Presence promotes the baby’s emotional and neurological development, and facilitates parental bonding.

Presence brings the “presence” of the mother in to the incubator with sound, scent, tactile experience and sensory motor stimulation. 

Bachelor Thesis Project, 10 weeksBachelor Thesis Project, 10 week

this project vas developed in collaboration with nurses and parents in a neonatal care at Umeå Hospital.

Presence was awarder the Michael Treschow Scholarship, awarded annually by SVID, (Swedish Industrial Design)

and the Brita-Stina Nordenstedt's Donation, awarded by Umeå University 


I was also interviewed in Radio P4 Västerbotten, and published in Swedish Nurse Union Magazine, Strömstad News and Västerbottenkuriren.


“Project executes boldness, and a huge desire to make a difference"

/Michael Treschow jury    


Project Aim

Today we have a highly advanced medical technology that makes it possible to save children born extremely premature. What we are forgetting though, is the basic sensory, psychological and emotional needs provided in the infant's natural environment (the womb). Providing the pre born with such a stimuli inside the incubator have shown a promising development and recovery capability for the baby.


The aim of the project was to bring the experience for the premature baby in the incubator closer to its natural environment in the womb.



My project takes into account the emotional needs for babies and parents, and also the practical needs for nurses in their daily medical care. My project also reflects on the trust that lies between the nurses and parents in the care of the Prematurely born babies.


Final concept

Parental guide

Presence provides a digital guide for parents about their premature baby. Here parents can understand more about their baby’s emotional needs, development and how they can help their baby through the use of Presence. The guide also works as a remembrance of the time at the hospital. It therefor exist in both digital and printable form.

Close connection to nurses

When leaving hospital the parents still need guidance from nurses. A video call can help the nurse to judge state of both the pre born and parents.


Super hero figure

Presence contains a figure shaped like a superhero. The figure is the baby’s personal friend and can stay with the baby in the incubator. When the family is allowed to leave the hospital they can bring the figure with them.

The figure is made in clinical silicone to fit the high medical standards required of materials being place inside the incubator. The figures ”ears” are shaped like the umbilical cord, the fetus can grip in the womb. This ”gripping behaviour” is an important part of the neurological development and makes the baby calm in the incubator. Legs and arms are shaped like parent’s fingers and tubes the baby is connected to. The texture and softness of the character imitates the umbilical cord.

The superhero's ”cape” is a scent cloth the mother can wear on her skin to collect her scent and put in the incubator with the child.


Presence contains a mattress that is designed to fit today’s incubators. The mattress has built-in speakers at the head end of the incubator. The speakers play the recording of the mother’s voice and heartbeat.

The mattress also reproduces a tactile experience of the heart beat where the child is located, through vibration pads. The mattress has a recess where the superhero can be placed when not in use.


Hand control

The heart beat has three levels of intensity (sound, vibration) that can be adjusted by the hand control. The intensity is based on the daily routines. The nurses can use the intensity to for example wake up the baby before changing of diaper.

The controller also has a timer function to prevent  exhaustion for the pree-borns.

In situations when the child does not survive, there is often comfort for parents to bury the baby together with something so the child does not need to be buried alone, like a teddy bear, preferably something the child has been in physical contact with. Though fabric toys brings an infection risk are they abandoned in the incubator. The superhero can be buried with the baby.



Functional models evaluation

In workshops with groups of nurses I presented functional models placed in an incubator. Together with the nurses we went through their working flow and routines.

The models were then evaluated based on clinical aspects, practical matters, and their abilities to implement record of mother's heartbeat and voice, scent, tactile experience and the infants "gripping behaviour".


Quotes from evaluation with parents.

Form evaluation

After evaluation with nurses I defined the shape and started sketching forms. I then evaluated the sketches with parent's to children born premature.

After evaluation with nurses I defined the shape and started sketching forms. I then evaluated the sketches with parent's to children born premature.

Graduation Exhibition. Photo Radio P4 Västerbotten

Graduation Exhibition. Photo Radio P4 Västerbotten

Graduation Exhibition

Models, poster and sound installation was presented at the Graduation Event Design Talk'14.


Babies born prematurely are deprived of normal sensorimotor stimulation when placed in an artificial environment, the incubator. The aim of this project was to design a series of products that could promote the baby’s emotional and neurological development, and to facilitate parental bonding.

Presence was developed in cooperation with a group of nurses and parents in a neonatal intensive care unit. The products designed in this project has a theoretical basis on the research available today on cognitive and emotional development in children born prematurely.


For full thesis report (Swedish) click the link: