Shoulder’s Feeling By Xin Zhang


Project Introduction

The main object of this prototype is to demonstrate an invisible sense that we perceive from the surroundings. The visible sense can be measured by and presented by two interfaces, which are wearable interface and a digital mobile interface. The wearable interface is based on an ordinary vest and be customized into the one embedded with pressure sensors on shoulders, and  the Arduino broad attached to the back of the vest. The pressure can be sensed when the user carrying a bag on their shoulders and this value will be delivered to a mobile-based interface. In this way, the user know the status change of invisible sense on their shoulders.The pressure values are divided into five intervals, and each of them has been represented by different phrases. The five phases are ‘easy’, ’comfortable’, ‘Ok’, ‘Hard’, ‘Can’t hold’, and each of them will be activated according to the pressure value read by sensors. Our physical body is considered as a non-verbal interface were embedded with a variety of biological sensors to generate the sense. However, people don’t perceive senses the same way, and our brain is selectively selective, these senses may be stored in our mussels, rather than deliver to our brain. In this sense, the external wearable device can help us to perceive the sense when we can read the feedback on the digital interface.

Experience Video

Key Image






Code link

Project Context

We generally have five senses( vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), and our physical body is a non-verbal interface and it offers a diagnostic interface rich with vital biological signals from the inner organs, blood vessels, muscles. For example, we could touch a piece of fabric to determine whether it was soft or hard, or on a tactile screen, people can use the gesture or pressing force to control the device. Moreover, there are more subtle senses that most people never really perceive. They are neuron sensors that can sense movement to control balance and the tilt of the head. Specific kinesthetic receptors exist for detecting stretching in muscles and tendons, helping people to keep track of their limbs. Once these sensors receiving the signals, they deliver these signals to the brain then the information will be translated into individual feelings. However, people don’t perceive senses the same way, and our brain is selectively selective. In other words, we are constantly failing to notice things right in front of us or the things that happened to us.

This is a common phenomenon, for example, our shoulders work as the main part to withstand external force when we carrying a bag or backpack. Imagine the scenario that you are carrying a heavy bag in a rush hour, it might easily ignore the tension on your shoulders until arrived at the destination. The time duration may also affect the sense in this process, like in the previous, we may not feel too much pressure on shoulders, and later, the capability for withstanding will decrease. At the same time, other factors may also affect the sense of force, like walking on a flat road or climbing a hill, our shoulders perceive the force of the bag will also be different. In this sense, it is essential to demonstrate the invisible sense with the help of external sensors which can accurately measure the value and deliver the information to a digital interface.

Those wearable devices, like smartwatches or bracelets, work as an external sensor to monitor the user-health condition, like heart rate, blood pressure, sleep quality.

As I concerned, the wearable can detect more information when they can better fit human fit and are closely associated with human interface. The ordinary vest is designed and manufactured based on human figures which means they are closely associated with our physical body. For that reason, I customized an ordinary vest into the wearable facilitated with digital components at the force point of the shoulders. Besides, e-textile and fabric-based wearable can also work more efficiently to detect the stretching in muscles and tendons and they can work as a highly flexible sensor to help people sense the physical change more easily without awareness like a bandage.

In the process of exploring the wearable interface, the following projects inspired me a lot, especially for customizing the non-functional fabrics into variable material which provides me lots of detailed solutions for further experiments.

The polySense:It applies a chemical process called in-situ polymerization to custom the ordinary non-functional material into sorts of e-textile material which sensing pressure, stretch, humidity, temperature, capability. One of the demonstrated examples is CCC leggings, the conductive undergarment at the knee can be used to measure the resistance changes so that reflecting the knee flex movements. Comparing with the wearable accessories like a watch or bracelet, the cloth can be closely associated with our physical body, which can constantly detect more subtle actions, like the forces on the joints and muscles which are invisible to people.

Divergence:It provides me another perspective to think about the context when taking the human body as an interface.  Literally, the interface is considered as a layer that provides users to communicate with the system, in a physical scenario, our body is a non-verbal communication interface that helps people to detect the signals from the surroundings, however, nature is filled with lots of ecologies which is beyond our human abilities. And this project proposes the creation of a wearable EMF detector that provides the human body with the ability to feel and hear the electrically and magnetically charged particles that propagate around us in the form of waves. These signals are also difficult to feel and detected by our biological sensors, so this project applied a fabric-based sensor to sense the invisible information from the environment.

eTextile matrix sensor :This is an open-source project created by Maurin Donneaud, who specialized in interaction design and physical computing. He has put a lot of work into making a large flexible touch-sensitive cloth. It features 30cm by 30 cm sensitivity that allows multi-touch sensing and pressure topographic analysis. It made out of conductive textile shaped in rows and columns and a layer of piezoresistive fabric and easy to use. From my perspective, this eTextile is easy to integrate with non-functional fabrics and will be more wearable when applied in practical use.


In the first stage, the challenge was on how to choose a propriety sensor that can read the force accurately. My prior plan was to use a ‘sandwich structured’ pad to reflect the force by a variable resistance. Using graphite pigments to transform ordinary sponges into conductive materials with variable resistance, however, the testing experiments showed that the pad is not stable in generating the signal after being pressed for a while, as the customized sponge could not generate significant analog value when it was squeezed for a long time without deformation. It is less reliable for practical use, especially for long time testing. Fortunately, I was inspired a lot by the projects above, especially the eTextile matrix sensor. Although there are still uncertainties in the experiment of making this fabric sensor, this solution is significant for improving the user experience in the wearable interface.


