Feb 162015
 

This blog post was written by, and highlights the Fall 2014 final project of, EMAC undergraduate student Nilufer Arsala. Follow her on Twitter @NiluferArsala. The assignment for which she made the project can be found here.

Young woman wearing a surgical mask with red lights in the shape of an "X."

EMAC undergrad Nilufer Arsala models her Vaccination Mask

Artist Statement

My final project is mean to be an artistic statement about the most recent anti-vaccination movement. Parents can have many reasons not to vaccinate or to delay vaccinations of their children. Some cite religious reasons and some may be more concerned about the health risks of the vaccines, as opposed to the actual diseases they are meant to protect against. It seems that while the anti vaccination movement had gained some steam, recent  findings about the resurgence of disease and the retraction of a paper linking vaccines to autism by medical journal The Lancet may be slowing the trend down a bit.

This project struck a chord with me because I am a first time mom with a very young son. The first year of his life I too doubted the amount of vaccines and asked the doctor repeatedly how safe they were. I even went as far as to call all of my friends who are doctors and ask their opinions as well.  In my experience there were a couple of things that set my mind at ease in regards to making sure my son received his vaccinations in a timely fashion. The first was that I received vaccines as a child as well and seemed to turn out ok ( I think?) and the second was that these vaccines really can protect him from getting very, very, sick. Of course every parent has the right to choose what is best for their family and this piece is not meant to serve as judgment one way or the other.

The piece itself comes in the shape of a surgical mask. Embedded in the mask are red LED lights that blink in unison and are in the shape of an “X”. The lights paired with the mask are symbolic of trying to stop the transmission of disease.

How to make it!

Continue reading »

Dec 102014
 

by Christopher G. Lewis

The final results of creative projects often differ greatly from the original concepts. It’s certainly true for my EMAC 6372 final project, the “Carbon Monoxide Sensing Hat.”

noise hoodie

It only required forcing existing tech into a hoodie.

 

 

The first concept I tried to develop focused on noise pollution and frustrated me completely. It was a creative and technical non-starter with only one positive, NO ARDUINO CODING. I stubbornly persisted with it because my fearful dread of code outweighed the logistics of a proper concept I actually felt strongly about.

 

 

 

During the third week of November, still mentally bankrupt over my first idea, I realized the anniversary of the day I started smoking was Wednesday the 19th. Had it really been 20 years since Nov. 19, 1994? How many cigarettes is that? What do my lungs look like? How much money spent?

Let’s see… 1 – 2 packs per day at approximately $5 per pack ($1/pack in 1994, but as much as $10 in recent years) I’ll guess $7.50 per day spent for this calculation (about 1.5 packs/day).

$7.50 x 365 = $2,737.50, $2,737.50 x 20 years =

$54,750

I need to quit, but I’ve tried just about everything with limited to no success. I know cigarettes are bad. It says so right on the pack.

 

For health reasons, I typically only smoke the ones that complicate pregnancy

For health reasons, I typically only smoke the ones that complicate pregnancy

Then inspiration struck. I found my final project concept.

“The Black-Lung Canary CO Sensing Hat”

GasCap on a wire bust of myself I made years ago

GasCap on a wire bust of myself I made years ago

GasCap setting off CO alarm LEDs

GasCap setting off CO alarm LEDs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name “Black-Lung Canary” references the small birds miners once used to detect deadly gasses underground. The hat functions similarly to the bird, but hats don’t die. Among the thousands of other chemicals in cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide (CO) is a proven killer. It’s the same gas released from a car’s tailpipe.

Parallax, Inc. produces an Arduino compatible gas sensing kit. The board comes with two sensors, the MQ-7 (Carbon Monoxide) and the MQ-4 (Methane).

http://www.parallax.com/product/27983

http://www.parallax.com/product/27983

The gas sensor board functions by heating up the MQ-7 sensor to purge particulates and then runs a sensing cycle. It must be calibrated by adjusting the alarm trip level in conjunction with the sensitivity level. I set both to about .8V, sensitive enough for smoke, but not overly sensitive. That took quite a bit of time as I don’t smoke inside my house and cold temperatures will affect the reading. Continue reading »

Dec 082014
 

By Amanda Sparling

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe.

