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2018: Year in review - August to December


Continuing on from my previous post

August & September:

I started some exploration into E-textiles with an innate human connection, either information traveling from human to technology, or vice versa. One particular area of interest was Haptic feedback. This actually stemmed from a short project I undertook as part of my MA course, which focused on the idea of augmenting human abilities through technology, with the underlying principle being sensory substitution. At that time, I was considering a non-textiles sensory substitution device, but I felt there was potential to look at how to use textiles in the same way. I explored two options: vibrotactile and electrotactile feedback.

For vibrotactile feedback, I looked at extracting the working principle behind vibration motors and transferring it to textiles. This proved challenging, without any significant advantages over integrating conventional vibration motors to textiles. Electrotactile feedback considered using electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) as feedback. However, while it is technically relatively easy to make a textiles-based electrode, making a good textiles-based electrode proved challenging. I didn't have the materials to make a dry textiles-based electrode.

Electromagnetism experiment for Vibrotactile tests

Premade conductive fabric as an EMS electrode
Knitted conductive fabric as an EMS electrode

Another option, which I had considered is the use of piezoelectric material to produce vibrotactile feedback. However, similar issues as with the electrotactile feedback, difficult and expensive to acquire piezoelectric film. The piezomaterial option is still open, as I look to more accessible alternatives.

October:

On the other side of the coin, I did look at human to technology, principally EMG. Also this option presented the same problem as the EMS idea: making a good textiles-based electrode.

However, my second project of the month, the Stretch fabric visualiser, did yield some success. This device is basically an Adafruit Feather M0 with a simple LED gauge and buzzer. It's designed to provide a more elegant solution to using crocodile clips with the Arduino and a computer. You attach metal snaps to your fabric, connect the corresponding snaps to the device. It has calibration phase, so that the coding doesn't have to be modified for each type of knitted fabric. Once the calibration phase is over, the device's gauge and tone should correspond to different amounts of stretch.

Stretch fabric visualiser

It's designed to allow someone to visualise the relationship between the stretching of the fabric to a reaction by the device. For examples, you may want to see how much you have to stretch the fabric to produce a certain tone. i.e. different knit structures may stretch a lot before the maximum level on the gauge can be achieved. Also, it was found that other kinds of interactions could produce a reaction by the visualiser, such as a scrunching of the fabric. While it's not as big of a reaction, it would be interesting to implement it in an interactive textiles scenario.

November:

This big news in November was that I FINALLY got some training for the Shima Seiki Training. After much back and forth, it turns out the simplest option was to got back to the UK to attend a training course with Shima UK. The course was specifically in the Design package, but I was introduced to the automatic system, to allow the design to be transferred to the knitting machine.

Another significant event for the whole lab group was Gerontech, an expo centred around technology for an aging population. My colleague Heeyoung Kim has designed an interactive textiles wall panel for use in Multi-sensory environments, particularly by people with Dementia. The lab is fortunate to have expertise in different textiles production techniques, and collaboration with an electronics company. My contribution was through the knitted E-textiles red tassels, as seen in the image below. Other members of the lab group contributed weaving, electronics and embellishment expertise .

Gerontech Expo Stand

December:

We start the year with an exhibition, and we end the year with an exhibition. The Universal Materiality exhibition (18-26 December 2018) presented the work produced as a result of the collaboration between PolyU and Parsons, in relation to the Open Style Lab summer programme. The summer programme is a ten week programme that aims to reconsider the design of fashionable garments for people with disabilities, by making the garments stylish as well as functional. Items exhibited ranged from 3D printed to E-textiles samples. One of the garments designed as part of the programme was also exhibited.

That summaries what has happened over the year, missing out the detail about review literature and writing papers. I hope to post again about what is upcoming this year.

#interactivetextiles #HongKong #Wearabletechnology #knit #etextiles #polyu

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