PCOMP/ICM Final Project Proposal: Wearable ECG

In my first year of working in the fashion industry, my supervisor told me, “It’s just clothes. You’re not saving lives.” This sentence continues to have a profound and resounding influence on me. On one hand, its repetition can provide a sense of relief when I’m confronted with challenging obstacles and demanding deadlines. In times of quiet introversion, it has the adverse effect of propelling me into existential crisis. Last year, I attended a panel discussion about brain-machine interfaces during the World Science Festival where neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis gave a talk about his Walk Again project, a robotic exoskeleton aiming to restore full-body mobility to patients who suffer from paralysis. Further research opened my eyes to the potential of wearables. Learning my professional background could be useful in designing/redesigning assistive wearable technology, I applied to ITP to learn the technology.

For final project, I am working with Simon Jensen on a pulse and respiration sensing interactive wearable designed to make the ECG (electrocardiography) procedure more efficient and “seamingly wireless” with the incorporation of conductive soft materials (threads and fabric) and bluetooth. Instead of getting hooked up to a series of wires, we want the user (i.e. patients, athletes, etc.) to be able to wear a garment with the technology built in. We will use P5 serial control to visualize the data we collect from a person’s pulse using an ECG sensor and breathing patterns using a stretch sensor. The data will be synced to the beat of a  P5 sketch of an anatomically correct heart and diaphragm expanding and collapsing with every breath:


Last week, we successfully replaced ECG wires with conductive threads and metal snaps!

Over the weekend, we made our first prototype to understand whether incorporating our set up into a shirt might affect our data. We learned a lot, particularly with what power sources to use/not to use (coin cell batteries – although lightweight, are not reliable to power our multiple components – Arduino and ECG sensor). Although we got fairly accurate pulse readings, it only worked when the user was standing/sitting still. Movement distorted and added too much noise to the data. We will do more research on how to eliminate noise and filter accurate data. More to come…

Saturday, 11/04 – Our sweet classroom set up

We used one of Simon’s old shirts to make our 1st wearable prototype

Simon wearing prototype and resoldering some questionable ports

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