Relaxation techniques such as meditation, controlled breathing, and grounding can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being. However, it is not always easy for a victim of a panic attack to be aware of what is physically happening to them at the onset of the attack and therefore they are unable to treat and calm themselves in the moment.

Additionally, panic attacks rarely happen in a controlled or private environment. Being exposed during a panic attack can heighten the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear and lead to complications if an attack occurs in an inopportune time such as during work or in a social setting.

Using sensors that measure specific physiological functions such as heart rate, biofeedback teaches an individual who suffers from Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder to recognize the body’s anxiety response and learn how to control them using relaxation and grounding techniques.

This project attempts to address the needs of a person who suffers from frequent panic attacks or panic disorder by allowing them to be aware of their physiological state in order to reduce the symptoms of a panic attack and aid in reducing the duration of a panic attack. Panic attacks are distinguished from other forms of anxiety by their intensity and their sudden, episodic nature. Through the Anxiety Cuff device a victim can take control of an attack and return to normal functionality as quickly as possible.

A person who is using the anxiety cuff will wear the Polar Heart Rate Transmitter which will measure their heart rate every second.

They will put the cuff on their arm, as pictured below, and go about their usual daily activities.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.22.47 PM

While an individual’s heart rate remains constant, there will be no change in the device and some light to moderate movement and exercise will have no effect on the device as well. However, as the wearer begins to experience the symptoms of a panic attack their heart rate will begin to dramatically increase.

Once the Heart rate increases to an exceptionally high level, the Arduino triggers the vibe board to apply vibration to the pressure point at the underside of the wearer’s wrist.

This notifies the wearer that they are experiencing the physiological symptoms of a panic attack and allows them to begin integrating relaxation and grounding techniques to halt the attack at it’s onset.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.22.26 PM

If the attack is acute, and continues to progress the vibrating motor will continue to apply pressure to the wearer’s wrist while the heart rate is elevated. What this continued pressure will do is to allow the wearer to focus on the vibration and the physical environment – grounding themselves and allowing them to begin the process of re-associating their internal and physical states to help the attack subside.

Once the heart rate had reduced the lilypad vibe board will turn off, and the wearer can resume their normal activites.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.22.58 PM Continue reading »

Dec 072014
 

 

 

The “Cardiac Rehab Patient Monitoring Jacket” is a jacket that is intended to help cardiac rehab nurses monitor patients. After a cardiac surgery, such as a bypass or a cardiac cath, most patients are required to participate in some form of cardiac rehabilitation. Often times this requires the patient to participate in monitored rehab therapy in a hospital gym. After a heart procedure it is very important that the patient monitor their heart rate to ensure that they do not exceed the threshold set by their physician. During the monitored gym exercise it is not uncommon to see a number of patients exercising at the same time, therefore requiring one cardiac rehab nurse to monitor multiple patients. Typically the patients are connected to heart rate monitors that are watched by employees on a screen at the nursing station, and an audible alarm is set to each patient. The difficulty with this is that there is potential for the alarm to go unnoticed if the noise level in the gym is high due to multiple patients using the equipment. Imagine monitoring a video screen with twenty treadmills running simultaneously, and having to listen for an audible alarm while dealing with a patient at the desk. There is a potential for a patient’s overexertion to go unnoticed. Even the patient may overlook that they have exceeded their threshold. It is not difficult to imagine a patient who does not realize that they are above their target heart rate simply because they were used to working out at a much higher level before they had their procedure. The “Cardiac Rehab Patient Monitoring Jacket” is a means to supplement the monitoring processes already set in place, and provide additional levels of safety to monitored cardiac rehab exercise.

Patient_Monitoring_JacketThe jacket allows that each user can have their heart rate threshold programmed into the jacket based on their physician’s recommendation. A 50 year old patient, who was an avid runner pre-procedure, who had a single cardiac cath inserted will likely have a higher threshold than a 65 year old patient who had triple bypass and lived a largely sedentary lifestyle. The limits would be set according to the patient’s perceived fitness level, and their physician’s suggested limits of physical activity. The patient will wear a wireless chest-strap heart rate monitor which is interfaced with the jacket. Once the heart rate limit is exceeded the 64 LED matrix will light up to signal that the patient needs to slow down and lower their heart rate. This not only allows for the cardiac rehab employee to monitor the patient, but will also signal the patient and other patients to the situation. If the employee was distracted by another patient, or failed to hear the audible alarm, then hopefully the patient would be made aware of their overexertion, or perhaps another patient who is in the gym.

