IO<3 - INTERNET OF HEARTS
A connected garment empowering people to soothe their stress & restore their wellbeing
This project was the final assignment of the course Fabricademy, a Textile, Technology and Biology Academy created by the Fablab network, which I attended in Yucatán between October 2017 and April 2018. My goal for this project was to create a garment that would enable people to CONNECT THEMSELVES TO THEIR HEART, aka develop a higher awareness of their physical/emotional state and soothe their stress/anxiety by massaging specific acupressure points on their body. The prototype was designed and developed in 3 months, between January and March 2018.
The first step in the project was to define the concept and main interaction that i would fabricate. The idea was to keep the project manageable for the timeline of 3 months, so that I could create a working prototype. I initially decided to design a garment that had a HEARTBEAT SENSOR that would sense when the heart was beating faster than normal and nudge the user if she/he needed to soothe her/himself. At that point the user could press on specific ACUPRESSURE POINTS to activate a VIBRATION MASSAGE that would soothe their tension.
My initial inspiration for the project revolved around the idea of CONNECTION:
Between a person and her/his HEART
Between the PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL LAYERS OF A PERSON
Between TECHNOLOGY & TEXTILE CRAFTSMANSHIP
The garment I wanted to create would employ a combination of advanced digital fabrication technologies, local traditional embroidery and textile electronics. The main idea is to create a garment that would be EMPOWERING ON DIFFERENT LEVELS:
Empower the final user to better connect to her/his emotional and physical state, and soothe themselves in case of stress or anxiety
Empower local communities of embroiderers to participate in the creative and fabrication process by applying their skills to an e-textile project
Empower the designer to expand her abilities and mindset through a virtuous collaboration with artisans, fabrication laboratories and final users
I used the SCRUM approach to plan and execute my project in SPRINTS, so I could get a better handle of all the different components of the prototyping process. Due to time constraints, I divided my process in 3 Sprints of 3 weeks each.
During my Mid-term review with Neil Gershenfeld, founder of the Fablab Network and Digital Fabrication guru, it became clear that my aim was too high to complete a working prototype in 3 months, so I decided to leave behind the HEARTBEAT SENSOR and focus on the DESIGN & DIGITAL + ARTISANAL FABRICATION of the GARMENT as well as the INTERACTION OF THE PRESSURE SENSORS + VIBRATION MOTOR ACTUATORS.
I worked on the electronics and programming using the Arduino IDE and the Arduino UNO prototyping boards, and experimented with a variety of DIY pressure sensors, to get the ideal design for a comfortable fit + effective pressure sensitivity. I also worked on the vibration motor modules and programmed the interaction between the two. The work required a few iterations to get it right.
At the same time, I worked on a concept for a voronoi-shaped design to be layered on top of a lace fabric. Voronoi was also the form factor i chose to create a heart that was then embroidered by local Yucatecan textile artisans.
The final output was a sleeveless top for women made with a white lace fabric, a synthetic fabric laser cut with a voronoi shape, containing an Arduino microcontroller and PCB and 4 pressure sensors + vibration motor and LED actuators. When the user pressed on each pressure sensor, the vibration motor would turn on, enabling the user to massage their point with an amplified soothing effect given by the vibration. At the same time the LEDs on the heart would turn, so the heart of the user would be "glowing" as it got soothed.
The garment was tested with a couple users to evaluate DESIGN, USER EXPERIENCE & COMFORT. The users found the garment comfortable and the experience massanging themselves with a vibration massage pleasurable and soothing. The design was viewed as beautiful and more of a statement garment than an everyday wearable. Something with more subtle design would be identified to be usable on an everyday basis.
A video was created and the project was presented to the evaluating committee at the end of March 2018, to see if the project had been executed successfully and I could graduate the first edition of Fabricademy. I graduated in Toulouse, France during the conference FAB 14 in July 2018. My plan is to now create the 2.0 version incorporating the heartbeat sensor and evaluate how it works with users. Stay tuned!
For a step-by-step description of this project, please go to IO<3, where you can find the whole details of the creation of the smart garment.