The final prototype for Futuwear was presented at Aalto Design Factory on the 8th of August. The team succeeded in creating a prototype of a wireless smart clothing and a web service to visualize the user’s activity. All sensors and electronics are integrated inside a sporty shirt, tailored by the team’s clothing designer.
The application helps office workers improve their posture in order to prevent back pain. The shirt has 8 active sensors measuring the user’s posture:
4 stretching resistors measuring shoulder locations
3 stretching resistors measuring back curvature
1 pressure resistor measuring pressure on the right forearm
These sensors do not generally yield physically accurate and absolute values, but they measure the user’s relative movement and position. The shirt’s battery, sensor filtering and long-range Bluetooth connectivity is implemented on a PCB, connected to the shirt’s integrated sensors through detachable snap-fasteners. The detachability of the sensitive electronics allows the shirt to be theoretically washable. The PCB includes:
A small, USB-rechargeable 3.7V Lithium-Polymer-battery
USB-programmable ATMega32u4 with 16MHz clock, same as the one used in Teensy
Bluegiga WT11i-A Bluetooth module
The web UI displays an interactive 3D visualization of the user’s approximate posture, especially their shoulders, in real-time. The web service also permanently stores the sensor value history and performs basic integrity checks and authentication.
Conductive yarn, signed to the circuit board, is an essential part of the functioning of the wearable technology. Threads are sewn into the shirt, hidden from sight and faulty contact. Additional paddings ensure comfort to the user. Initially the yarn was not individually insulated, whereby they couldn’t be sewn too close to each other. Short circuits caused erroneous measurement, but did not pose a risk to the user due to very low currents used (<0.5 μA). In the end, we laminated the conductive yarns with seamtape. The stretch resistors were placed to run over the shoulders and along the back of the shoulders, one stretch resistor on each location. In addition, a stretch resistor was attached on both sides and the upper back.
This project next steps, would be to do more testing with the conductive materials.
We used non-stretchable conductive yarn in our final prototype, but the yarn turned out not to be the most suitable for this kind of purpose. The non-stretchable yarn breaks easily, and a few sensors became dysfunctional only a couple of days before the Design Factory presentation.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to use stretching yarns in the final product. We would also need to do some adjustment to find the most optimal wiring path for each sensor. There are so many sensors and each of them needs their own way to reach the snap fasteners, without touching each other.
Additionally, the stretch resistors become loose/deformed after prolonged use. If we developed Futuwear to production stage, we would like to find less underwear looking fabric and look for an alternative to the non-durable stretch resistors.
Futuwear was born as a collaborative project between Futurice and a team of students from Aalto University, participating in Protopaja, a new product prototyping course. Practicing teamwork and refining their practical skills, the team thoroughly enjoyed spending a total of 8 weeks in planning, experiments and development. The Futurice office received frequent visits for live development and demonstration, not forgetting the espresso machines. Not unlike any classic student project, Futuwear’s development accelerated near the course deadline, but the final prototype turned out to be surprisingly successful.
The students behind Futuwear were:
Alex Colb, Ilpo Härkönen, Aki Kivivirta, Eveliina Ronkainen, Eino Virtanen and Elmo von Weissenberg
Thank you Futurice for the support and excellent spirit!
Elmo, lead developer (BSc student, Automation and Information Technology, Aalto Univ.) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eveliina, lead designer (Fashion and Collection Design, Aalto Univ.) (email@example.com)