Categories
Experimental Weaving Residency Provocations

An Intro to Weave Structure for HCI

This publication includes a workbook on weave structure as well as a reflection on how HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) researchers might look to craft publications for inspiration when communicating the contribution of craft-oriented research. The workbook included in this publication is intended for HCI researchers to learn the fundamentals of weave structure in the context of weaving force sensors. The project emerged in collaboration between the lab and Experimental Weaver in Residence Etta Sandry and our shared interests in communicating the technicality and fundamentals of weaving to broad audiences.

You can read the full publication on Issuu, however, you will be able to download when it becomes officially published in June.

Citation:

Laura Devendorf, Sasha de Koninck, and Etta Sandry. 2022. An Introduction to Weave Structure for HCI: A How-to and Reflection on Modes of Exchange. In Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS ’22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 629–642. https://doi.org/10.1145/3532106.3534567

Full Publication and Talk:

Download the Publication
Watch the Video

Notes:

We will be reforming this activity book into an interactive format that’s linked with AdaCAD. Stay posted.

Categories
Provocations

Knitting Access

Wearables are often a primary means of collecting data on the body and in-situ. The data collected upon wearables can shape or record interactions in real-time, prompting practices like self-care and reflection. In this work, we became intrigued by textile structures that were non-digital, but in themselves “stateful”. We explored how these textile interfaces can fit meaningfully into the lives of people with disabilities as sensors and display. Our study revealed interesting practices that emerged for self-tracking that were qualitatively unique in their close relationship to the body and deeply physical modes of engagement. Our findings offer insights into (1) qualities of textile interfaces that are important to people with disabilities, (2) new forms of data that people found to be worthwhile in tracking, and (3) knitted interfaces for sensing and display.

Citation:
Annika Muhlbradt*, Gregory Whiting, Shaun Kane, Laura Devendorf. Knitting Access: Exploring Statful Textiles with People with Disabilities. Forthcoming at DIS 2022.

Full Text and Presentation:
coming in June 2022

Categories
Provocations

Biofoam as Interactive Material

Each new material developed opens a broader pallet of aesthetic and functional possibilities for designers. This paper demonstrates biofoam, a material that is water-soluble, biodegradable, and can be made conductive. We describe the material in detail: the process of making the material from scratch, the material’s fabrication into forms with hand-craft techniques, and present two HCI specific applications of the biofoam. The biofoam can be cooked, molded, layered, extruded, dissolved or recooked opening up possibilities to consider the entire life cycle of the material in the design process. We contribute design considerations to allow designers to “tune” the biofoam to the desired quality, as well as a characterization of many aspects of the biofoam such as compression, spring back time, water permeability, and electrical conductivity. Finally, we discuss the unique opportunities this material and its life cycle bring to the design and HCI communities.

Citation:
Eldy Lazaro Vasquez*, Netta Ofer, Shanel Wu*, Mary Etta West, Mirela Alistar, Laura Devendorf. Exploring Biofoam as a Material for Tangible Interaction. Forthcoming at ACM DIS 2022.

Full Paper and Presentation:
Will be released after the conference takes place in June.

Categories
Provocations

Objects of Care

A few years of workshops on textiles, combined with an obsession with Sister Corita Kent, has given rise to a card game that we call “Objects of Care”. This card game walks plays through a design exercise reflecting on objects that provide “care” to them, and then creatively interpreting the care in those objects in different ways.

If you are interested in getting a deck or learning more about the project, please email us at unstabledesignlab@gmail.com.

Sasha will be presenting this project at the Design Research Society conference in July 2022.

Citation:

Sasha de Koninck, Laura Devendorf. Objects of Care. Forthcoming Design Research Society Biannual Conference 2022.

Upcoming:

Stay tuned for a link that allows you to upload ideas generated from the game here.

Categories
Provocations

Unlearning the Garment from the Body

Categories
Provocations

ASMR as Design Inspiration

When I first watched an ASMR video I was both fascinated and confused. I found these videos to be fantastically strange because they had an uncanny way of taking conventionally boring objects and situations and turning them into a source of interest and relaxation for millions of people. I wondered if the way that we interact with ASMR videos is reshaping our relationships with technology. Or perhaps indicative of some cultural shift that is already underway. Over the course of a year, I worked with Laura to gain a deeper understanding of ASMR related media and whether or not it could be relevant to the design of technology, specifically the wearable kind. This project included: an indepth look at ASMR videos on youtube and tried to isolate their unique aesthetic qualities; a pilot study where users took home a “sonic toolkit” in order to understand how “ASMR-like” sounds relate to everyday life; and an interview with a Melinda Lauw, a “live” ASMR creator. The project culminated in the creation of two interactive garments that are based off of Laura and I’s individual interpretations of how ASMR videos can inspire wearable technology for connecting meaningfully with our surroundings. 

Designing early concepts for impossible sonic garments
The screaming coat triggers audio playback to breath, allowing one to scream with their samples
The listening jacket sound amplifies and distorts environmental sounds, like the satisfying clicki-ness of this keyboard.

