Neljä henkilöä seisoo seinään päin, kahdella on käsi ylhäällä. Seinälle on heijastettu värikkäitä kuvioita.

Inclusion with digital tools

The Living Lab project (Sote Hyte Living Lab – Co-creation in North Karelia) worked together with Aistikanava, a company based in Outokumpu, to organise a two-week exper­iment for the Magic Mirror equipment in spring 2023.  During the first week, the equipment was tested in Joensuu in Validia, a service provider of sheltered housing under the Act on Disability Services and Assis­tance. Clients at the day centre were able to try the Magic Mirror on several days and give valuable user feedback. Then during the second week, people involved with the Living Lab project and a number of inter­ested students and teachers in the social and health care sector in Karelia and Riveria had the chance to try out the Magic Mirror at several different occasions in day centre facil­ities and on the Karelia University of Applied Sciences campus.

Multi­sensory gaming for groups

To plan the Living Lab cooper­ation, we met with the forepersons from Validia for the first time in December 2022. At that time, we initially discussed doing a small-scale technology exper­iment to support the functional capacity of clients in a genuine client environment. Negoti­a­tions continued throughout the spring while we were looking for suitable technology for the Living Lab experiment.

At the beginning of April, we visited the Living Lab project team at the facil­ities of Aistikanava in Outokumpu with entre­preneur Esko Vihava, and we were intro­duced to a solution called Magic Mirror. The Magic Mirror™ uses creative and multi­sensory gaming to not only develop physical engagement but also inter­action and commu­ni­cation skills. It aims to find an acces­sible way for everyone to partic­ipate in games. The equipment accom­mo­dates 1 to 6 players at one time. No separate controllers are needed for playing; instead everyone can partic­ipate equally in the activ­ities by using their body or different parts of it. However, the equipment also enables using gaze, speech, switches, touch, game controllers or mouse and keyboard when necessary. For more infor­mation on the Magic Mirror, see the Aistikanava website.

During our intro­duction visit, we noted that the Magic Mirror appli­ca­tions let partic­i­pants with different levels of functional capacity work together and play in different environ­ments. We got excited about the idea of testing the Magic Mirror with clients at a day centre facility.  With the Aistikanava entre­preneur also inter­ested in working with us, we started planning the actual experiment.

Lattialla seinän edessä kulmiomainen laite. Seinään heijastettuna värikkäitä kuvioita.
Image 1. The Magic Mirror equipment set weighs about 70 kg with transport boxes and all. It can be easily moved from one place to another and needs a light-coloured wall surface of about 3×3 metres for projecting the software.

From planning to practical imple­men­tation at a quick pace

Imple­menting a technology exper­iment in a genuine operating environment with end-user clients requires careful planning. On the other hand, the planning stage itself is not meant to take up an excessive amount of anyone’s time or be a hugely lengthy process, so that there will be enough time for the imple­men­tation and evalu­ation of the exper­iment as well. First of all, we agreed with the day centre instructor on the storage of equipment, sched­uling the exper­iment and informing the clients about the exper­iment. In the planning process, we used the exper­iment plan template used in the VaPa project, a collab­o­rative project of Karelia University of Applied Sciences and the Central Karelia Devel­opment Company KETI that concluded in spring 2023. The template had been prepared with the help of the Government’s guide for supporting exper­i­ments (Opas kokeilujen tukijalle 2019) and the Associ­ation of Finnish Local and Regional Author­ities’ starting guide for exper­i­ments (Kokeilijan start­ti­paketti 2017). We used the exper­iment plan template to prepare shared goals with the day centre instructor.

We set the goal of enabling instructors and clients to famil­iarise themselves with the new technology. From the instructor’s perspective, the aim was to gain practical experience of using the technology as part of maintaining clients’ functional capacity. Another aim was to test whether the Magic Mirror intro­duces meaningful and different kinds of activ­ities to the day centre and to see how it facil­i­tates social situa­tions in a group.

Seinälle heijastettu näyttökuva, jossa kaksi henkilöä seisoo rinnakkain ja nauraa.
Image 2. Day centre instructor Jonna Tolppanen and Project Specialist Suvi Leppänen as test clients. It is important to first test new techno­logical solutions for yourself to get a feel how a device works from the user’s perspective.

