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Body Wonders

2020

Body Wonders is a designed (touch) experience to let people feel the potential of haptic feedback in smart clothing. What kind of messages, feelings, emotions can we evoke through touch? What is the potential of this unexplored sensorial dimension? What if we could feel information on our skin?


We are overwhelmed by information, our screen time in this pandemic time increased a lot as well as all the mediated communication with our colleagues, family and friends, due to social distancing. A communication that is mainly visual, a sense that nowadays is overstimulated compared to the other ones. In the meantime, we are not touching each other anymore, the 1.5 m society impacted our social rituals, intimacy and relation with the physical world. We are underusing our touch both to grasp our surroundings and to communicate with each other. The aim of this project is to explore touch as a channel and new language, the skin as a new interface in a future screenless society.


A collaboration with Pauline van Dongen & Adriaan de Man.
Commissioned by Baltan Laboratories for Holst Centre.







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Research & concept development



The main objective of the project was to give people the possibility to experience smart clothing in order to enhance their understanding and to inspire them about future possibilities. We were asked to design a playful interaction for two participants, where they can interact with each other over distance through a garment with integrated haptic motors. Also, it had to serve as a tool for further research.
We started off with research into the sense of touch, neuroplasticity and existing and emerging haptic feedback technologies. To define the scope of the experience, we mapped down and categorised possible applications of the technology.









We developed a concept of an 'open system’ experience where one participant (Receiver) wears the smart garment, and the other (Controller) interacts with it through an interface running on a tablet. The setting of the experience is a playful experiment, consisting of tasks which require collaboration and space for an open-end exploration of different sensations.

The experience is possible through a smart garment containing multiple haptic motors positioned all over the upper body and arms to create a variety of vibrotactile patterns, used as a canvas for 4 different test phases. Through these phases, a couple of participants (one operator and one receiver) will explore how to communicate simple instruction through touch over distance, how to interpret stimuli and react to them but also to get to know the medium, to learn its language and acquire a new tactile awareness.


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Testing & prototyping



Through a custom developed Max/MSP based interface, we experimented with the working and intensity of the motors’ vibrations and created various different vibrotactile ‘patterns’. A lot of testing was needed do termine what felt comfortable or not, stimulating or relaxing, playful or dull. Through research into existing literature and hands-on experiments, we defined desirable positions of the motors on the garment.


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Interface


We developed different scenarios of interaction through the interface. Later we synthesised them into several ‘tests’ which can be completed by the successful interaction of the two participants: the Operator who is navigating the experience through the interface (running on a tablet), and the Receiver who is wearing the vest.