Beginning with a grid of nine brainstorm of potential prototypes to build, the research is supported by the following material experiments and device prototypes.
I made an EL wire jacket last year that followed the piping on the jacket and added a heart on the back. Everytime I wear this jacket out, it gets a lot of attention and people take photos or videos of it. I think it is cute and attention grabbing but I started wondering what if the jacket would convey more information. I often have a hard time expressing if I am stressed or anxious and just keep very quiet. Therefore I wondered if my jacket can express this through the lighting on it, how would people respond? This isn't anything new in bio-sensing fahion, but I haven't found one I can buy and reprogram to use for user-testing. So I am designing and building a new jacket that I can program the lighting on that would change to express my heartrate.
Prototype of prosthetic jewelry
Two way communication jackets
Casting prosthetic jewelry in polyeurethane and silicon
Another sensor I was able to test was the Polar heart rate chest strap sensor. It gave a reliable reading of beats detected and I was able to calculate and average bpm of 92 over 15 minutes. This was a little high for me, but I do get a little worked up while working on my thesis.
My next prototype explored the implication of getting a more direct response from the input to the jacket. Previously the jacket would light up in response to proximity of another jacket on the network worn by my partner. In this iteration I connected the jacket to a series of boxes I had that users were able to interact with via button pressing. By having them on the same network. If the user pressed one of the buttons, I programmed my jacket to light up with a specific response. I tested this is two scenarios. One within the classroom and one within a public speaking panel that I was on. The video above shows the buttons being pressed during the end of the panel applause. This was the first time the audience saw my jacket being lit as noone felt like it was appropriate to have the jacket flashing while the discussion was going on as it might be distracting. The feedback from one audience member was:
"besides delight, I also experienced a sense of wonder; like how, for example, people react when they see an Improv Everywhere performance and don't know what's going on beyond what their eyes can perceive, I felt like I was able to witness an ephemeral bit of whimsy. Despite being aware that you presumably created the jacket, without context and with so many happy flashing lights I was able to appreciate the magic in the moment. Not knowing when or why they lit up kind of accentuated the effect -- one of the button pushers' timing the lights with the applause was an especially nice moment -- it almost seemed like the jacket was visibly manifesting emotions somehow."
While I was speaking, I recall having moments of nervousness and was actually hoping someone would press a button, as it would signify reassurance to me that things were going well.