A low-cost rehabilitation glove

Students from Montreal's McGill University have created a prototype recovery glove that encourages stroke patients who suffer the loss of hand motor skills to "relearn" how to use it through game play. The prototype is also aimed to cost relatively little to produce and allows the patients to use it at home through a video game interface. If you can get past the rather scary looking, cyborg implementation, what's interesting is the use of game mechanics (a trending topic in the tech industry) to encourage rehabilitation. I hope to see further iterations on this concept as well as a more considered wearable implementation.

More at gizmag.

Always-available natural user interfaces

I met with Desney Tan at Microsoft Research today, who walked me through a few mind-blowing demos and prototypes he has recently developed. One of his prototypes demonstrates the capabilities of using on-body musclecomputer inputs that can be integrated into garments. Listening to Tan articulately describe a bloom of possibilities and how he sees the evolution of interfacing was incredibly inspiring. Just imagine the potential.

Read Tan's publication for more info.

Diana Eng's inflatable dress

This is an older project, but still worth a reminder. Diana Eng, in collaboration with Emily Albinski, created this gorgeous dress way back in 2003, which ended up making its way on the cover of ID Magazine. The designers used this project to explore how they could use electronics to change the shape and color of a gown. The dress inflates to allow you to change it's shape. Pump up the back or the sides to change its silhouette.

The designers made no attempt to hide the electronics, rather, they exposed the spaghetti-ball of wires and components as the main aesthetic. This was a pretty outrageous design at the time. Since then, inflatable and shape-shifting garments have been a topic of exploration from designers such as Hussein ChalayanExtra-Soft (XS) labsYing Gao, and Teresa Almeida.

Tinker, inventor, hacker spaces

(image source via New York Times)

There seems to be a trend in tinker and hacker spaces, which are popping up all over the place. Hacker collective NYC Resistor is one of the popular ones, which opened in the summer of 2007 in New York. It allows anyone who is interested in electronics to come in tinker, hack, and invent. “Resistor blew the doors off the scene here,” said Eric Moore (via NYTimes), a hacker from Bushwick who is forming his own group. “They’re the next generation of American hacking. The rest of us are just trying to catch up.” In fact, it's so popular that another hacker space has been started called Htink, which is also located in New York.

Hacker spaces are a great forum to learn about wearables and experiment with the potential interactions. Diana Eng, a designer exploring wearables and a former Project Runway contestant, is one of the 7 members of the NY Resistor collective. “My designs were too nerdy for ‘Project Runway,’ ” Ms. Eng said with a giggle. “But here they fit right in.”

More info via NYTimes, Makezine, NYResistor

A soundscape that wraps around you

Dana Gordon and Alejandro Zamudio Sanchez designed Undercover blanket for the Droog exhibit Garden of Delight. The project is an ultra soft blanket that wirelessly connects to any music source in your home and plays a soundscape as it wraps around you.

The act of wrapping yourself in sound is quite charming and calming. Even more charming are the volume controls integrated into the top corners that use a "tugging" gesture. Tug at them, much like you do when you try and pull the blanket closer to you, and it adjusts the volume. The speakers are also nicely integrated into the aesthetics of the blanket making them look much like traditional quilting buttons.

More photos of the project and the making of it found here via Danka's Flickr set.

A wearable device that helps you walk

Honda recently unveiled a robotic wearable device that helps you walk. The seat is similar to a bike seat that connects a robotic leg to your shoes. It's strong enough to reduce the stress of body weight on the knees and gives you extra strength for actions like walking up stairs. Similarly, Cyberdyne created a full robotic wearable suit called HAL (Hybrid Assisted Limb) that enhances your natural physical capabilities by sensing and reacting to your nerve signals.

The technology is incredible, but aesthetically awkward if you had to walk around in public wearing one. This could be a great opportunity to integrate the technology directly into the aesthetics and textiles of the garment so if a wearer needed assistance, it would be as simple as putting on a pair of pants or slipping on a jacket. In fact, I would prance around town like a superhero if it looked like Dainese's gorgeous etched leather bike racing suit:

(source trendhunter.com)