Week 2: design, wearability, and the human body

After class on Monday I thought more about what I wanted to achieve in this class. Despina talked a lot about the design process and everything that goes into a design. What stuck out the most, is something I’ve tried to stay true to even before ITP, and that is making something meaningful.

Right before this semester started, almost a week exactly to the first day of Wearables, I found out via a group chat with my dad and three siblings that my grandma was in the hospital. This is a difficult thing to hear when someone you’re close with, who is far away, is sick or hurt. The morning before my mom had taken my grandma to her favorite place in the entire world, her beauty shop, that she’s been going to for 20+ years, in the southeast side of Chicago, two blocks away from the apartment she lived in for 50 years. That night, looking fabulous as ever, she slid, yes, slid, out of her wheelchair and broke her femur bone. That is one, if not the largest bone in our body. And it cracked like stale piece of bread. She didn’t fall, she wasn’t trying to do anything out of her physical capability. The material of her pants was too smooth against the wheelchair seat, and she wasn’t able to stop herself. Since the break was so large, she had to get surgery. The issue is that is 91, but everything looked safe enough for her to proceed, and they did the surgery in order to implant a metal rod into her leg. She thankfully survived the surgery, but the recovery she is now in, is gruesomely painful.

It really makes you think about your health. Your bones. We have bones and sometimes we break them, but we rarely talk about them until we are older. Bone health isn’t something we discuss on a daily basis, yet it becomes a huge part of lives as we grow into a later age. We are told to drink our milk as children, and then our bones are put on the back burner. Another thing is circulation, something that could affect so many other parts of our day to day health.

With all of this said, I am inspired to create a pair of pants that create vibration when a person is sitting. How this would be made is creating a soft button that would be sewn in the seated part of the pants. When a person sits, it would activate the vibration sensors. The sensors would be placed in sewn in pouches in 4 parts of the pants–the left thigh, right thigh, left ankle, right ankle. The vibration sensors would then turn out for a timed period in intervals while seated.

FullSizeRender 6

IMG_3728 IMG_3729

Problem/opportunity: to create circulation throughout the legs and improve bone health.

Target user: a person who spends most of their times seated, due to old age, injury, etc.


Would there be a way to turn off the vibrations for a person who spends more than 90% seated?

How can the vibration sensors be connected to the soft button, and allow them to be changed out if necessary?

Why vibration?

Vibration is seen (or felt) in many wearables today. It is something that has become a way for us to receive information in a more personal way, i.e. getting a text from a vibrating phone. We also see benefits in vibration with things like teeth cleaning, and even massage chairs. But this concept is more about vibration as a means of therapy and improving one’s life.

According to this article in Hypervibe, these are 5 reason vibration is good for elderly people:

Benefits of vibration exercises
1. Vibration exercises decrease the risk of falls and improve balance
2. Whole body vibration improves endurance and body composition
3. Exercising on a vibration machine helps with lower pain
4. Whole body vibration exercises improve speed of motion in older women
5. WBV reduces arterial stiffness in the middle-aged and elderly
These are amazing benefits for elderly, especially that 67% of elderly people are sedentary for more than 8.5 hours a day (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3881132/).
This project below was done by Smart Textile Services (CRISP), which is a wearable sweater that has vibrations embedded into the fabric. The vibrations are triggered with touch. (http://dqi.id.tue.nl/sts/vibe-ing/nggallery/page/2/; http://fashioningtech.com/profiles/blogs/wearable-tech-for-vibration-therapy).
Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 3.50.33 PM
This shows that people are becoming more aware of the benefits of vibration therapy. If wearables are starting to be developed for people recovering from injuries and bone loss, then I believe this is a great opportunity to approach this idea from the perspective aiming at elderly people.
Current wearables for the elderly
There are many wearables created for wearables, and also many startups that are popping up with the elderly as their main focus http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?articleId=1709602

The wearables now that are aimed at seniors are mostly hardware, e.g. watching necklaces, etc. These tend to track data for fall risk, monitor their daily activities for a loved one to track, or help organize a senior’s life.  This issue with these is they can be stigmatizing for elderly people. Many don’t want to bring more attention that their lives are less independent and they constantly need someone to look after them.

In particular, my grandma even though she is 91 and hasn’t had a car in almost 10 years, she still talks about how she wants to just go for a drive. It seems she is almost disappointed in her state that her daughter and grandchildren do everything for her, when she did everything for them. This is why I want to create something that isn’t obtrusive and also is something that could help her feel more in control. If I use BLE to control the vibration sensors, then she could set the vibration cycles to her liking.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.50.04 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.48.46 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.48.23 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.48.01 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.27.41 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.27.09 AM


Reading reflection:

All three readings were very helpful in forming my idea for my project. I was very surprised by the reading, “Design for Life”–as someone who has only began thinking about design since beginning ITP, I find it really fascinating that biomimicry isn’t about designing for humans, but about using nature to help us understand how to design things we need. We want to design things that will last and have the promise to be natural additions to our lives. This is something I find very interesting about wearable technology in general. Only in the short time of this course, my perspective of wearables has changed significantly. Wearables seem to be more about how to design and create things that help us improve our lives without making something intrusive and overwhelming.

In “Designing for Wearability” I found it helpful to start considering all of the components that go into designing a wearable. Weight and size are two things I hadn’t considered much in the design of my project, and are especially important to consider. I think I will need to do a lot of user testing to ensure the vibration sensor vibrate in the same capacity on different body sizes.

I have mixed emotions from the article, “Why the Human Body will be the Next Computer Interface”– I do believe that wearable technology allows us the opportunity to use the human body as its own medium. I know that Kate Hartman talks a lot about this in a more art-based perspective, which I find interesting and something I had never considered. However the perspective of Fjords took it a little bit out of my imagination. And it’s funny to me that I’m having this reaction the reading, because I often think about how our phones will eventually be apart of us. But I guess I’ve always thought of it in a Jetsons kind of, this won’t actually happen in the time I’m living in. And now from the reading, it kind of makes sense with the progression of computers. Not sure how I feel about it. I guess my question is how do we design this that creates more movement in people’s everyday lives. With embedded interaction, it basically means we are embodying our mobile devices in our mobile bodies. How do we create external environments that encourage or force us to move more than just a small swipe, or moving our fingers to press keys?

Weave a circuit (part 2):

I re-did my assignment from last week and am much happier with the result. This time around I only used the felt fabric to make the soft button and sewed the circuit on muslin. I also made the ground line much longer than the power, which I think helped.

IMG_3708 IMG_3709