The jacket is powered by two battery packs that use 4 AA batteries, and have on and off switches. The heart rate monitor Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 1.35.30 PMinterface (HRMI) is connected to an Arduino Uno, and the Arduino is connected to the Adafruit NeoPixel NeoMatrix 8×8. The program that runs the system allows that the heart rate threshold can be changed in the first few lines of the code to fit the designated parameters of each individual patient. The pixel matrix is activated once the heart rate threshold is exceeded, and will automatically turn off once the heart rate returns to normal. Taking into consideration that most cardiac patients are older, the simplicity of the jacket is a key factor in the success of its implementation. The cardiac rehab employee will program each Arduino based on consultation with the patient’s cardiologist, and each jacket will be assigned to one patient. As the patient recovers, the values of the threshold can be changed according to their physician’s recommendations. This will also allow that the patient has a simple means of self evaluation. A patient who is unfamiliar with using heart rate monitors can be easily taught that if their jacket lights up, they need to back off on their workout. This will help the patient in understanding their personal limits, and provide a simple means of monitoring how their fitness level was affected by their procedure.

The use of wearable technology in healthcare is not a new idea, and there are many products that incorporate vital signs in their features, but for these products to truly be effective, they must be simple enough for a patient with no clinical or technological background to use and understand. Bradley Quinn provides multiple examples of diagnostic textiles that are being used in healthcare, and notes the importance of wireless garments that monitor the patients “in a range of everyday situations” (Quinn, 2010). Quinn acknowledges garments such as the Heart Sensing Sports Bra, the Heart Sensing Racer Tank, and the Cardio Shirt for Men, but the impressive capabilities of these garments can also be considered a hindrance. These products often require additional software applications, and are designed for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In some cases their technological capabilities can be a deterrent to users who are not tech savvy. It can be intimidating for a user to not only be required to monitor their vital signs, but to also have to learn new technology. Products like the Adidas micoach provide a variety of functions that could serve the same purposes as this project, but in the case of many patients, the additional time required to learn to use the product (and the added cost) would be one more stress factor that could be avoided with a more simple product that is focused on one key function. These products are also designed to provide the user with information that is used for fitness tracking and monitoring with no way to alert others that the user is in trouble. The simplicity of this project could be seen as a benefit to the patient and anyone in the general vicinity of the patient. Future versions of the project could include features that would allow for the jacket to be used outside of a hospital setting. Because the entire project operates independently of any hospital equipment, the patient could also use it during their daily exercise routine. After the patient has completed their required rehab schedule they could benefit from the reassurance that they could continue using the device. If an additional alarm was included in the project, it could be used as a means of alerting someone who is unfamiliar with the project that something is wrong. For example, a patient who has recently completed her monitored exercises takes daily walks in her neighborhood. During one particularly hot day, she begins to feel fatigued and exceeds her preset threshold. The device is activated, and the LED matrix lights up and an alarm sounds. This could alert anyone passing by that the woman is in need of help. Whether the person passing by is familiar with the product or not, it would be clear that something was wrong, and it would be likely that they would notice the alarm and lights, and hopefully this would prompt the good samaritan to investigate. Complexity does not always equate to increased functionality, and it is likely that there is a large population who would welcome a product that provides a simple (but potentially life-saving) service.

References:

http://micoach.adidas.com/

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Nov 192014
 

By: Jade Lawson

Fitness trackers have some new competition and the future of popular fitness bands is changing.

The OMsignal biometric smartwear is breaking ground on a new, unexplored, area of fitness wear that allows users to measure heart rate, breathing rate, breathing depth, activity intensity, steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate variability. Measurement of these areas is possible in some of today’s top fitness bands and smartwatches, but these new shirts allow for a wider range of usage than just fitness or light daily activity. Popular fitness tracking bands like Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up24 are only capable of measuring steps taken and activity intensity. These tracking bands can only estimate calories burned based on the wearer’s personal data of height, weight, and age. Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up24 are sometimes marketed as being for day-to-day use, but they are most effective with high activity levels. The company Fitbit is aware that the market is changing, so they have just released information on their latest fitness trackers to be available early 2015 and they will be competing with OMsignal’s womens line. The Fitbit Charge is available now and the other 2 new Fitbit bands now include measurement of heart rate. However, OMsignal shirts are better fitted for use in daily lives and health testing because they have more health monitoring variables such as breathing rate/depth and heart rate variability. While these shirts aren’t meant to replace a visit to the doctor, they do take self-health monitoring a step further. They are a great tool in the ever-growing future of self-tracking, and personal health awareness.

