As we found out from the affinity diagram containing information from various sources (such as target users, rehabilitation experts, literature, and results of initial user tests), the re-design of the current vibe-ing dress is necessary. The new prototype must look like a regular everyday piece of clothing, not as a rehabilitation tool (not to label users wearing it as “patients”). It must be lightweight (especially around the neck) and less warm than the previous one, it must be easy to take it off and on again (since menopausal women often want to add or remove layers of clothing to regulate their body temperature). Last but not least, the pockets that hold the vibratory motors should be repositioned on the garment according to the requirements for posture correction.
Corresponding to the requirements touched upon in the paragraph above we decided to re-design the original vibe-ing dress into a prototype in a shape of a vest with a zipper at the front. The vest is supposedly more of a regular piece of clothing than a dress since many of our users don’t often wear dresses. It’s more lightweight and with its zipper it gives an option to put it on and take it off anytime a hot flush appears. We have pursued the opportunity to closely work with a fashion designer, Bregje Brocken, on getting the vest prototype pattern correct as well as its size. She helped us to create a preliminary prototype made out of a simple textile material in size 40. The size was selected in order to address most of elderly women’s trunk size and to sustain the tight fit in order to get the vibratory motors as close as possible to the skin.This prototype suited as a great template for the next steps that led to the final prototype.
The original vibe-ing dress was designed in a way that consists of several knitted patches that are sewn together to create a whole dress. There are patches that contain several pockets in a row that can hold the vibratory motors with their printed circuit boards. These patches are made out of double-layered knitting and felting techniques with a rippled finish and allow voluminous stretching. We decided to take an advantage of this thoughtful approach and chose to reuse these knitted patches in our design. The dress was unstitched in the seams and the patches were laid out on top of the preliminary prototype of the vest. First, we started to position the patches with pockets according to places where the vibratory stimuli should happen – in our case in the upper back (addressing the paravertebral muscle area) and at the front (addressing the deep abdomen muscles). From there on, we selected the remaining knitted patches according to its stretching characteristic as well as aesthetics of the whole vest. The stretchy patches were used for the shoulder area and a belly area; in these parts the dress must be flexible to fit different body sizes.
All patches were sewn back together into a final prototype. In the end, we ended up with a vest containing symmetrical patches with ten pockets for holding the vibratory motors at the upper back area. Lower back consists of the double-layered knitted part with a pretty ripple finish. The shoulder, chest and lower seam consist of a double-layered stretchy part. The double-layered parts of the vest prototype hold the property of pulling the garment down by its weight, therefore the vibratory motors are always going to be stimulating approximately the same area on user’s body. Two knitted patches with three pockets in each were sewn inside of the front stretchy part of the vest in a place addressing the deep abdomen muscles. At the same place as the pockets for the vibratory motors are, we embroidered a snowflake pattern in the top stretchy layer. This pattern was embroidered with a conductive thread and these disconnected patterns suit as the touch sensors in the frontal area of the vest prototype. We decided for a snowflake pattern as sort of a metaphor for calm the body down during the hot flushes of the menopausal women. “When you touch the snowflakes, the garment helps you correct your posture and therefore overcome menopausal symptoms better.”
Embedding the electronics
When the electronics were assembled together, corresponding to the design of the final prototype, it came to embedding the electronics into the prototype. The total number of sixteen vibratory motors were inserted into pre-designed 3D printed casings and put into the knitted pockets appropriately. The total number of six touch sensors made out of conductive thread were attached to the printed circuit boards.These printed circuit boards leading from each vibratory motor as well as touch sensors were inserted into another separate pre-designed 3D printed casings and sewn on the inner side of the vest and hidden alongside each side of a torso. All loose wires were either hidden in the seams of the prototype or carefully sewn onto the surface of the knitted material. All the casings with electronics were also covered by a layer of knitted fabric in order to provide the comfort and safety for the user. By these final touches to the vest, the prototype was ready to get user tested with our target group. More about the user-testing in the following blog posts.