Gia Marino & Fiona Chiu
To create a tactile experience that captures the nuance of human touch through gesture and movement. The wearable bracelet presents a novel approach to appreciating the complexities of human interaction and enhances our ability to communicate and connect with one another on a deeper level.
Reflection on the creative design opportunities
In our world, human gestures and phrases carry nuanced connotations not captured by verbal or visual communication. Soft robotics provides a unique opportunity to explore the subtleties of non-verbal communication and how they can fill in the gaps. In this project, we explore the use of silicone to create gesture-activated bracelets that aim to mimic the tactile experience of human touch.
Throughout the design process, we embrace the skin-like qualities of silicone and the aesthetic material changes during pneumatic actuation to communicate non-verbal affection and comfort in response to a gesture of greeting. The design of the bubbles on the bracelet and how they felt and looked on the skin was key consideration. The process of perfecting these involved experimenting with different shapes, sizes, and textures. Choreographing the actuation of the bracelet involved experimenting with the speed and pressure of air to create pulses that represent what the sender wants the receiver to feel when they perform a gesture. This required a deep understanding of the subtleties of each gesture and how they can be translated into a physical experience.
The marbling and coloring of the silicone offer an artistic interpretation of the grotesque nature of human flesh. This serves as a representation of the raw emotion, intimacy, and vulnerability that can be associated with touch-based communication.
Overall, we are very happy that we achieved creating an actuating bracelet that had such an interesting feeling and look to it. There are always more opportunities and avenues we wish we had time to further explore, but we did experiment a lot throughout, so we feel satisfied with our iterations. The downfall to lots of experimenting is that we spent a lot of time failing instead of moving toward a final form. We mainly played with different ways of actuating (phasing, alternating, and a gradual wave-like actuation), size, thickness, length, color, and sensors. However, our vast iterations proves we were willing to try things that were challenging and still found many great additions for our final bracelet. For example:
- We figured out early on that we enjoyed the bubble form and how interesting it looks and feel. We were able to easily iterate to make the bubbles expand properly on both sides. This created a nice sensation on the skin while wearing the bracelet. This was a consistent success with our prototypes and the final form.
- We created a mold that successfully caused an alternating actuation, which was incredibly cool, but wasn’t included in the final iteration because of other challenges and lack of time.
- We liked almost every color we made and got to have a lot of fun experimenting with this in the end. We believe that our colors create a very interesting story in the final product that really helped us create our story into something compelling
- Tying the bracelet together was interesting because it was less iterated on, but we found the sewing to be the easiest and most secure way, which actually caused us to create some interesting bracelets. We sewed a bracelet together which ended up looking really cool and it was a great iteration in our collection. Overall, the sewing was quite secure and we didn’t have to worry about it ripping or falling off.
- The accelerometer sensor ended up being very cool and we were able to make 3 different gestures and choreographed 3 different actuations for each gesture by changing the input to the air pump. We were also able to actuate the two sides of the bracelet with different timing, which made the actuation look more complex and interesting, kinda like a wave. This was a great success to us because we think it makes the interaction with the bracelet more interesting by creating multiple ways to communicate through this bracelet rather than having one input and output.
- Bonding the silicone. Our bracelet mold had thin tubes running through it for actuation purposes which caused a lot of issues during the bonding process. The tubes get getting plugged which resulted in the actuation/inflation of the bubbles being very uneven.
- 3D Printing. The 3D printers offered were not long enough to accommodate the full length of the bracelet which meant that we had to figure out a way to connect two silicone parts seamlessly. This proved to be pretty difficult and resulted in a very fragile bracelet. The IDEATE printers also broke halfway through the course so we couldn’t experiment with different connecting part designs that may have resolved the issue above.
- Suctioning air out in the motor + pump system. When we created the system to actuate the bracelets we found that they didn’t vacuum the air out which meant the bracelets were at risk of popping (since the top layer was very thin). To work around this, we poked holes in the tubes to allow the air to leak out when the bubbles deflated. This allowed us to control the inflation and deflation in a way that was very natural.
- Gesture detection vs classification. Initially, our plan for gesture detection was to collect data with the accelerometer to train a classifier for predicting gestures. However, there wasn’t enough memory on our Arduino and filtering out data points was outside the scope of the project so we ended up going with a gesture detection system based on thresholds of x, y, and z values on the accelerometer.
Original CAD files:
- wired up circuitry on the breadboard and accelerometer
- Sewed bracelets together
- made a box for final video
- edited final photos and video
- modeled bracelet for video and pictures
- created the CAD for the mold used in the final product
- casted, bonded, and colored silicone bracelets for the final demo and video
- choreographed the actuation for the final bracelet gestures
- coded a state machine based program for gesture detection using an accelerometer
- took pictures and video for final documentation
- created CAD molds and casted and bonded silicon prototypes
- tested prototypes and documented this
- sent in 3D prints and acquired them
- wrote part of documentation
- tested heart rate monitor in class
- made velcro for accelerometer