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Floorsie™ Elevator Automation

Floorsie™ Elevator Automation

"The Touchless Elevator Assistant"


A design research project focused on tackling the spread of COVID-19 on high touch-volume surfaces. Floorsie is a speech operated robotic arm used to equip traditional elevators for touch less operation for lower disease transmission.

Product Strategy

Product Industrial Design

Brand & Visual Design

The Challenge

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, disease control was highly prioritized via implementation of social distancing and disinfectants on shared surfaces. Visitors, workers and residents of multilevel buildings were thought to be at increased risk of infection through the transmission of respiratory droplets on shared surfaces, particularly elevator panels. Universally, it was thought that elevator buttons are one of the most, if not the most, repeatedly touched surfaces in a multi-level commercial or residential facility and thus may be a major source of disease transmission.

Summary of Results

  • Developed prototype solution for tackling COVID19 transmission in high foot traffic areas throughout the province including elevators in commercial buildings, residential condominiums and hospitals.
  • Led research, industrial design and product development teams to developed world’s first universal voice-activated elevator automation system
  • Led Creative and Art Direction for a holistic visual language across Brand, Product UX/UI Design and communication assets for early adopters and key venture partners
  • Worked with to adhere to guidelines and best practices
  • Secured $30,000 in funding to develop initial prototype for demonstration
  • Communicated product vision, plans and results to key stakeholders- within TSSA local safety authority, investors and customers.
  • Implemented initial prototype utilizing off-the-shelf solutions including 3D printer components, and voice recognition API’s
  • Hired and managed vendor relationships and budgets across both design and product teams for initial prototype deployment.
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& Insights

The strategy to solve this problem in a scalable and universal manner had to consider many factors both from a user experience and integration perspective. The typical elevator user interface is quite simple, but has one critical drawback in the time of a pandemic - it requires physical touch to operate. It was clear that a device was needed to integrate with an existing elevator system, to provide additional functionality in the most seamless, and universal manner. One thing that was for certain is that this device could not rely on touch to operate.


There are many alternative interfaces and modes of operation that have been implemented on various products, below is an analysis of some:

  • Proximity Sensors - although proximity sensors operate in a touchless capacity, it would be complex for users to indicate a particular number simply via proximity switches. Proximity is intended for simple on/off commands as opposed to more complex numerical choices. Furthermore elevators can get quite cramped making it difficult to operate effectively in all circumstances.
  • Mobile App or SMS - an alternative to proximity could potentially be a mobile app or sms service that would receive floor instructions from visitors as they come in the elevator. The challenge with this approach is that users would quickly run into friction points downloading additional apps, or finding the correct number to text. The solution seems infinitely more complex than the status quo.
  • Voice - voice seems like the most logical solution here as numerical instructions are quite easy to say out loud, and easy to process. They don’t seem to present many challenges in a full elevator, and users are already used to speaking their floor number to other elevator passengers.


Integration with existing systems was basically broken down into two potential avenues:

  • Software integration - every elevator has electronics and mainboards that operate the functionality of each elevator task. Creating an integrated device that would interface via some sort of API to the elevator computer could be a seamless way to override the elevator panel. The challenge here is that elevators come in all sorts of models, makes and manufacturers that can create infinitely complex integration challenges - ie. There are no universal solutions for integration.
  • Mechanical integration - elevator panels are essentially a physical user interface that operates on button presses. This is a simple physical interface that has the potential to be automated with robotics. There can be a method of adding a secondary robotic layer on top of the physical buttons in an elevator panel, where each button position can be programmed. A mechanical solution does pose drawbacks in its complexity, moving parts and reliance on another interface to operate, however if done correctly, could pose as a universal solution.


According to the factors above we have concluded that the parameters to a potential solution to the touchless elevator are as follows:

  1. We need an add-on device to existing elevator system that provides additional functionality
  2. The user’s mode of operation would be a voice-enabled interface
  3. The integration used between this device and the elevator would be a mechanical interface to eliminate integration bottlenecks
  4. The elevator interface via elevator panel would still need to be accessible at all times.


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Design & Experience

A reference to Smart Switches

Why not simply create a voice module that integrates with the electronics within the elevator, thereby eliminating the need for mechanical operation? The answer is simple - scalability.

