments. We explored materials such as wood, but the technological side was getting lost and the product looked like a classic SPA tool, which we had to avoid at all costs”. As well, the shape and height of the platform had to be considered.
“Our communication equipment is now much more solid”.
According to Gallo, start-ups tend to underestimate the importance of design. Especially in a B to C configuration. “We have always considered design to be critical, but we underestimated the time it would take and the need to integrate it as early as possible in the product development process”, he says.
“Thanks to our work with Sumegha and other designers we were able to develop a product that customers want to use and professionals want to show in clinics and SPAs. When we meet potential customers with our latest prototype, they can see that we’ve been working on it for a long time and that the design is part of the well-being experience”, he adds. “We also worked hard on designing the branding and communication material, which is now much stronger.” In addition, the team collaborated with the EPFL + ECAL Lab to develop the App that comes with STill. All these developments in design have accelerated the time to market.
Today Metaphysiks is in discussion with several clinics and hotels to conduct the next round of tests. “We will start testing STill by the end of the year. Patients testing will take about six months, but we expect that after two months we will already have enough feedback to finalize the design and launch the next series of devices.”
At the same time the startup is looking for funding. “We aim to close the fundraising campaign in the course of next year to step up the pace.”
This project was supported by the service Design and Prototyping of the Startup Unit EPFL