To learn more about the garments as well as all of our different ideas surrounding ASMR and design please check out the paper! 

Detail on the Teensey Audio Controller used in both coats


Links

Categories
Provocations

Personal Data Narratives

How do making and materials contribute to our understanding of personal data representations? To explore how materials, data, and humans collaborate to produce physical data representations, we created a series of artifacts from personal data we collected (about commuting, forgetting, and busy-ness) in different media: yarn and sound.

We used these data artefacts to interrogate the boundaries between maker and interpreter, and to ask who—or what—has the authority to interpret narrative and assign meaning to data things? We exchanged these artefacts without providing guidelines for how to interpret them in order to study where the boundary between maker and interpreter emerges. In exchanging the artefacts, we explored the role of the interpreter as a re-maker and how multiple narratives can productively co-exist. We conclude with a discussion about how reimagining the roles of maker and interpreter might lead to new interactions with personal data narratives.

To learn more about our work, read the full paper here or watch a video presentation above.

Categories
Provocations

The Language of “E-Textiles”

E-Textiles, Smart Textiles, Flexible Hybrid Electronics: Who’s Saying What?

Recently, LOOMIA and the Unstable Design Lab jointly ran a survey that asked people working in e-textiles (or more broadly, “electronics + textiles”) how they liked to talk about their work. LOOMIA is a flexible electronics start-up creating prototyping components for creative technologists, designers, and all sorts of e-textiles folks, hence the interest in how we label e-textiles and related work. LOOMIA has posted on their blog about the differences and overlaps between terms like “e-textiles”, “smart textiles”, and “functional fabrics”, but we wanted to test some theories about how people are actually using these terms.

The survey asked people to think about the following terms:

  • E-textiles
  • Smart textiles
  • Functional fabrics
  • Soft circuits
  • Flexible circuits/devices
  • FHE (Flexible Hybrid Electronics)
  • Stretchable electronics

Participants were asked which terms they had heard of, if they preferred or disliked any on the list, and if they saw any differences between the terms. They could also add any terms that we had missed.

We received a wide variety of responses, representing a range of age, genders, nationalities, experience levels, and professional backgrounds!

Demographics

Total Participants – 63

0 years of e-textile experience – 21
1+ years of e-Textile experience – 42

Gender – Female (28), Male (33), Non-Binary (2)

Age – 18 to 75

Occupation – Homemaker to CEO

In particular, the terms “e-textiles” and “flexible hybrid electronics” seemed to stand at two extremes of a language spectrum.

Careers of Participants pie chart
Breakdown of self-identified career paths of participants: 20 creative technologists (32%), 19 engineers (30%), 24 who indicated other paths (38%)

Findings

  • 30/63 did not like Stretchable Electronics
  • 26/63 did not like Soft Circuits
  • 31/63 did not like Flexible Hybrid Electronics
  • 17/63 did not like Flexible Circuits and Devices
  • 14/63 did not like Functional Fabrics
  • 17/63 did not like Smart Textiles
  • 5/63 did not like E-Textiles

Because we also collected demographic information on participants’ career paths and asked them to categorize their own work, we wanted to see if there were any differences between the disciplines represented in our field. The main categories were “engineer”, “creative technologist”, or “artist/craftsperson”, but participants also added “venture capital”, “HR”, “textile designer”, and other roles.

What Engineers Liked

  • 7/19 liked E-textiles/Smart Textiles (tied)
  • 3/19 liked Flexible Hybrid Electronics
  • 2/19 liked Soft Circuits

What Creative Technologists Liked

  • 18/20 liked E-Textiles
  • 10/20 liked Smart Textiles
  • 7/20 liked Soft Circuits
  • 5/20 liked Functional Fabrics
  • 2/20 liked Flexible Hybrid Electronics

What Other Careers Liked

  • 8/24 liked Smart Textiles
  • 7/24 liked E-Textiles
  • 2/24 liked Stretchable Electronics
  • 1/24 liked Soft Circuits

Digging deeper into our data, many participants generously gave time to answer some free-response questions on their language associations with “e-textiles” or “flexible hybrid electronics”. By and large, people were concerned about future e-textiles/flexible device products being washable, both as an essential criteria for usability and as a technical challenge to overcome with new materials.

Language Associations

Q: What do you believe are essential features or descriptors of future e-textiles/flexible electronics? (For example: thin, washable, soft, etc.)

Word cloud with blue and red terms of different sizes. "Washable" is the largest overall, and "gross" is the largest red term. Other large terms are "comfortable", "flexible/malleable", and "power/charging".
Word cloud of all participants’ responses to the question. Larger font size means a higher frequency in responses. Red words indicate “anti” features where participants mentioned what they didn’t want.

Q: What sort of products do you associate with flexible or wearable devices? These can be existing products or future hopes.

Word cloud of terms of varying sizes, and randomized colors. "Clothing" is the largest word, followed by "healthcare". Other notable terms include "wearable", "tracking/surveillance", "jewelry", "home".
Word cloud of all participants’ responses to the question, with some grouping into certain topics (e.g. “monitoring” and “tracking data” were grouped into “tracking/surveillance”). Larger font size means a higher frequency of the word/topic, while colors are randomized.

