"Fluffy" the therapeutic backpack | Wearable
Roles: Concept, Design, Development, Testing
Fluffy is a wearable device that employs biological feedback to foster behavior change. Concept design built using the Arduino microcontroller, pressure sensors and Java-based Processing language.
To take an everyday object and add an emotional component with technology tightly coupled into it. We chose the backpack and aimed at building a therapeutic device which, once worn, would help de-stress the owner and interact wirelessly with their loved ones around the world.
Can inanimate objects stir an emotion?
We conducted extensive research to study machine therapy, science of breathing, and other non-visual methods of engaging with technology to foster behavior change. A renowned MIT researcher Kelly Dobson's research dissertation was on the very subject, where she describes machine therapy as,
a practice of connecting with machines, especially through their unintentional yet active side elements, in ways that are revelatory and potentially therapeutic for people.
Some relevant takeaways from the paper were, "subtle human-like interactions extended to machines make communication with them more human-like. Visceral interactions with machines may facilitate therapeutic exchange. Machines can assist, supplement and possibly enhance our bodies."
To replicate subtle human-like interactions, we simulated a breathing apparatus inside the inner lining of the backpack.
Below is a video depicting the simulation in action.
Having put out the prototype in front of users helped us gain insight into aspects we had failed to initially consider. We went back to the drawing board to refine our product. Finding the right market fit was the next step in the process. There were discussions to build a Kickstarter campaign to gauge interest and seek funders. Throughout the entire process, we had a simple mantra, four simple words: explore, innovate, iterate, test.
During our first working prototype showcase at the NYU-ITP winter show, we had some great feedback and wonderful conversations with people. One such conversation was with a well-known merchandiser who expressed interest in the product. Subsequent conversations led him to express a desire in patenting the concept design with us. That was a defining moment when we felt our hard-work realized and acknowledged. We later went on to file a patent application as co-owners with the intention to license it out to the merchandiser and other interested parties.