In the last week of April, we tested the Magic Mirror during the day centre group activ­ities at Validia on four weekdays for about one hour at a time. Eight of the day centre clients were brave enough to test the equipment in practice. There were a total of about twenty intro­duction visits during the week. Some clients did not neces­sarily partic­ipate in actually using the equipment, but they were still involved by following along what others were doing. Different contents were tested in various ways. The most popular content ended up being functional games where the players saw themselves within the game world. One client commented: “it was better when you could see yourself in the game world, because it made it easier to know where your arms or legs were”. They said it felt like looking in the mirror. One day, we tested some relaxing content, and people thought it was a pleasant alter­native to other options like music.

Clients involved in the exper­iment gave the following feedback: “Different kinds of exercise and new activ­ities”. One said that “we could use this from time to time”. Together with the testers, we also found that it was possible to use the equipment while in a wheel­chair, even if you could not move your body much otherwise. Another comment was that “the best programs were the ones where you have to do something (move or reach for something with your arms or legs)”.

We also received feedback on ideas for devel­oping the Magic Mirror equipment. From the perspective of the day centre instructor, the Magic Mirror allows clients do things that are pleasant and different. Testing the technology was also rewarding and the clients enjoyed the exper­iment week. The imple­men­tation of the exper­iment also benefited from the technology being easy to use. The Magic Mirror brought repet­itive movement and activ­ities to the day centre that people would not usually do, for example if they were in a wheel­chair. It was also inter­esting to see how the Magic Mirror exper­iment generated pleasant conver­sation when the equipment was being used. This means that solutions such as the Magic Mirror could offer commu­nality and increase inter­action through different group activities.

At the end of the exper­iment week, we organised a workshop for working life partners at the premises of the Validia day centre. Five people joined in as collab­o­rative working life partners.  They got to hear clients tell about their experi­ences of using the equipment and the obser­va­tions made by the instructor. Everyone also had the oppor­tunity to try out the equipment themselves. The partic­i­pants were not familiar with the equipment, so exper­i­menting with the new technology was felt to be useful. During the workshop, partic­i­pants considered the possi­bil­ities of the Magic Mirror for different target groups and operating environ­ments. One clear advantage of the Magic Mirror is that it is suitable for people with different functional capacity and for people of very different ages, children and older people alike. Setting up the Magic Mirror and moving it around is relatively easy, which makes it easy to move from one unit to another.

Campus week saw a steady stream of testers

The Magic Mirror was tested on three different days on the Karelia University of Applied Sciences campus at the beginning of May.  We organised a pop-up event where anyone could stop by at any time or stay for a while. There were a total of 104 partic­i­pants who were mainly students and teachers in the social and health care sector at Karelia and Riveria. Some inter­na­tional students also partic­i­pated, so the project staff had the oppor­tunity to practise instructing the use of the equipment in English.

Kuvan etualalla henkilön kädessä tablettitietokone. Taustalla seinään heijastettuna ihmishahmo
Image 3. The Magic Mirror is controlled with a separate tablet or computer keyboard. The program itself is very easy to use.

Feedback was collected with a QR code from the partic­i­pants at the working life partners’ workshop and the Karelia exper­iment week. The survey received 39 responses. We were very curious about how and where the partic­i­pants had heard about the Magic Mirror exper­iment. Most of the working life partners, Karelia’s personnel and Riveria’s teachers had either received an email about it or heard about it from someone else. The students at both educa­tional insti­tu­tions said that they had heard about it from their teachers, and they did mostly come to learn about the equipment during their classes.

Only two people who gave feedback on the exper­i­ments had previous experience or knowledge of the Magic Mirror. The majority of the visitors felt that the exper­iment was useful and that it is important to have oppor­tu­nities to learn about different social and health care technologies in a versatile way. The majority hoped the exper­iment would take place at a time that fit their schedules, during classes or as part of everyday work with clients.

Some students were inspired to check out the exper­iment after seeing an adver­tisement posted on the wall at the campus, which shows the students’ initiative and genuine interest in using new technologies in the social and health care sector. This led us to think that perhaps we could have more of these kinds of intro­duc­tions to technology and testing oppor­tu­nities on campus in the future, even outside classes. Similar events could bring together social and health care students who are partic­u­larly inter­ested in technology and who might be inter­ested in joining the Living Lab activ­ities, for example.

Testers’ comments from the campus week:

“A fun and functional innovation!”

“Got sweaty and had fun”

“Very good I like it”

“These Living Lab activ­ities are so wonderful, it’s great to have an oppor­tunity to learn about different technologies!”

Seinälle heijastettu näyttö, jossa kirkkaan värisiä kuvia maalattuna
Image 4. The Magic Mirror inspires people to play. Results from a painting session by social services students.