We also see some interesting disagreements about how much the “e-textiles / smart fabrics”  label overlapped with the “flexible / wearable” label. While most people said that they’re either related or even nested categories, a minority of respondents associated the two with different materials or fabrication techniques. A key quote from a dissenting opinion: 

“fabrics are made of fibers that can easily be manipulated whereas flexible and wearable devices are made of plastics or hard materials”

anonymous survey respondent

which points out that many of our current wearable devices like smartwatches don’t use fabrics (or if they do, there aren’t integrated electronics in the fabric).

Conclusion

Returning to our initial hypothesis, it seems that our hunch was wrong about engineers preferring terms with “circuits” or “electronics” over terms that focused on “textiles”! But the data shows a much more nuanced picture of how people are thinking about the future of e-textile technologies. We see folks grappling with using language that is specific and descriptive (e.g. “electronics” implies semiconductor devices and the associated materials and processes, while “textiles” implies yarns/fiber and knitting/weaving/felting/etc.) versus language that is general and accessible. Broad terms like “e-textiles” and putting the “smart” label before a product category are easily understood by a general audience, but for those working within the industry, these terms can become “buzzwords” which are vague and unhelpful for describing the technical details of their work.

We presented these initial findings and analyses in a webinar, hosting a town-hall-style discussion with interested survey respondents. Again, there was a diverse range of experiences in the virtual room. Speaking face to face, we wanted to get the room thinking about their language use when talking to others in e-textiles. Since the survey focused on people’s language use within their own professional contexts, we were especially interested in any experiences that people had collaborating across disciplines when working in e-textiles. From one participant on the differences in working with textile engineers vs. electrical engineers:

“textile engineers tend to have a broader perspective as they can see concrete applications (wearables / clothing). Whereas [electrical engineers] may be a little more broad technically: e.g. use of flexible circuits in detecting stretch.”

anonymous webinar attendee

While our dataset is by no means comprehensive, these survey results were a fascinating exploratory poke into the interdisciplinary nature of the emerging e-textiles field and the future of its industry. We hope that sharing these findings will help us all to speak across professions and consider different perspectives, particularly in collaborative settings, when discussing soft, flexible, and textile based circuits of all shapes and sizes.

We’d like to shout out the following people for their contributions and thoughtful responses:

  • Ricardo O’Nascimento
  • Andrea C
  • Robert Tietze
  • Vicente Jorge Sanchis Rico
  • J.J.M Geurts
  • Michelle Farrington
  • Jim Stathis
  • Lina Stephens
  • Radoslav Hanic
  • Charlie Lindahl
  • Amy Jenkins
  • Darryl 
  • Md Mehdi Hasan  
  • Qianwen Yu
  • Lori Ann Wahl
  • Michael Stewart
  • @cooolrunnings
  • Pranav Sai
  • James Ochieng
  • Eddie Yam (Intertek HK)
  • Gil M
  • Muhammed Tawhidur Rahman
  • Bobby Bedi

Collaboration

If you’d like to learn more about LOOMIA’s side of this collaboration, please check out their website and blog (where this article was also posted). You can also learn more about their founder and our main collaborator on this study, Maddy Maxey.

Data analysis by Maddy Maxey

Images by Mary Vogt

Categories
Provocations

A Fabric that Remembers

A Fabric that remembers is a fabric that remembers how and when it was pressed. It does this using 6 embedded pressure sensors and a microconroller that trasmits data to the web. It is a fabric with its own website, which you can explore here:

The fabric is currently on display at Accenture Labs in San Francisco and uses both the fabric and tablet to visualize touch in realtime. The constraint that guided the work was to get as much of the circuitry as possible embedded into the fabric. Thus, for the e-textiles nerds out there, you might be happy to know that all of the wiring for the resistive sensing and voltage dividing is embedded into the fabric by way of using different resistance yarns. We have included all of the swatches I made in preparation for the final design for reference.

Authors on this project are Laura Devendorf, Sasha De Koninck, Shanel Wu and Emma Goodwill.

This image shows the fabric as it would be rendered as a circuit. The structure consists of six voltage dividing circuits wired in parallel to a common power and ground. The first resistor is a fixed value resistor and the second is a variable resistor that changes measure with the application of force.
The fabric on view at the Center for Heritage Arts and Textiles (CHAT) in Hong Kong as part of the “Interweaving Poetic Code” exhibit.

Want to know more of the technical details?

You can checkout all of the code, interface specs, and weaving files at https://github.com/UnstableDesign/A-Fabric-That-Remembers

Categories
Provocations

Unfabricate

Unfabricate is a project that anticipate the future of e-waste compounding with textile waste. Shanel Wu leverages the quality of textiles as being adhesive-less to envision new methods for designing smart textiles for disassembly.

Publications

Unfabricate: Designing Smart Textiles for Disassembly – CHI 2020