Designing the future of fitness
A durable, high performance controller and wearable that is seamless, ergonomic and rigorously designed and tested for all body shapes and sizes. Despite the flawless exterior, all the hardware has been cleverly designed for disassembly and repair.
Quell is on a mission to revolutionise both the fitness and gaming industries - at the same time. Morrama joined the team to help design and develop the brand’s vision for an immersive fitness gaming platform that burns more calories than a spin class,
The key to the Quell Impact platform is immersion. By immersing consumers in an exciting fantasy world they forget that they are engaging in a legitimate workout. The workout itself is achieved through a resistance based wearable with integrated technology. Starting with an initial MVP Quell was able to communicate this vision to both us and the wider crowdfunding community on Kickstarter, building demand and funding in late 2020. With funding sorted, we began developing the design in three important areas: comfort, inclusivity and future-proofing.
Breaking the product down into the core offering - a wearable, two controllers and a chest module - we started with the wearable.
Across Morrama and Quell’s teams we had a range of body types to work with, but this didn’t go far enough. Pulling data from online averages and seamstress tables we locked in a size scale that enabled us to establish the percentiles we were designing for.
Early mock-ups were little more than a crude entanglement of resistance bands and polyester back supports enabling us to test fit, feeling and comfort. Through rounds of development, and countless iterations the design was simplified to a minimal belt construction that sits just below the chest line; giving us the most anthropometric consistency across body sizes for men and women. The belt utilises the body as an anchor, with users attaching their preferred resistance level at the rear of the belt and making tailored adjustments to account for reach and mobility. With multiple rounds of large scale user testing and observation, we were able to achieve a consistent experience for almost all body types/sizes with three belt sizes.
The controllers offered a contrasting ergonomic challenge. With an early design based on haptic gloves, the more traditional controller was introduced to meet additional game play and navigation requirements. We needed to tread a fine line between accessibility, comfort and expectation - all routing back to ergonomics - whilst aligning with the a standard button function and layout found across Oculus, Playstation and Xbox consoles.
In the first game Quell have developed, Shardfall, a player fights their way through the fantasy-scape to bring peace to the world. As such, the clenched grip from a closed fist was our starting point; we wanted users to securely engage their grip at all times, allowing punches thrown in the game to feel natural and purposeful. Rounds of clay modelling and testing highlighted areas of difference and commonality between varying hand sizes, allowing us to arrive at a singular form for the controller that suited the majority.
Dancing between accessibility and expectation, we began drafting the controllers functionality. Observing grip alterations when reaching for buttons and thumb stick movements, we defined a button configuration that ensured users could interact effortlessly with the controller whilst their brain remained completely immersed within the game world. The result is a form driven, intuitive design with a distinctive aesthetic.
Assembly & Disassembly
We worked closely with our electronics partner to engineer the assembly of the controllers and chest module. The complex surface modelling tested even the most talented members of the team as we sort perfection from every angle. One of the key drivers was achieving a perfect outer surface. However we also wanted to ensure design for disassembly, to enable repair and/or material separation at end-of-life. A typical way to design for disassembly is to plan an arrangement of screws and screw holes, securing the product together but enabling ease of access. These typically go on the back of the product. Quell controllers do not have this luxury, it's a 360 degree product, with no sacrificial faces.
There was only one place to situate these features… under the button plate on the top of the controller. It was perfect; access when needed and no visual compromises required. What followed was a number of frustrating but solvable PCB and component layout headaches, but as a result a user with instructions can access the inner workings of the controller and swap faulty components or fix a drifting thumbstick to maximise the life of the product.
The design for disassembly approach was taken with the charging dock with screw fixings hidden underneath the silicone foot. The chest unit however, has no back face or convenient button plate. With an original intention to ultrasonically weld this together for a seamless aesthetic, we made a last minute decision to compromise the aesthetic to include 4 screw holes so, like the charging dock and controllers, the chest module can also be disassembled.
Materials, Colours & Finishes
A combination of textile, plastics, silicone and metal elements bring a complex CMF challenge. The aesthetic direction was chosen to feel approachable and unisex with careful consideration for use. Whilst we wanted to use responsible materials where possible, the wearable elements needed to be machine washable, flexible, breathable and low-cost enough to achieve an accessible price point. The resistance bands also put the construction under a huge amount of stress in use.
Laser cut elasticated neoprene forms the basis of the belt, with a silicone pattern on the inner face to prevent it slipping down and bonded hypalon details that provide secure adjustable fixing point for the resistance bands. The other end of the resistance bands are clipped to comfortable wrist straps made in a precision laser cut breathable design and attached using soft velcro.