A shirt to monitor your posture and physical activity
The shirt combines sensors and feedback mechanisms in clothing to give the wearer regular feedback to improve his or her posture and breathing. It encourages physical activity if someone has been seated or still for too long, or at least have them pay more attention to their posture over the course of the day.
Seated posture is a key factor in injury to the muscles and skeleton. This becomes particularly important for office workers who spend a lot of time seated at a desk. It is also applicable as we increasingly use mobile devices and in the process adopt unhealthy postures when typing text messages or playing mobile games.
Deep breathing has many known benefits such as decreased anxiety. The objective of the wellness shirt is to subtly nudge the wearer to pay attention to their health and well-being in the everyday. Deep breathing is a perfect use-case for this. The shirt uses a vibration module to inform the user to take deep breaths. The duration and intensity of this vibration has been configured to mirror a deep breath by a human.
Activity Tracking & Feedback
Studies have shown that people can achieve significant health benefits by merely increasing the number of steps they take or reducing the amount of time spent seated at a desk. The wearer’s activity over the course of the day is tracked and their performance is communicated using an LED that can display a colour ranging from red to green. It was a concious decision to use a colour range, as an intuitive, easy to grasp interface (rather than a screen).
An accelerometer placed on the lower arm is used for this purpose. When the wearer raises his or her arm, the LED lights up to display their performance.
Concept Development & Implementation
For measurement, I made flex sensors using velostat, felt, conductive fabric, and conductive thread. This allowed me to make sensors of varying lengths.
The back of the neck and the lower back emerged as particularly important areas for maintaining good posture. .
Four Design Principles
Give users proper credit for activities
The system should be clear in what types of activity will be recorded, and be accurate in that process.
Provide personal awareness of activity level
The shirt provides additional information such as basic history and activity performance. The LED displays information about recent past history. The accelerometer provides a readily available and lightweight method to check their performance – not unlike checking a watch. Finally, a vibration module gives subtle non-intrusive feedback for informing the user of actions thee need to take.
Support social influence
Support and influence from friends can be a powerful push to a more healthy lifestyle. In the heath shirt, the LED is visible to others and can be a point of social pressure (competition) or social support (encouragement).
Consider practical constraints of user’s lifestyle
The shirt incorporates a feedback mechanism that is built-in. It does not require the wearer to carry other devices or look at another screen to find out how he or she is doing.
The circuit was planned, built and tested incrementally. Fritzing was used to implement the electronic circuit.
Many thanks to Vaidehi for her help in developing the concept and the sewing skills that made this project a reality.