Expressive Wearables

“The Presence of Stress”


The initial concept of this piece is to let other people know whether I’m free to talk or I’m busy with my headphone on. The headphone has a great feature, it can switch between ambient sound mode which allows the user to hear the surrounding sound within a preferred distance and quiet mode for the noise-cancelling purpose. It is very helpful for me since I have many lectures to watch and the quietness allows me to focus when doing homework. The mode-switching function is convenient,  I don’t need to take off my headphone to hear other people’s taking. Yet it sometimes becomes inconvenient when other people talk to me, they don’t know whether I can hear them or not. So I want to design something that can show my availability for conversation.

As I worked on the design, I found out that it is closely associated with my pressure. When I’m relaxed, I seek people to meet my social need. When I have some negative emotional swings, I can maintain a normal conversation, but I preferred to listen to music. When I’m under excessive stress, I want to isolate myself from the outside world to calm myself down.

Instead of an indicator for my headphone mode, it is more of an indicator of my stress and willingness to socialize in practice.



The objective is to display the modes straight forward, so I picked three primary colours: blue, yellow, and red.

Blue means I’m in a relaxed mode with the ambient sound function on, people can talk to me about anything and expect me to respond. Yellow means I still have works to do; it’s okay to talk to me but I may give short responses and go back to my ongoing task. Red means I’m under stress and busy with my work, I wish to stay alone before I can deal with this stress properly.

Another important objective is easy to switch. Therefore, I chose a headband as the base material and switching between three modes by a simple shift of the headphone.



I first started with programming. After I drew the basic circuit layout on the fabric, I started with sewing.

(initial testing with alligator wire before sewing the circuit)


(testing the connectivity while sewing)process2

(It’s really hard to find the thread on patterned fabric, so I outlined the flow of the circuit beside the threads. The unconnected part of A6 and A4 are left for the conductive fabric on the headphone to complete)


(this is my original idea of the headphone, yet later I found it is too short to connect the pin and the ground)


(A reworked version. The folds of the headscarf make the circuit hard to connect, so I decided to use a longer piece of conductive fabric that can cover each place.)


Final Result

(expecting conversation, finished homework and have nothing to do)

blue1 blue2

(thinking about ongoing tasks, a little anxious)yellow1 yellow2

(stressed out, watching anatomy lectures and editing my history essay)red1 red2

Material List

  • USB cable
  • needle
  • normal thread
  • conductive thread
  • scissors
  • headphones
  • conductive fabric
  • CPX


Circuit Diagram


Reflections & Next Steps

This is an interesting and fun experience, the hardest part would be threading the needle. I tried to incorporate the sound feature yet found it quite disturbing and didn’t know how to set it to play the sound once when switching mode instead of looping.

This assignment made me interested in CPX and electronic wearables. I learned how much potential it has through my own experience. I wish to continue to explore the features of CPX in my future projects and exploration journals.


Prior, O. (2021). Digital Switches & Buttons Overview. Retrieved from

Prior, O. (2021). Sound, Movement, Light, and Vibration. Retrieved from

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