Tracking Module

How does it work? The biometric sensors that take in all the rates, activity, calories burned, and heart rate are in the shirt but, the shirt itself doesn’t send the data to the application. In order to send the biometric sensor data from the shirt to the user’s phone application the user must purchase a data module. This data module does most of the work; it uses continual data collection to record data even when the user is away from their phone. Continual data collection means users can be phone free when working out and still receive all their workout statistics later. The data module uses low-power Bluetooth LE to send the data to an OMsignal application, which limits use to iPhones 4s and newer, and androids with low-power Bluetooth LE capability. Currently the app is only available for iOS, but there are plans for operating system expansion in 2015.

Common concerns with technological wearables are waterproofing, battery life, and data protection. The shirts can be washed in a machine just like any other fitness shirt, but the data module isn’t waterproof. The data module sits connected in a pocket in the shirt and can be removed for wash or can be transferred to another shirt. While the data module is water-resistant (meaning it’s sweat-proof and capable of handling a light rain) it cannot function when immersed in water. The data module’s battery can last through 30 1-hour long workouts, or 2-3 days of continuous use. It is not as long of a continuous usage time as wrist wearables like Fitbit Flex, and Jawbone Up24, but the Data Module also conveys more biometric data variables. The data that is taken in by the module is recorded and stored on a secure server. The data is associated with the user’s account so in the event of the app being deleted, or user’s phone upgraded, it stays secure and is transferable.

Apps can sometimes make or break a product, especially when it relies heavily on the app’s functionality, design, and ease of use.  OMsignal’s app design and functionality looks good, and seems like it will lift the product up, rather than bring it down. Omsignal describes their app best, “Prescriptive notifications assist post-training recovery by monitoring how your body behaves over time, with access to key data including heart rate recovery and breathing at rest, to monitor improvements in health and fitness. Lifestyle mode monitors your body’s energy, physical stress and activity levels, offering continuous insights throughout the day, allowing you to live a more balanced and focused life.”

The shirts are currently available for pre-order, and are to be shipped out starting November 24, 2014. They promote the starter or “up & running kit,” which usually costs $240. It is currently on sale for $199 for a limited time and includes 1 standard OMsignal shirt and a data module. There are a few other, more expensive, kits that include more than one shirt, as well as their lifestyle line. Sizing is from extra small to extra large, and can be worn under additional clothing.

Black-GreenShirts that are meant for working out are fitted a certain way to improve blood circulation, enhance performance, and help muscles recover faster. Shirts that are meant for lifestyle are shaped and fitted to help posture. All Omsignal shirts have climate control and moisture wicking. They are made of anti-microbial material and fight-odor causing bacteria which eliminates “after-workout smell.”

It doesn’t go unnoticed that there are no women featured wearing the product on the website, nor are there women’s shirts listed on the product page. At the bottom of the home page is an email input to receive information on the women’s collection. A collection that OMsignal plans to release in 2015. It begs the question though, did they think men’s shirts were more important to get done first, were they easier, or was it just the way they went about design? There are quite a few women on the OMsignal team, so the delay in the women’s collection shouldn’t be considered male bias, but it’s been shown that when it comes to things that are considered “strong” and “manly,” like fitness, men’s products take priority. OMsignal has said “The sensors of the OMsignal shirt need to be worn directly on the skin to give the best readings and we are currently working on a female design that fits a women’s body perfectly.” OMsignal displays the women’s shirt in their promotional video seen below. The advantages displayed are focused less on those available to the men’s shirt in relation to activity and more focused on lifestyle. Lifestyle that includes pregnancy monitoring with an ability to observe an unborn baby’s heart rate separately from the mother’s heart rate.

