Humans were made to move. Many hours in front of a screen leads to stiff bodies and a diminished bodily awareness. The aim of this project was to explore how technology can serve to increase our body awareness and adapt to our physical conditions in everyday life with focus on office spaces. The process is explorative with a focus on embodied prototyping and tactile feedback, with the user as a subject of design. The process involves interviews, workshops, reflexion-on-action, prototyping and iterations towards a final concept.
External tutoring, Jeroen Peters, RISE Interactive
The research has been done in collaboration with a dancer, a dance therapist, seniors in amateur theater, a theater pedagogue and external expertise from physiotherapist.
My final concept elaborates on the interaction between body and product creating an interplay between action and reaction by receiving tactile impulses and also use your body to navigate the product. The result is a physical elaboration with movements and possitive sensory stimulation to navigate both your body and the product.
The final concept is a wearable that encourage people to move and stretch out more often and spontaneously throughout the day. It does so by vibration patterns along your spine and shoulders. The concept also takes in consideration phycological and social benefits of extended body postures. The system is thought to be self-rewarding; if it feels good to stretch out, to extend the arms, to move – then you will want to do it again.
Concept Details - Vibration patterns
Every pattern are developed to trigger different behaviours and awareness. These patterns were developed by prototyping and user tests. The vibration motors activates at different speeds, directions and patterns triggered by arm movements and situation.
During the research phase I have looked beyond the object (product) I'm designing and explored the user as a subject with their needs and wishes and most of all their experiences in daily life. “There cannot be users for objects that do not exist” (Redström, 2006) it is therefor important to understand who we are designing for to be able to adapt the design to the people and not the people to the design.
I have in this project put focus on how people around me perceive their bodies, their experience of inhabiting their body and their expression of it. Most of all I have placed an emphasis on what mindset people have, when interacting with the world with energy and spontaneity involving physical expressions and emotions.
Process Final Concept
The final concept was developed by analog and digital prototyping. The test result was then translated into vibration patterns where direction, speed and duration made a difference in peoples behaviour and physical respons.
Form development Final Concept
The insight I got from my research was to put our senses as highest priority and cognitive activities and information as lower priorities.
Body prototyping with movements
I brought my body and senses into the prototyping and idea generation focusing on tactile feedback of movements. I wanted to test out my ideas and really try out how they would feel in interaction with my body and senses, to be able to evaluate them properly.
Without the sensory experience a motoric exercise is just mechanical and the lust and reward for doing the exercise is missing. / Elisabet Rosén, Dance therapist
Express - Fabric prototype
I'm not the person known for body language and my shyness is often mistaken for arrogance. / interviewee
This prototype is about opening up our body language to the surrounding and build a confident ground in yourself. At the same time it gives your back a stretch, making you relaxed and calm as extending our body language into power poses decreases your cortisol level (your stress hormone) making you more present and in the moment.
The prototype is built with elastic fabric, when you stretch out your arms it triggers a vibration motor connected to an Adafruit Flora board. The vibration is meant as a positive feedback of your action.
The feedback from this prototype was positive; people understood its purpose of opening op your body language to the world. Some technical obstacles opened up for ambiguity and personal interpretation of which movement would trigger the vibration feedback.
Aware - Fabric prototype
A tingling and thrills in your body is part of the reward when you are doing something exiting and a bit scary. / interviewee
This prototype was based on a story from a skyscraper in New York told in my body sensations workshop. The buzzing city and the fact that the experience was 60 floors up contributed to the exiting and a bit scary experience - when we challenge ourselves to do scary things we grow and feel alive. This can sometimes be experienced as a tingling sensation along your spine and it awakes your body and all our nerve treads connected to it.
The experience was surprisingly similar to someone stroking your back which reminds me of the compassion and empathy with which you should treat your body.
The spine is the core in our body and an important base for our physique. It also has a significant value in meditation techniques to reach balance and awareness in our body and mind.
It gives me the goose bombs, and it makes me straighten my back and be more aware of my body. It works very well! /user tester
Waterdrops - Prototype
How is the sensation of water drops sliding against your skin in the summer rain?
This prototype reflects your movements giving a direct feedback. The idea comes from the physical sensation of water drops as a physical impact awakening your body sensation and also being a direct feedback of your movements.
The construction is made of metal plates sliding along your arm along fabric stripes. The metal plates is supposed to give a tingling and pleasant sensation during body contact and also reflect your movement of the arm. The idea is to bring out a pleasant experience for the user based on the interviewees connection with nature and feeling calm and awake.
Spontaneity - Dance Prototype
I want to connect more to my body, be a bit more spontaneous and impulsive in my movements when expressing myself, especially when dancing. / interviewee
This is a dance prototype based on one of my interviewee’s wish to turn the act of dancing into a more impulsive activity more based on spontaneity rather than intellect.
The prototype contains of four vibration motors connected to a Flora Adafruit board attached to your hand and ankles. The vibration then vibrates randomly accorded to the tempo in a song. The person dancing is then supposed to move the body part given the vibration feedback.
Workshop for body sensations
To get started with my Ideation phase I created a workshop with seniors from the Old-Ladies-Theater amateur group. I asked them to prototype a joyful experience that they had have in life based on their body sensations.
The result was colourful expressions involving movements (acting), sound effects and prototypes.
Dance collaboration with Kinect xbox
In my collaboration with my dancer I captured her dance with a Kinect xbox connected to processing. The prototype was a way to capture physical expression and create a digital translation of it. The idea was to see how our perception of ourselves would change when involving technology in the connotation between you and the visual feedback.
What will happen during the motion tracking event? What happens when seeing a digital representation of your movement afterwards?
I did some user testing using the Xbox Kinect to see if our excitement for technology and seeing a visual representation of ourselves could trigger engagement and maybe make us overstep the hesitation we might have for expressing ourselves with our bodies.
I evaluated the three different levels of abstract representation on the screen: “too abstract is boring and too realistic is to intimidating” one of the participants said. I did however see that it was more about achieving different movements on screen and the visual feedback of the movement rather than the experience of the movement itself. The test did however result in engagement and interaction with others.
The second test was using the Kinect to track a person working by his desk in the morning. I wanted to capture a ‘normal day at work’. I tracked the person working by his desk and then filling up his water bottle which is part of the daily routine.
I think this test was interesting in order to find out how the fact that the user was aware of being "captured" might affect his behaviour. Also what the reaction would be when seeing the record of himself a while after. It seems like the "capturing" during the event had a positive impact without influencing the persons work flow in a negative way. The fact that the person could remember the movement that happened 1,5 days earlier when seeing the screen record is pretty remarkable.