What did we learn from the Magic Mirror experiment?

In December 2022, we published an article titled Living Lab – Possi­bil­ities for co-creation in North Karelia, where we explained what the Living Lab operating model was about. During the spring of 2023, we have come up with ideas on what Living Lab activ­ities in Karelia mean in practice for the various actors involved in the project, such as local social welfare and health care businesses and organ­i­sa­tions and our other partners in the region as a whole. In practice, the Magic Mirror exper­iment done in cooper­ation with Validia and Aistikanava is our first larger co-creation process and technology exper­iment. We started planning the process already at the beginning of the year by looking for partners. As we did not have an existing cooper­ation network from business and working life at the time, this stage naturally took a while. After we found suitable partners, the planning progressed quite rapidly.

We organised a joint feedback discussion event a few weeks after the exper­iment. Aistikanava entre­preneur Esko Vihava thought that the planning and imple­men­tation process went smoothly. Despite the tight schedule, the practical side of things was coordi­nated well. Day centre instructor Jonna Tolppanen said that the exper­iment was a nice thing as a whole. She did not find the exper­iment stressful because there were people offering guidance and user support for the technology the whole time. Getting infor­mation out about the exper­iment at an earlier time would have been good, even though we managed to make it work on a tight schedule. So we cannot emphasise the impor­tance of commu­ni­cation enough, which is a good lesson learned.

Initially we also meant to involve social and health care students in Karelia and Riveria so that they could practise using the equipment and guiding end-user clients. We had thought that we could fit five students to partic­ipate in the client guidance situa­tions at one time, but after­wards, consid­ering the size of the day centre, about 2 to 3 students would have been more optimal. Finally, we concluded that getting students involved would have required a longer process, so we were not able to bring students and end users together this time.

With regard to the future, however, we now have good ideas on how to do the exper­iment in cooper­ation with students. It is important for students to be intro­duced to different solutions that are already in use or being planned for the social and health care sector. This should happen already during their studies, both at the upper secondary level and at univer­sities of applied sciences, by intro­ducing solutions that are as diverse as possible. Techno­logical exper­i­ments could offer more oppor­tu­nities for practising actual guidance situa­tions and create a better under­standing of how to utilise technology in social and health care client work.

It was apparent from the students’ comments that they liked having new oppor­tu­nities to learn about technology. They also appre­ciated having some variety between long lectures by getting some exercise and exper­i­menting with technology, so it could be appro­priate for recess activ­ities. In addition, the students felt that there needs to be more oppor­tu­nities for being intro­duced to technology, as it may not be possible to learn about or exper­iment with technology out in the field in a way that is versatile enough.

Low-threshold oppor­tu­nities for exper­i­menting with new technology are necessary

From the perspective of the Living Lab project, the exper­iment was a unique learning process. We immedi­ately noticed that it is important that someone is always there to give guidance during the exper­iment and help with using the equipment. It is not enough to set up a new piece of technology in a corner somewhere. In addition to testing the actual technology, it is important to engage in dialogue with the people learning about the technology on how the solution will be adapted to different target groups and users. Of course, we still need to have dialogue from different perspec­tives with clients, social and health care profes­sionals, teachers and students. The perspec­tives of avail­ability and acces­si­bility are perhaps more empha­sised with clients, whereas the perspective of guidance is partic­u­larly central with profes­sionals and students in this sector.

All in all, the exper­iment was successful and reinforced the idea of doing technology exper­i­ments with Living Lab in the future as well. For example, we could use low-threshold pop-up events to visit different parts of the region and offer new experi­ences with digital­i­sation to people of all ages. At the same time, social and health care students could practise guidance situa­tions using new techno­logical solutions. From the perspective of working life partners, exper­i­ments of this type offer different networking oppor­tu­nities and, above all, ideas and input for devel­oping the opera­tions and services of their business or organ­i­sation through techno­logical solutions.


Jaana Kurki, Project Manager, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Suvi Leppänen, Project Specialist, Karelia University of Applied Sciences 

The authors work in the Sote Hyte Living Lab co-creation project in North Karelia



Leppänen, A., Ripatti, H. & Jäppinen, T. 2017. Kokeilijan start­ti­paketti. Associ­ation of Finnish Local and Regional Author­ities. 2 June 2023

Aarninsalo, L., Hokkanen, V., Vesterinen, M. 2019. Kokeilu­luotsi – opas kokeilujen tukijalle. Publi­ca­tions of the Prime Minister’s Office 2019:1. 2 June 2023