A lot of work went into the creation of these shirts; they weren’t made by one person with an idea, but by a team. A team of 34 unique individuals ranging from smart textile and marketing specialists, to BioE scientists and engineers, software developers and engineers, and most importantly, a chief medical officer. It is important to note the type of people involved in the making of this product because it shows that it has a high chance for success and support down the road.  Many years of research and testing got the OMsignal biometric smartwear to this stage, and plenty more research and testing will advance it even more in the future.

All supporting information taken from OMsignal.com

Images credit: OMsignal.com

Videos credit: Youtube.com/OMsignalTV

Nov 162014
 

With the popularity of wearable fitness devices, it has become common to see everyday consumers using devices to monitor their health and activity. Devices such as the fitbit flex  track activity such as steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep. These measurements have become fairly common today, but in comparison to the availability of fitness tracking technology twenty years ago, the growth in the industry is noticeable. Now the advancements in wearable technology are on the cusp of providing data tracking for vital signs that were previously only available in a hospital setting.

A new device called Muse uses sensors worn on the head to measure brain signals using Electroencephalography (EEG) science. The device is marketed as a tool that a user can use to train their brain in an effort to reduce stress, improve focus, and increase concentration.

According to the website, “Muse detects your brain signals during a focused attention exercise the same way a heart rate monitor detects your heart rate during physical exercise.” The device has 7 sensors to detect and measure brain activity, and then processes and exports this data into graphs and charts on the users mobile device. The data is then used to allow the user to train their brain using “focused attention training,” in a way that the company relates to being the “mental equivalent of a treadmill.”

Focused attention training is explained as an exercise that monitors how a user responds to distractions, and audible feedback. The examples below are diagrams of how a person’s mind tends to wander, and how using Muse could improve mental focus:

brainTraining_attn_loop_A-1brainTraining_attn_loop_B-1

Images  via ChooseMuse.com

The user wears the device during “exercise” and the device translates brain signals into the sounds of wind. When the user’s mind is calm and settled, they hear a calm and settled breeze, but when the user’s brain is active (distracted) the winds will pick up and blow. When a user is able to maintain a level of calm for an extended period of time, bird sounds will be introduced to announce that the mind is calm. The bird sounds will add an additional opportunity to monitor their progress because it requires the user to react to the additional stimulation, and respond in a manner that does not give in to additional distractions. This will hopefully allow the user to develop control over their mind, which they can then apply to distractions when not wearing the device.

Muse is based on research that has shown that focused attention training has been shown to reduce pain, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and reduce heart rate. Prolonged sessions have been documented to suggest other benefits, such as increased grey matter density, reduced thinning of the prefrontal cortex, decreasing amygdala activity (associated with stress response), and increased resilience and immune function – which basically suggests an overall positive change of the brain’s structure and function. The health implications of devices such as Muse have been largely discussed, and in “Vital Signs,” Bradley Quinn notes the potential for sensoring technology within healthcare, and provides a variety of examples that show the positive impact of wearable technology that is already available. Quinn points out the possibility of wearable technology detecting, and stopping, an episode in patients susceptible to strokes, or liable to have seizures, and it would seem that technology such as Muse could be adapted to perform similar tasks. While Muse is not an approved form of treatment for neurological disorders, it does suggest that there is a developing market for wearable technology within the realm of personal health. Devices such as Muse could lead to wearable technology that could increase the quality of life for many individuals who live with a variety of medical conditions.

SOURCES:

http://www.choosemuse.com

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Nov 042014
 

The Microsoft Band is a piece of wearable technology that bridges the gap between a smart watch and a Fitbit. With cell integration and the ability to check email, texts, and Facebook, it goes far beyond the typical fitness tracker. The Microsoft Band has fitness functionality that most trackers do not, such as UV detection that reads how much sunlight the wearer is exposed to in a day.

msband3

As Dia Campbell states about wearable technology, “It’s about filling the needs that are in your life.” The smart watch features set the Band apart from other fitness devices of its kind, and fills the need for a device to be both at once. It is able to download workouts to the device and to schedule them in a calendar app, which then synchronizes across all of the user’s Microsoft products. It works to enable a sense of connectivity between the Band and the rest of the user’s life. Part of what makes this device so interesting is the perception of connectivity and the ability that the device has to send reminders and activity updates to the user’s connected device. The manner in which the device is advertised and the intended use of the product drives the user to connect the Band to as many other devices as possible. This enables the various devices to remind (nag) the user into better health. It is this very interplay between the user and the device that creates a sense of connectivity among all aspects of the user’s life and the Band.

