Wearable Media

Creating physical experiences through multimedia explorations and playing with wearable tech.

Jan - April 2018 | Physical Making


Designer

Interaction design
Industrial design
Arduino


I transferred out of German to take a special topics course because while the chances of me using German in my day-to-day life was pretty slim, wearing clothes with embedded technology seemed marginally less slim (the future is NOW!). But there's an aspect of physical experience and critical reflection when it comes to fusing application with abstract conceptualization that I really wanted to explore. The introduction of smart materials and the prevalence of technology in daily life means that even science can become art, and computers do not have to be used for pure functionality.


Project 1: Cardboard Prosthetic

Create a prosthetic out of a single sheet of cardboard.

After refining my 3 ideas and choosing, I decided to focus on the last concept: creating a sort of cardboard shell. I personally tend to be very shy and introverted, and I would love to have a protective shell to hide under sometimes.

However, I also wanted to conceptually step out of my comfort zone, and explore the duality of helplessness and protection surrounding a shell. Shelled animals, when flipped on their backs, are incredibly helpless and unprotected, which holds a certain irony because of the protective nature of their shells.

In terms of construction methods, I was inspired by David Graas's lounge chair and parametric design. In regards to the latter, I personally like its minimal and refined look (despite its heavy crisscrossing, the lines are sharp and precise) while maintaining a sort of organic and fluid shape.

I also wanted to try to use the technique because of structural integrity and its potential to hold hefty weights. After all, to demonstrate its shell-like quality, my friend had to roll on her back for the in-class demonstration, and I did not want to hurt her from faulty construction.

I started off by creating a mini prototype with scrap cardboard, to play around with the potential shape and construction. I bent a strip to hug the curves that would match my wearer's posterior curves because I thought it would be more comfortable for him/her, but I didn't have enough cardboard to implement this at a larger scale.

I moved onto expanding my prototype to real dimensions by tracing the curve of my friend's spine. I started mapping out pieces based on pieces of cardboard of a set size. The laser cutter I was using could only take materials of a limited dimension, so my segments could not exceed that. I ran into some issues with my Illustrator files, but mananged to patch them up before seriously damaging my only piece of cardboard.

For 2018, "Shell" was on display at the University of Waterloo's Brush with Art exhibiton.


Project 2: Tandcuffs

Create a social wearable which forces the wearer to interact with others.

"Tandcuffs" is a play on the words "tandem" and "handcuffs", because it is essentially a pair of tandem handcuffs.

My source of inspiration came from a class exercise, where depending on the colour of a wooden block we picked out of a bag, we had to sketch out rapid-fire ideas. My particular prompt had been love/hate.

Once again, I wanted to explore the duality between two seemingly opposite concepts. I looked at the duality of protection and helplessness in "Shell", so I wanted to look at how I could turn love into hate and hate into love. I thought of concepts that would not allow lovers to express affection, or something that would force enemies to cooperate.

I ideated on the second idea to create a beeping set of handcuffs that required users to work in tandem to shut it up. My goal was to change the feeling of anger into intimacy by having people who are forced together via handcuffs to work together to accomplish a goal. The objective was to reintroduce some positive emotion in a turbulent time; for example, angry kindergarteners being made to hold hands until they make up.

The circuit was set and coded with an Adafruit Flora, via the Arduino IDE. The cuffs emit a beeping noise which can only be shut off with the use of a touch sensor. The sensor is activated when the two palm pads, which are laced with conductive fabric, touch. The sensor reads in a low value when active, which tells the Flora to turn off the noise.

The following is a concept video that demonstrates the handcuffs in use via a fighting couple. Thank you to my incredible friends for starring in my short film!


Takeaways

Wearable Media was by far one of the most enjoyable courses I took during my undergraduate degree. As an engineer, I'm often focused on the application side of things and how to think in terms of a system, but this course let me fuse form and function together. Sometimes, all we wanted was the form, and function was just a means to an end. I learned a lot through the making process—I messed up a lot and thought I wasn't going to make deadlines. But it was through this process I was able to develop stronger critical thinking skills while exploring concepts I would have never thought of otherwise.