Breathe In Breathe Out


Breathe In Breathe Out


  • Project Description 

This project was inspired by the current global pandemic, where everyone is in the self-quarantine and social distancing situation. Using masks have been one of the top topics ever since the breakout, it is still a highly arguable object, but it is somewhat a symbol for this crisis. There is no specific person that I intended to design for, but I was more thinking about this as a tool for storytelling and performance. The mask has two parts on both sides which could create movements that are sound-triggered.


  • Project Context: 

From my original proposal, I was going to use SMA(Shape Memory Alloy) for my project, it is a metal that can change shape when heated up or having current run through. The reason why I picked this was that during my research, I saw a series of projects created by Jie Qi from the MIT Media Lab, who was using SMA with paper to form a lot of fascinating pieces. Her initial idea was that paper could be working with SMA due to its characteristic for being light and soft, so the movement will be easily formed. Which brought me thinking that most fabrics are sharing similar characteristics with paper, why not use it on fabric?

screen-shot-2020-04-04-at-18-41-37 screen-shot-2020-04-04-at-18-42-02

Paper Circuit with SMA by Jie Qi

Above are two examples that Jie created which showcased the possibility of combining paper with SMA, copper tape and moderate sewing was required for completing the circuit and hold the SMA in position.

screen-shot-2020-04-04-at-19-47-31 screen-shot-2020-04-04-at-19-47-41

Animatronic Tail by Team

I was also looking at the project called Animatronic Tail created by the Team, they designed it for a live stage performance. It wasn’t a complex design, only a few components were used, such as 3D printed parts, Arduino, analog joystick, and servos. But the movement was surprisingly vivid and alive, it really brought out the potential of what tiny objects can do.

screen-shot-2020-04-07-at-12-44-59 screen-shot-2020-04-07-at-12-45-08

LiftTiles by Ryo Suzuki and others

The project LiftTiles is also a very intriguing inspiration, using inflatable actuators to create solid shape and movement, this could apply to different situations, I am thinking about the possibility of displaying it on garments, or fashion installations. The fact that the shape could be so easily created and hold, it is such an unexpected way to express emotions and build structures.


Unfortunately the thickest SMA online was sold out so I bought the one that’s 0.006″ which was the same one that Jie was using in her projects. It was my first time playing with SMA and it was definitely challenging, first of all, it was thin like hair and hard to bend to shape. Also, I was using tape to hold it to the piece paper that I was planning to test, because there was current running through it so it would get hot and kind of melted the tape, the same thing happened later on when I was switching the material from paper to tulle. After all, the SMA did not work the way I expected within a short amount of time.

img_7928 img_7935

(Initial test)

img_7982 img_8069

(SMA burned/melted the tape and tulle)

Below are a few initial designs for the project, my goal was to create a movement on garments which could express the concept of wearable sculpture. And I was planning to use the maker lab for some laser cutting and 3D printing, but due to the lockdown, it was not an option anymore.


Under the current circumstances, it was hard to obtain a lot of materials and access to the prototyping lab, there was nothing else to do except for coming up with a different design but maybe a similar idea. Over the past few months, using masks has been one of the most arguable topics ever since the breakout. I wanted to create something that relates to it but in an exaggerated way. The first thing that came to my mind was the natural activity of breathing. Because the placement of the huge mask I designed could cover up the neck area as well, which was inspired by the gills on fish, I wanted to create movements around there to emphasize the concept of breathing.



The Inchworm robot and Perk-up Ears project gave me the inspiration of how to achieve my concept, they were both using sound sensors and servos for the movements.


Inchworm Robot by Kathy Ceceri

screen-shot-2020-04-07-at-17-30-42 screen-shot-2020-04-07-at-17-30-49

Perk-up Ears by Dave Astels


img_8262 img_8263-2

img_8264 img_8265

I started off with the other half pair of old jeans left from the last project, cut and sew it to the desired shape.

img_8268-3 img_8270

A little placement tryout on myself, just to see how it should be looked like later. The picture on the left, I realized it looked too aggressive and hard to place the electronic components, so I was thinking about something more leaning towards the second picture.

img_8282 img_8283 img_8284

Hence the reason why I cut out some cardboard and used the glue gun to build the structure for the pointy shape and the position for the servo to go in.

img_8286 img_8288 img_8295

Gluing the tulle to the surface of the mask and the cardboard structure to its inside.

img_8550 img_8554 img_8555


  • Parts, Materials, Technical Assets: 

Adafruit playground express


alligator clips


glue gun



  • circuit diagram or schematic


  • link to code on GitHub



  • Wearability Assessment:

Fashion – Can strongly affect the perception of the comfort and desirability of a wearable device.

User-friendliness – Respects the mental model of the end-user, proposing options that facilitate the interaction, in an easy and intuitive approach.

Simplicity – Refers to the ease of use, intuitiveness, and affordance of the device.

Motti, Vivian. Caine, Kelly. “Human Factors Considerations in the Design of Wearable Devices.” October 24, 2014.


  • Video of the interaction*


  • Challenges & Successes: 

The biggest challenge for me was definitely the unfamiliarity of using SMA, it is a material that is hard to control or work with, but I do believe that it has so much potential and possibilities in the future.

  • Next Steps: 

I still want to follow my original idea of the wearable sculpture, I would have collaborated more digital fabrication in my project if it was possible.

  • References:


Qi, Jie. “How-To: Work with Shape-Memory Alloy.” January 31, 2012. Makezine,

Astels, Dave. “Circuit Playground Express Perk-up Ears.” August 22, 2018.  Adafruit,

Ceceri, Kathy. “Cardboard Circuit Playground Express Inchworm Robot.” October 25, 2018. Adafruit, Team. “Animatronic Tail.” March 26, 2017. Arduino Project Hub,

Ryo Suzuki, Ryosuke Nakayama, Dan Liu, Yasuaki Kakehi, Mark D. Gross, and Daniel Leithinger. “LiftTiles: Constructive Building Blocks for Prototyping Room-scale Shape-changing Interfaces.” 2020.


This entry was posted in Final Project. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Use of this service is governed by the IT Acceptable Use and Web Technologies policies.
Privacy Notice: It is possible for your name, e-mail address, and/or student/staff/faculty UserID to be publicly revealed if you choose to use OCAD University Blogs.