MicrosoftBand

The strength of this connection between the user and the Band is what makes it so effective. If it can be more than an object that informs the user of the number of steps taken or heart rate, but instead be a connected part of the user’s life, then the device will have more of an effect on the user and inspire more action. It bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smart watch, creating a space in which the user is able to feel as though the device is useful while it is performing the primary task of aiding the user in meeting fitness goals.

Ultimately, it is the Band’s ability to tie-in all of the other Microsoft devices and create a cohesive whole from them that makes the device so potent. The feeling of connectivity is what will drive users to practice the intended merging of all their devices, in order to unlock the Band’s most useful and unique features. The merging of devices enables the Band to send reminders, as well as custom workouts and schedules that suit the particular user’s needs. This places the Microsoft Band, a piece of wearable technology, in a unique position to be effective where others are lacking.

Sources

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/10/microsoft-band-and-microsoft-health-the-199-all-platform-fitness-band/

http://gadgetshow.channel5.com/news/oppo-r5-fitbit-surge-and-charge-microsoft-band-amazon-fire-tv-stick-and-real-life-transformer

http://artandseek.net/2013/03/13/sxsw-where-high-tech-meets-high-fashion/

http://www.cnet.com/products/microsoft-band/

Oct 202014
 

By: Ashleigh Havens

In September 2013, Israeli start-up company OrCam released the OrCam visual system to help the 300-million visually impaired people in the world “see.” OrCam is a portable device that is similar to Google Glass, composed of a camera and a small computer about the size of the typical glasses case that uses augmented reality. The device attaches by magnet to users’ glasses. OrCam is able to recognize text, products and even familiar faces. At the push of a button or a point of your finger, OrCam recognizes objects, and will read you information through the bone conducting earpiece. This device has a transducer that converts electric signals into mechanical vibrations which sends sound to the internal ear through the cranial bones. This makes the audio discrete so others do not realize you are receiving assistance. Through extended use, OrCam will recognize your personal objects such as credit cards, money notes, friends, favorite products, and more. Using this device helps the visually impaired to become more independent and relaxed about interacting with the world.

This product currently sells for $3,500. There is a possibility for reimbursement if it is covered by your vision insurance plan. Some vision insurance plans, usually premium plans will have limited funding for assistive devices. Most of the time this reimbursement is on a case by case basis. There are grants that you can apply for that you can use toward the cost of the OrCam device.

As with many new technological advances, this device has some faults. First of all, it is only available in the United States and the only language it supports is English. As this product advances the company hopes to make it capable of translating language and available to a wider audience. The OrCam does not recognize handwritten text.

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykDDxWbt5Nw&feature=youtu.be

www.orcam.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CyW04lSd4Y

Oct 132014
 

By: Thomas Hall

A better-performing you? “It’s as easy as putting on a shirt!”

The female and male variants of Hexoskin, shown with compatible Android and iOS devices. (Linked to Hexoskin.com)

The Hexoskin, a plain, black shirt, is actually a lightweight, all-encompassing fitness tracker for extreme athletics and everyday activities alike. Hexoskin has been in development since 2006, when a Montreal design duo came up with the idea to streamline the existing method of invasive and uncomfortable physical trackers. Their design was so tantalizing to aerospace use that the Canadian Space Agency has been working closely to fund and test the product since its conception. They plan to send the shirts to the International Space Station in coming years for use by astronauts.

How forward-thinking is Hexoskin? A Bluetooth transmitter slipped into a pocket of the shirt connects to your device of choice, and beams information such as heart rate, lung capacity, oxygen levels, and sleep patterns, all in real time. The most high-profile uses thus far have been by the 2014 Spartan Race World Champion, the Canadian Olympic skiing team, and by polar researchers for the Canadian Space Agency. Those with conditions such as cardiac defects can wear the shirt to monitor their activity for any dangerous deviations. The only option previously was to wear sticky sensors beleaguered with wires until enough data was recovered.

