greater spaces

Raquel Cañete Yaque: Smart products and assistive technology from an engineering background

With a background in Industrial Design Engineering, Raquel is now studying Interaction Design at Malmö University, with a special interest in assistive technology.

Illustration: Raquel Cañete Yaque

1. What do you find exciting about technology right now?

From my point of view, the fact that it is being applied to a lot of different fields, reaching more and more people. It is amazing how rapidly it is entering everything we do. All the new advances in technology and the pace at which it develops are making it possible to solve a very wide variety of problems.

2. Why or how did you choose this path?

I decided to study industrial design engineering because I have always loved maths and physics but there was also a very creative part of me that I didn't want to leave behind, and this major gave me the opportunity to combine both fields in one. I then became very interested in smart products, especially in the field of assistive technology so I decided to continue my career with the interaction design master program. My final goal with interaction design is to make a change for the better in someone's life, because, in my opinion, that is our role as designers in society.

3. What has been your biggest mistake over the past year and what did you learn from it?

I would say that it has been fearing and taking a step back when it came to the creative and artistic phases of the design process. Coming from an engineering field, I always had the feeling that I was not creative enough, or that ideation was something I was not good at, so I preferred to let others take the lead. I ended up realizing that all I needed to do was to work on those skills, study and learn, and that I was as much of a designer as the rest of my colleagues. It took some time for me to understand that those creative and artistic skills are not something you are born with but something you train and learn.

4. What do you feel the most proud of in your career?

I feel proud about how much effort and hard work I have put into it. I had to sacrifice several things during my bachelor's degree in order to finish my engineering major in four years and with the best results possible. Those results have opened many doors for me to continue my journey, starting with the master's degree program I am enrolled in right now. I would say that I am proud of how far I got in such a short period of time and how much ambition I have to keep growing in the field.

5. What is the biggest daily challenge in the field of tech?

It would probably be coordinating the work of many people with different backgrounds. Being an engineer, I have a different idea of what a work process is from what other designers have. Specifically, in my master's degree, we all have completely different academic and cultural backgrounds and it is always a challenge to coordinate and get to a common understanding of how to proceed in a design process. It is important to listen, try to understand, and put aside one's ideas when it is necessary, although I believe we always do a good job with that.

6. What has been your favorite project so far and why?

My favorite project so far is KEYme, a multifunctional smart toy for children with autism that I developed at the University of Sevilla. This toy was designed to be completely adapted to the needs of children with ASD in order to develop several skills while playing and having fun through different game modalities. A functional prototype was also developed in order to test several functions. As mentioned before, assistive technology is the field I am currently most interested in and I would like my projects to have a social impact. This project was my first step to reach that goal.

7. What do you imagine will happen in technology over the next five years and the next decade?

We are going to become more and more dependent on technology. Technology is currently gaining importance in our daily lives and we are getting used to delaying more and more responsibilities on it. We are becoming so used to technology that we are putting our unconditional trust in it, sometimes trusting it more than our own instincts and I am afraid this might have long-term effects if we don't put limits to it.

8. What should we keep an eye on in the future?

Technology is developing at a faster pace than society and questions are going to arise regarding values and ethical issues. Society is going to have to answer these questions and place its limits to where this technology is helping and where it´s drawing us back in many ways. We in the field of tech need to understand our responsibilities and don´t let marketability be the only aspect that leads the project; it is essential to put our values first.

Read more about Raquel here:

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/raquel-c-8a48b1b6

SciProfiles: https://sciprofiles.com/profile/1486878

Greater Spaces is written by Majken Overgaard and Vanessa Julia Carpenter where we work to expand the narrative of what technology is and who creates it. We speak with Danish and international female role models within technology and between these interviews we share what is most interesting to us, with a focus on diversity.

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