Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Psychophysical Elements of Wearability

Looking for references on the relationship between specific mechanisms of the body and wearable computing, I never accross anything relevant to my research. During Chi 2007, I discovered the work of Lucy Dunne: Psychophysical Elements of Wearability. She has a large number of publications on the subject and her research is fascinating.

My primary research focus is wearable technology design, a new field that is only recently beginning to gain direction and depth. As a functional apparel designer, I approach wearable technology with the goal of expanding garment functionality through use of technology. One of the most useful and salient applications of technology to garment functionality is in the area of body sensing: knowledge of the physical, emotional, and situational state of the user is essential to many next-generation computing applications, particularly in the areas of ubiquitous computing and adaptive information delivery, as well as the more direct areas of medical and sports monitoring. However, while many sensing technologies are predominantly well-established and reliable, they have also emerged from an engineering tradition that rarely includes the geometric, dynamic, cognitive, and emotional unpredictability that is the human body.

One of the most significant themes in my work has been the importance of designing truly wearable technology: defining the elements that influence wearability and overcoming the technical challenges of gathering data in a comfortable and unobtrusive manner. Most of my recent work has been applied to deducing the position and movement of the human body by detecting forces and bends in worn garments, with a wearability focus on moving sensing technology out of the electronically reliable but often awkward and uncomfortable medical standard and re-designing it to function adequately in “normal” clothing.

My doctoral dissertation, Wearable Sensing of Body Position and Movement Through Body-Garment Interactions, establishes the psychophysical elements that comprise “wearability” of technology and argues that in wearable technology, the influence of wearability extends to the user’s physical functionality, cognitive processing, and acceptance of innovation in worn artefacts. The design considerations that are established in the theoretical portion of the work are then applied to the problem of sensing the movement and position of the human body by detecting the shape and dynamics of worn garments, rather than by sensing (unwearably) the body itself. - Lucy Dunne

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