Possibly the  biggest boon to Hexoskin is that it is an Open Data device, meaning that any developer, or user, can pull the sensors’ readings into whatever platform they wish. This philosophy of openness has really taken off in recent tech products, from Fitbit, to Android Wear, to Apple’s Health app and smart watch. The Hexoskin technology has already been licensed to clothing manufacturers, in the hopes that popular name brands can bring down the hefty $399 price tag, as well as create buzz in pop culture.

The team claims that products like Hexoskin are key to “preventative medicine,” much like the dozens of sensors in your car are key to preventative maintenance. If wearable technology and the Quantified Self movement seemed like a fad in recent years, then that stigma is quickly dissipating. According to Nielsen, 15% of the population is trying on wearable technology, and over half of those early adoptions are fitness bands. So what is stopping a majority of the population from grabbing the best, or cheapest, or most colorful fitness tracker from the nearest shelf? The answer seems to be that the intersection of technology and fashion simply isn’t where it needs to be for wide adoption. Designers can only be free to make something truly usable and artistic when “not directed by marketing demands or production methods,” and the smallness, lightness, and excellent battery life of today’s cutting edge tech is only just beginning to become usable by fashion designers (Bradley Quinn, Cybercouture). With its minimalist design, loaded feature set, and lack of visual cues that scream “nerd,” Hexoskin is a chance for technology and quantified health to break into the most worn of all wearables: clothing.

 

Sources:

http://goo.gl/MJvkdl (Nielsen)

http://goo.gl/iQujaT (Forbes)

http://goo.gl/EEUTSB (Hexoskin)

http://goo.gl/BXxcpU (Quinn)

Oct 112014
 

By Karyn Narramore

Fluid Interfaces, the media lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or MIT), recently unveiled its latest masterpiece, the FingerReader. The FingerReader is a 3-D printed ring with a mounted camera that scans text and reads it aloud to the wearer.  Special software scans the text and gives both audio and haptic feedback, letting the wearer know things like where the line begins and ends or to move to a new line. The algorithm can also detect and give feedback when the user moves away from the baseline of the text. The FingerReader is a device that could prove to be useful not only as a tool for the visually impaired but also for second-language learners, people with dyslexia or other language disorders, young children, victims of brain trauma, and tourists.

Ring in use; Fluid Interfaces, MIT

Ring in use; Fluid Interfaces, MIT

Fluid Interfaces as a group defines its purpose fairly simply: They want to create wearable interfaces that augment the human senses and capabilities, interfaces that can give the user a more natural experience with fewer distractions.  The FingerReader is still just a prototype and has not been tested extensively, but its aspirations seem fairly in line with Fluid Interfaces’ vision. Still in development, the FingerReader’s language translation abilities have not been implemented, but eventually this, along with the ability to connect to a smartphone or mobile device, is definitely in the game plan.  According to Roy Shilkrot of Fluid Interfaces, the current market for the reader is about 3%, which is the percentage of the population that is visually impaired.  Because the device is still in development, Shilkrot declined to speculate on pricing, but did say that the team is relatively confident that they will be able to sell the reader at an affordable price. Additionally, Shilkrot says that the group may make the decision not to commercialize the product themselves. If this ends up being the case, Fluid Interfaces will open-source the project so that others can continue to improve the technology or repurpose it for other uses. See the FingerReader in action here.

When asked what kind of competition the FingerReader faces from existing applications and how the reader is different from them, Shilkrot is quick to point out that the project is still an academic one at this point: “We are not in competition with any of the alternative commercial products.” The Fluid Interfaces website helpfully provides a list of alternative applications, complete with links. Their provided list is as follows:

Text Detective: http://blindsight.com/textdetective/

Text Grabber: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.abbyy.mobile.textgrabber.full

StandScan: http://standscan.com/index.php/product/standscanpro.

SayText: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/saytext/id376337999?mt=8#

kNFB Reader: http://www.knfbreader.com/

AbiSee ROL: http://www.abisee.com/products/eyepalrolgeneral.

LookTel: http://www.looktel.com/

EyeNote (from the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing): http://www.eyenote.gov/

OrCam Glasses: http://www.orcam.com/

The vOICe Seeing with sound: http://www.seeingwithsound.com/

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