Strengthening the concept: hug jacket personalities

This past week I wanted to explore more about how the two jackets could work together to create the experience I am trying to create. I had decided a few weeks ago to build two jackets that would work together to emphasize the power of hugging, as well as simulate the transfer of energy from one person to the other. There are many wearables about hugs that already exist, many of which focus on the feeling of a hug, particularly the positive effects of being comforted. One of the most well-known examples of this is the Hug Machine by Temple Grandin–a machine that emulates the feeling of being hugged for people with autism, who have problems with being physically touched. I have been thinking a lot about what I want out of this project, what I want to say, and explore. I’ve also been talking to as many people as possible about what I’m working on to truly understand how to articulate what I’m making–

This project explores how to encourage people to hug and how hugs can tap into the power of being vulnerable. We know that we need hugs and at this point of my process I believe this whole-heartedly, based on scientific research, as well as my own self-observance of when I get the urge to hug someone. However, what I’ve learned is that that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone feels confidence or comfortable enough to hug someone unless it’s the result of predictable, hugging situation, such as a friend’s family member has passed away, or simply saying goodbye. We need hugs all day long and it is not only for reasons of despair, total happiness, or sadness. It’s just because we need hugs. The question(s) I’m asking through the project is, How can I encourage people to hug? Who are the people who are naturally more physically affectionate? After thinking about these types of questions I circled back to my idea to have two jackets–okay so on the physical computing side, two jackets could complete a circle, cool. But why is that important for this project? What does a completing circuit add to the project in a conceptual way?

I decided to leave these questions on the side and focus back to the form of the jacket(s). In thinking about this, I thought again about the fabrics I should use for the final garment. I asked Jingwen if I could ask her for recommendations on fabrics and she asked what feeling did I want out of the fabric. I should her the first jacket I had made with spacer and faux leather sleeves:

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And she said this doesn’t give me the feeling for someone who would hug a lot, which is ironically the type of feeling I was going for–I wanted to convey the feeling of someone who you wouldn’t normally expect to hug to hug. Yet because this project is not solely conceptual, I thought as a designer I must create the jackets in a meaningful way that the user or viewer of the project is confused by why I made the jackets the way I did. And then I thought, what if each jacket represented the type of personalities of people who are extremely physically affectionate and those who not at all. In other words, one jacket will be very warm, inviting, and bubbly, while the other will project a type of person who isn’t comfortable with hugging or being physically affectionate.

This is a working prototype of the very physically affectionate personality. It has a softer look by being longer and looser fit and a little color.  This jacket was much more challenging to make the right size. I ended up adding about an inch of the faux leather on each side to widen the torso, as it was too tight.

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Having two jackets now makes having two circuits complete each other make so much sense! I experimented with two circuits, one with an LED as the output and one with a vibration motor as the output. Below I also experimented the placement of the circuit on the jacket.

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Next steps:

I just received more vibration motors. I plan to make a few more pressure sensors with vibration motors. Sew in soft enclosure pockets in the jackets. Continue researching fabrics and experimenting with color.