Microsoft is developing a smart scarf that conveys emotions
Researchers at Microsoft Research labs have developed a new smart scarf prototype called Project SWARM (Sensing Whether Affect Requires Mediation), a modular cotton scarf that aims to help keep wearers healthy and happy.
Clothing and accessories have become increasingly popular as an instrument for developers to link up to our smart devices for medical reasons, and Microsoft’s latest wearable is designed to help people with disabilities to obtain additional information and interpret others’ emotional states via signals gathered from sensors. Six actuations have been identified by the team to provide a multimodal language for conveying emotions, including heat, cooling, music, weights, vibration, and lighting, allowing the device to also respond to the user’s own emotions.
“For personal emotion actuation, the designs were fairly straightforward: we envisioned two short vibrations that would alert the wearer of a change, followed by heat (if they were stressed or sad), and music playing (in all cases, with the song choices varying from slow to fast),” the researchers wrote in the paper. “While simple in its execution and design, the concept was substantial because it would elicit feedback on a wearable technology receiving notifications about a change in one’s emotions and automatically reacting to that information.”
“For group emotion actuation, we took a cue from our participants as well as prior research and explored varying vibration patterns as a means of relaying emotion.”
Made up of hexagonal industrial felt and conductive copper taffeta modules, the prototype’s main focus is to study whether new therapeutic technology like this could benefit those with mental or physical disabilities. The scarf can be taken apart by the user and rearranged while the form factor and the special sleeve it fits into make the technology, which is essentially a medical device, more discreet. It can be paired with a smartphone using Bluetooth and an app was also developed that can be used to command the scarf to vibrate or heat up. The team is looking to add cooling modules to the scarf that could potentially provide calming effects.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that work on the project will continue as it remains more concept than creation. In other words, we won’t expect to find this scarf on store shelves any time soon.