This is a project for a wearables class at NYU. This week’s topic was intimacy and communication. In class we were asked to write down our definition of intimacy. I wrote “a loss of fear with someone”. An important gesture to me is holding hands. It is a symbol of affection, trust, and guidance.
For my project I wanted to simulate the feeling of holding hands. I was inspired by the T.Jacket, a jacket that calms anxiety by applying soothing pressure to the wearer. In the same way, I want to create comforting pressure discreetly. I focused my research on inflatable technology.
Ideally this would be for multiple people to share in hand-holding remotely, but as a prototype I began with a single glove. I knit a fingerless glove using this pattern from AllFreeKnitting.com.
I was able to find a very small, low power air pump. I attached a balloon to the motor and tested different amounts of power using my voltage regulator.
I tried to make my own custom air bladder from mylar, but the sound and feel was not quite right for this project. The air pump has a small output nozzle, so it would also be great for attaching tubes and multiple bladders like in this tutorial.
The balloon doesn’t provide pressure around the hand, but it’s surprisingly comforting to hold in the palm. The pressure is fairly light and can be easily squeezed out by the wearer.
Luckily, a coin-cell battery was enough to power the circuit. The next step was to add a switch. I chose the inside of the wrist because I liked the interaction of holding the wrist it initiate the inflation, and I thought it might not get bumped as easily.
I made loops on the tips of the wire and used copper tape to create the surfaces of the button, and sewed the bottom wire to a patch of muslin to keep it in place.
I wanted the button to be less sensitive so I used harder foam than usual.
I covered the button in bright green felt and lined the glove with satin, so the balloon and circuit would not touch the skin. Also, satin holds temperature so it if you wear it for a while it will feel warm.
Deflated for normal wear
I am very happy with the finished product. In the future I would have to address the sound of the air pump. I also think it could be really fun to create a network of these gloves and see how a group reacts to using them simultaneously.
My favorite part of this project was the research and collaboration. I sent out an email asking about inflatable electronics and got a ton of input from students with similar interests.