The Thumping Thread vest, winning entry of University of Michigan‘s ‘Feel the Music‘ competition, is a excellent wearable electronic concept addressing the limitation deaf and hearing-impaired people face when it comes to their musical experiences or the lack of it.
‘Feeling the beat’ will allow deaf or hearing-impaired people to get into the rhythm, feel why people around them are so enthusiastically twisting and shaking their bodies.
The vest has vibrating motors about the size of dimes lined up at the center of the back and controlled via a LilyPad processor. The motors buzz at different frequencies, to let the user feel different components, the beat of the music. The system is powered by batteries placed in pockets of the vest.
Although the demonstrator vest had to be connected to a computer which picked up the sound and translate it to the motor activation it is easily imaginable to integrate the processing into the garment and add a microphone to create a completely autonomous garment.
The creative, winning team members are: Robert Alexander, Chris Connover, Rishi Daftuar, Stewart Randolph, Matt Rose, calling their team the Thumping Thread’s have made an extraordinary design putting great care for a seamless integration of technology into the garment.
I like the different perspectives this project touches: demonstrating how wearable technologies can greatly improve the life quality for handicapped people. They enable the integration of sensory functions discretely into clothing acting like a second, sensible skin. Wearable technologies add to our conventional clothing a living element, the interactivity with our environment.