Visualising new futures
Some of the most exciting developments in wearable tech are happening in the research labs at Monash University.
Monash University in Melbourne has a facility that uses computer science to underpin collaborations with artists, designers, architects and theorists, expanding the world of wearable tech.
Launched in May 2015, sensiLab is the first tech-based research space of its kind in Australia, bringing together researchers from many different disciplines including art, design, health, fitness and engineering. It’s headed by Professor Jon McCormack, who has worked with computer code as a medium for creative expression since the late 1980s.
One sensiLab project, the Stress Pendant, was developed as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week 2016. In a live social experiment, 40 volunteers were given a pendant they had to squeeze whenever they felt stressed. With each squeeze, GPS details were collected and then used to produce a ‘stress map’ of Melbourne and view live stress points as they happened across the city.
“From a computer science perspective, the stress pendant project is interesting because it involves a lot of different things: design of the pendant itself, custom electronics, an app for iPhone and Android, a cloud database and data visualisation,” Jon says. “This diverse set of things all work together to create a compelling and fun wearable device that helps you manage stress.”
Monash PhD candidate Kellyann Geurts’ research focuses on imaging thought in the digital space. Working with Monash researcher Dr In Dae Hwang, she created Thoughtforms, which uses an EEG brain sensor to measure tiny electrical changes in brainwaves, with the data converted into an abstract physical shape using a 3D printer.
One hundred volunteers took part in the first trial and some general patterns of 3D forms emerged from different ‘types’ of thoughts.
“Users who focused on calm relaxing thoughts tended to have rounded, softer, more contained shapes, whereas excitable thoughts showed random and elongated shapes,” Kellyann says.
Once the algorithms have been fine-tuned to be more accurate, Kellyann hopes to use Thoughtforms to complement medical research.
Jon predicts wearable tech will become increasingly imaginative in terms of utility and design. “I hope technology will become invisible and its applications will be integrated into daily life because everything we wear will be connected.”
– Rachael Oku