Having the concept clear, we defined requirements for the new prototype of Vibe-ing, and started building it. The prototype of the garment is intended for testing with users. The prototyping of the new Vibe-ing consists of several steps – first we need to rebuilt the dress itself, then we build the electronics to be embedded into the dress, then we prototype the interactions and develop the software to control the behaviour of the garment. In this blog post I focus on the prototyping interactions and building required electronics.
We derived the requirements for the prototype from the affinity diagrams containing information from various sources (such as target users, rehabilitation experts, literature, and results of initial user tests). Regarding the interactions, the vibratory behaviour should follow the recommendation from physiologists and rehabilitation specialists (symmetry, positioning of the vibrating actuators on the muscles, not on the bones), and should resemble touch of a person (such as stroke), or tension known from taping rehabilitation method. It should be also responsive, providing feedback on user’s action, and working stand-alone without a need of connecting to any external device.
Redesigning of the dress itself is described in a separate blog post. Now, let’s focus on interactions we implemented into the garment. We began with designing the vibratory pattern on the back (five pairs of vibratory actuators along the spine), then with the front part (three pairs placed diagonally over the deep belly muscles) and touch sensors at the belly area.
Due to a lack of detailed information about the specific hands-to-body treatments on the wrong posture (specifically upper back posture problem – kyphosis) we went back to physiologists for a re-defining. They told us that they use taping method as external reminders. During this taping the specialist sticks two layers of tape (pieces wide about 5 cm, and long about 15cm) on patient’s upper back when the patient stands in a straight position. Then, whenever the patient bends their back, the tension on their skin caused by the non-flexible tape reminds them to correct the posture. This inspired us to design a vibratory pattern starting at the top and bottom end of the back at the same time, and following symmetrically into the middle of the back while increasing intensity – resembling the two-sided tension known from the taping. Add picture showing the pattern on the muscles and the graphical visualisation.
Vibratory pattern No. 2
Second vibratory pattern we created starts at the bottom of the back and follows upwards to the top, while increasing intensity of vibrations. This pattern is made to resemble a stroke made by a palm over the back when prompting someone to straighten up their back. Add picture showing the pattern on the muscles and the graphical visualisation.
The speed, intensity, and overlap of the vibration patterns were designed during co-designing sessions, when we tested various different settings, and in very fast iterations adjusted them immediately after trying out and evaluating their tactile qualities.
Front deep belly pattern + 2-way interactions
Then we started designing the two-way interactions between users and the garment. It started with determining the position of the six touch sensors. Those are placed exactly on top of the six vibratory actuators that are targeting the deep belly muscles. The choice of the position was made due to an easy accessibility by the users when they decide to interact with the garment. In addition we also decided to use the front vibratory actuators to provide local tactile feedback on touch as well as a stimulation of the deep belly muscles. So when the user touches one of the three touch sensors on either side of the belly, the three vibratory actuators on the touched side vibrate as a feedback. But, since we want users to correct their posture, we want them to touch their body symmetrically in order to straighten up – therefore, the vibratory pattern on the back starts only when a user touches the touch sensors on the belly by both hands on both sides of the belly. When both sides of the belly are touched at the same time, the local feedback is followed by a vibratory pattern along the spine.
The combination of touch input, vibratory output, properties of the vibrations (patterns the vibrations follow, intensity, overlap, delay, and location) we call it the behaviour of the garment. Evaluating of this behaviour is going to be the main goal of the user test with the final prototype. But that is the topic for a different blog post.