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A shared project platform for people with autism

Open COmeta

12 May 2023 — 3 minutes read

After a decade-long experience, the COmeta Metadesign Lab launches Open COmeta, an open-source platform that aims to create a collaborative community whose members, by sharing or improving projects on the platform, are capable of generating a positive and real impact on the lives of people with autism.

The Open COmeta project stems from the decade-long experience of the COmeta Metaproject Lab, which is a second-year course in Product Design at the School of Design of Politecnico di Milano.

The course, a collaboration between Fondazione Trentina per l’Autismo, and Professors Giuliano Simonelli and Venanzio Arquilla, aims to sensitize students to the social usefulness of design with a focus on autism, and it involves associations, psychologists, and trainers to provide the young designers with adequate knowledge to face the pathology, which is highly complex.

Over the years, the challenge has grown, and other important organizations have joined, including Abilitiamo, L’Abilità, La nostra Famiglia, Fratenità e Amicizia, Fondazione Genitori per l'Autismo, Fabrizio Filzi di Milano (complete list), leading to an enrichment of the teaching team as well, which now sees the involvement of Professors Davide Genco, Fabio Guaricci with the support of Federica Caruso.

Projects designed by the students of the COmeta Metaproject Lab

COmeta aims to develop product concepts that improve the quality of life of people with autism, and the more than one hundred forty projects developed over the years show that there are a lot of opportunities that can have a targeted and positive impact on the daily lives of people with autism.

The idea of the Open COmeta platform stems from the desire to give value to the significant amount of developed projects, making them accessible to interested companies and associations and expanding the still little explored and often inaccessible Design-Autism field.

The student projects represent the starting point, but Open COmeta will be open to anyone who wants to contribute with ideas and projects to improve the quality of life of people with autism.

The intent is to create a reference community on the autism topic, a space to share ideas, projects, and opinions, a knowledge and dissemination network that starts from education but extends to anyone who has a valid idea on the topic, relying on the past experience of partners and experts to evaluate the actual worth of the shared ideas.

For this reason, the platform is developed in an Open Source logic, based on a system of values that celebrate open exchange, collective participation, transparency, and community development without discrimination. The projects on Open COmeta will be accessible and replicable, providing support materials for the realization of products and using rapid prototyping methods. Above all, all members of the community will have the opportunity to modify and/or improve the proposed ideas, adding value to the initial project.

Open COmeta homepage

In the perspective of continuous dialogue with experts but especially with users, who are at the center of the project, the platform was tested with people with autism and caregivers to validate the interactions and verify the site's usability in relation to their needs during the development phase.
The portal design phase actively involved a group of 8 voluntary students (Alessandra Cacciola, Matilde Molinari, Marco Suigo, Marta Marino, Olivia Segato, Sebastian Stoppa, Martina Sciamanna, Bianca Reale) who contributed to the concept's realization with CoDesign activities.

Likewise, the Inclusive Hackathon Open COmeta was promoted as an extracurricular activity that involved 30 students interested in contributing to the theme of autism, called upon to redesign and implement, in an "Open" key, products chosen from the concepts of the COmeta Lab that will populate the platform during the first phase of the website's release.

Launch of the Inclusive Hackathon Open COmeta

The final event of this initiative was held on May 10th, where participants presented to teachers and experts the prototypes developed during a month of activities. The next step will be to share them with the autistic community and test the ideas, to validate and improve the products with the users.

Final event of the Inclusive Hackathon with the presentation of the final prototypes. Photo credit: Martino Zinzone

The project is open to dialogue with other operators working on the theme, as well as to entities involved in the world of digital manufacturing. In this regard, thanks to Fab Lab Makeinprogress and PoliFactory for their support in the activities and prototyping of the projects of the Inclusive Hackathon Open COmeta.

Founding Partners
Dipartimento di Design, Politecnico di Milano
Fondazione Trentina per l’Autismo

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