The Stress Vest
The vest is fitted with numerous, tiny electromyography (EMG) electrodes that can calculate your stress levels by monitoring the level of electrical excitation in your muscles.
The electrical signal produced by your muscles changes with your stress level. So, if you’ve been overdoing it at work (or prayer), for example, the sensors will register heightened electrical excitation and pass the signal to an electronic analysis kit via a network of tiny conducting metallic fibers.
The vest can then inform you to take a break –or make another espresso.
Researchers claim that sports coaches could use the stress vest to determine whether athletes have reached their performance limits or still possess energy reserves. The stress vest could also contribute to safety at the workplace –for example, being used to ensure that workers do not lift loads that are too heavy for them.
The vest could also be used to control characters in computer games by selectively tensing the torso muscles –effectively using your real-world chest in place of joystick controls, claim the researchers.
The team behind the stress vest identified some interesting specific design challenges presented by wearable electronic devices: the garments have to be resistant to water and perspiration, the electric conductors must not fray (even after repeated laundry cycles), and, for comfort’s sake, the sensors must be “no larger than buttons.”
Please note that ‘The Button’ is not an official scientific measure.
“The IZM researchers have [...] developed stable metallic fibers, watertight connections and durable sensor buttons. Their task over the next few months will be to integrate the analysis electronics,” says Torsten Linz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin, a project partner.
There is lots of interesting work going on in wearable electronics and smart textiles –a topic I’ll return to in future posts.
For now, here are some useful links:
Fraunhofer’s wearit@work website
Researchers at Fraunhofer are developing wearable computing solutions for emergency response forces, in close association with the Paris Fire Brigade (BSPP).
A Wired News article I wrote last year about using brain-computer interfaces to control computer games:
BCI – Brain to Control Games Directly, Maybe Vice Versa