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Aid Ally

An Augmented Reality solution for Humanitarian Aid

Disaster & Humanitarian Aid

Natural disasters affect 101 million people and claim 68,000 lives per year. In addition, over 90% of deaths due to natural disasters occur in low-income countries.

Throughout this project, my group and I in Harvard's Master of Design Engineering program were devoted to addresses the challenges that occur in humanitarian aid after a natural disaster. 

We partnered with FieldReady, a global non-profit organization working in disaster relief and preparedness. Together, we created Aid Ally, ​an app dedicated to providing Augmented Reality instructions made of locally sourced materials to fill the limitations of humanitarian aid in low-resource areas. As a use-case, we focussed on hands-free crutches.


Product Designer


Functional physical & digital prototype


October - December 2023

Challenges in response implementation

in low-income countries, between 60-80% of international aid is spent on logistics following a disaster such as an earthquake, and international aid leaves after 6 weeks of support. 

One of the biggest struggles after a disaster is access to medical devices. It is expensive, there is not enough medical care, and people who are disabled lose the ability to return to work.


Months of recovery with limited coordination

When looking at the 2010 Haiti Earthquake as an example, it can take months to receive any aid. As our team looked to understand the challenges in Humanitarian aid further, we brainstormed ways to intervene on Days 5 - Week 7.

The Disaster Relief Supply Chain today

Today, organization among international and local aid is cumbersome. There are multiple logistics at hand, and when wifi and service i at a low, it's different to coordinate among stakeholders.


The future of humanitarian aid

FieldReady is a a global non-profit organization working in disaster relief and preparedness.

They aim to meet humanitarian needs by transforming logistics through technology, innovative design and engaging people in new ways.


With use of 3D printers and Mobile Makerspaces, FieldReady has been boosting the technical skills of the local communities.


Meet John!

XR Foundation

Our AR app used XR Subsystems to form the technical foundation. The display manages how AR content is rendered on a device, integrating virtual objects with the live camera feed.

The input handles user interactions with the AR environment, translating touch gestures into actions within the app. The camera controls the device camera's AR capabilities, like tracking movement and understanding spatial orientation.

AR Backend

Object detection

The ARKit scanner is developed using frameworks and API provided by Apple. This is used to scan the real world object that we want to detect.

During the scanning process, a .arobject file is created, which contains the spatial features essential for recognition. This process typically involves compiling multiple scans to ensure the object is detectable from various perspectives.

Object detection framework

Object detection framework

Why an AR solution for hands-free crutches?

Orthopedic injuries are the most frequent after natural disasters, especially after earthquakes. 66% of orthopedic injuries are fractures. Foot and ankle fractures are the 3rd most common. Recovery takes months. Traditional crutches introduce an extra temporary hand disability when moving around.

As we were thinking of an intervention for this problem space, we followed these 4 key design principles:

1. Any materials need to be locally sourced
2. Products should be easy to assemble and repair
3. Any mobility device should be ergonomic
4. The intervention needs to be low-cost and scalable

Prototyping the hands-free crutch

Based on the commercial precedents for hands-free crutches (the iWalk and Freedom Leg), we followed 5 primary design princepals in 

With each iterations, we considered the scale of information, and how to best account for concealing our data scraping process. We looked to P5 and D3 for interactive visualizations.

The chronology of the prototypes in the x-axis; the fidelity of the prototype in the y-axis.

Prototype analysis


Aid Ally dedicated to providing assembly Augmented Reality instructions for disaster relief and preparedness products made of locally sourced materials to fill the limitations of humanitarian aid in low-resource areas.

Our solution creates 80% less back and forth between Field ready and local manufacturing. Additionally, Aid Ally substantially increases the rate of completion of assembly by manufacturers

Design decision breakdown:

Locally sourced:

“After a cyclone, resources are limited and the infrastructure is destroyed.”

Ease of repair:

“With high illiteracy rates, it’s essential that instructions are visual.”


“People must be comfortable as they recover from a fracture.”

Low cost and scalable:

“There is no ’one-size fits all’ across global communities.”


The future of humanitarian aid

A natural disaster can take many forms: earthquakes, drought, floods, tsunami or conflict. They often strike without warning and almost always disproportionately affect people with disabilities.

For people affected, these events are traumatic. The months following an emergency are often as dangerous as the disaster itself as communities face a long journey to recover and rebuild.

Through our project, we hope to shed light on these issues, organizations like Fieldready and re-imagine the process of humanitarian aid.

Future considerations

As we look into the future, we look to continue building our relationship with FieldReady and refine our AR and physical design. 


Identifying limitations in the hands-free crutch:

Max Princepal Stress, Von Mises Stress, shows shear strains on brace mounting plates. Maximum strains during single leg stance predicted to be:2000-3000 μstrain. ​Max von Mises stress during loading response on lower shafts around 270 MPa

AR App Improvements:

In future iterations, we will consider the disparate availability of Internet in low-income countries to be able to use the app

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