Elevator manufacturers service and warranty many locations and the complexity of overriding electrical, digital, and mechanical systems across multiple products and models would be a logistical challenge. Another aspect of a hard-wired integration should contemplate the impact of serviceability and liability of overriding existing electrical systems within elevators. All of these aspects may lead down a path of complex integrations, warranty liabilities, and safety challenges that ultimately slow down deployment and scalability.

Snap-On Systems

We can address these issues by simply interfacing with existing elevators in an unobstructed way; just push the button. This ‘snap-on’ approach could significantly accelerate scalability across the province no matter the layout, model, or manufacturer of the elevator. It would be a truly universal solution that integrates across the board with a simple installation, operation and maintenance while maintaining the original ‘touch-based’ operation of elevators intact. An example in the home automation industry that closely relates to the design is called ‘SwitchMate’. SwitchMate enables a simple snap-on installation free of any wiring or complex integration with your existing electrical system. Simply snap on the product to an existing switch, and its mechanical interface essentially converts a dumb switch into a smart switch.

Target Persona

Now to closely consider who our customer is, we have to take a step back and see who the potential beneficiaries are of a touchless elevator system:

  1. Visitors and Workers in Hospitals
  2. Visitors and residents in Nursing Homes
  3. Visitors and Residents in Residential Buildings and Condominiums
  4. Visitors and Workers in Commercial Office Buildings

Ultimately none of these beneficiaries are in fact the customer, or decision maker, when it comes to upgrading elevator systems. They are, however, users of the solution. Landlords or Property Managers are ultimately the key gatekeepers to making a decision on elevator upgrades and thus we have to consider their thought process. After more careful consideration, the key aspects a touchless elevator solution would need to address are a quick installation and unobstructive operability of the existing elevator panel.

The Solution

Floorsie is a speech operated robotic arm for equipping traditional elevators for touchless operation. A visitor, employee or resident would simply walk in an elevator to verbally say a command, like a floor number and the arm would press the appropriate button - simple. Floorsie is unobtrusive and doesn't physically cover or replace any aspect of the button panel itself - it simply tucks away allowing the elevator to be operating both in 'touch' or 'touchless' mode as needed. There would be no need to reconfigure any panels or rewire any aspects of the elevator electronics, which makes it easy to install or remove across various elevator manufacturers. The spirit of Floorsie is a solution that could be quickly deployed to a broad base to combat the COVID pandemic with minimal intervention or obstruction - a true snap-on solution. Floorsie is a two module solution:

Floorsie Control Arm

Voice Operated: Each individual elevator requires an independent control arm to be installed on top of the elevator button panel. This module is operated by speech where voice recognition would turn a vocal command into a button press. The above graphic is a working prototype of a control arm built from 3D printer components.

Floorsie Floor Switch

Wave Operated:  Each floor requires a proximity switch to be installed on top of the floor switch. This module is operated by waving above or below the switch to indicate if going up or down via proximity sensor that presses the appropriate button.

Landlords and Property managers would benefit from a simple snap-on solution that is both easy to install and maintain across multiple facilities. The upgrade to touchless elevators would be a benefit that could be a selling feature of the facility to address concerns of reopening high traffic buildings. The upgrade to Floorsie would not impact their existing equipment or elevators at all, and still enable touch-based operation if needed.


The control arm only has one visibly moving component and that was the horizontal arm that would span along the vertical axis. Within it a horizontal axis would carry an actuator switch that would engage with the elevator panel and push buttons. The horizontal arm would also have embedded LED’s to further illuminate the elevator panel should any of the machine components cast shadows. The horizontal arm would have motion detection on a step motor that would detect if a user’s hand was in its way. If so, the arm would quickly retreat back to its original position above the elevator panel. The horizontal arm would swivel 90 degrees counterclockwise to a ‘shipping’ position that would minimize shipping volume. The arm would also require simple installation with 2 anchors either glued or screwed into the elevator panel that would act as anchors for the machine. Electricity would be provided either via rechargeable battery or via 12 volt external power (tethered to lighting or camera system).

Design Language & Brand

It was crucial to create a smooth, simple and approachable product from both a visual and functional standpoint. The material of choice used in this product was stainless steel which provides great rigidity and structural strength for repeated use but is also a COVID-friendly material. The brand ‘Floorsie’ was meant to be a playful and approachable whie personifying the robot and acknowledging its functionality of getting users to their desired floor. The visual direction was intended to show a clean and sanitary ('metallic') environment incorporating futuristic design elements.

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