For this version, the digital interface was developed by P5.js and the way of sending messages over wifi is also limited its mobility. But I think the combination of the wearable interface with the mobile-based interface is a great start for designing the wearable. Most digital devices, they need cloud storage to store user information to support the further design of the product. And my solution of using the mobile-based interface is another sub-storage for storing the user history. In this sense, the mobile phone will not only work for presenting the information, but also for restoring our information.

Next steps

Further exploration will improve the user interaction from both the wearable interface and the digital interface. The first part is to improve the mobility and flexibility of the physical interface, and the second is to provide users more feedbacks on a digital interface, like solutions for dealing with shoulder pain. The detailed steps are as followed:

Wearable interface:

  1. The function of the current version was realized by Arduino Nano, which is difficult to integrate with a circuit on the fabric, the next steps will start with testing with other broads which are more mobile.
  2. Conducting experiments to find how dose time duration affects the force sense for users and visualizing the data into diagrams to demonstrate the relationships between them. (To maintain the same variables, the experiment will make other external factors, such as road conditions, consistent)
  3. Further testing also shows that the pressure sensor has a disadvantage in flexibility in practical use. As each individual have their habits in carrying bags, which may result in different force point at shoulders. To make it more capable for more users, I plan to try the solution mentioned in the third

Digital interface:

  1. Basing on the findings in the relationships between the time durations and forces sensing, the digital interface will also be improved in displaying more detailed feedbacks, like the solutions of adjusting the force point to avoid overload at a single shoulder or taking some exercise to release the tension at shoulders.
  2. In a real scenario, a voice reminder is more practical for a walking personal who is carrying the bag. Consider practical use, I plan to add a voice assistant to send instant notifications to users.


Textile Pressure Pad-By Jessy



Basically, the textile pressure pad is using common fabrics which is non-conductive to sense the pressure and output analogy data. The idea is referred to the method called ‘Polymerization of pyrrole’1, which is allowing conductive polymers to form in and around textiles, coating their individual fibers. Before making this prototype, I did a set of comparative experiments which demonstrate that sponge works well for sensing pressure. Being soaked in a water-soluble graphite conductive solution,  the interstices of the sponge are filled with graphite particles. It makes the sponge conductive, at the same time the deformation makes the sponge can work as Velostat to output analog data. Then a conductive copper tape is attached to the non-conductive leather material. Finally, all the components are stacked together in the shape of a sandwich to form a textile pressure sensor.



Parts & Materials list

Materials list(Figure 2.1):

Water-soluble conductive graphite pigment

Non-conductive leather cloth

Non-conductive sponge

Bubble Wrap

Double-sided tape

Parts list:

Arduino Nano 33 IOT


Full-sized breadboard

3*220Ω Resistance

Jump wires

Coper tapes

Code Link



‘PolySense: Augmenting Textiles with Electrical Functionality using In-Situ Polymerization,’ Cedric Honnet, Hannah Perner-Wilson, Marc Teyssier, Bruno Fruchard, Jürgen Steimle, Ana C. Baptista, Paul

Strohmeier,’′Soft and stretchy fabric-based sensors for wearable robots, Lindsay Brownell, ‘’


Visual Power-By Jessy




Parts & Materials List:

Arduino Nano IoT

LED & Wires


Sponge pieces

Non-conductive Material

Conductive Fabric


Code Link



Code reference

Pressure sensors reference


Body Gesture Signal-By Jessy



  1. Visible Pulse







Visible Pulse is an installation that combines the finger and the wrist as a trigger to switch on. The wrists are the more flexible part of our body and the place where we can feel the pulse. Whenever the finger touches the wrist, the LED on the switch starts to blink, which can be considered as a simulation of the pulse. The working principle is based on a touch sensor (Adafruit MPR121) and using a skin surface that is conductive, as a basic switch.

1-1 1-2

Code link:

Prototype 3-1:


2.Idea Bracelet


Idea Bracelet is also based on a touch sensor (Adafruit MPR121), there are normal material and conductive material that covered the third finger. When snap fingers (usually using the third finger), the LEDs embedded on the bracelet will be sequential light up. Whenever we get a new idea, we may snap our fingers involuntarily. The emotion brought by this action is dynamic and happy, so I use this action as a switch to trigger the LEDs.

2-1 2-2Code link:

Prototype 3-2:

3. Running signal








This is a wearable installation that being triggered by running and the working principle is also realized by the touch sensor (Adafruit MPR121). Running is an ordinary activity and people usually swing their arms during running. Basing on this regulation, I use running gesture as a trigger of this wearable insulation. Firstly, sew the conductive fabric onto ordinary clothes, and installed an LED matrix as signal output. Whenever taking action of swing arms, the LED matrix will be light up.

3-1 3-2

Code link:

Prototype 3-3:


In this series of prototypes, I found the body as an interesting switch, and I began to pay attention to movements that are often overlooked, especially gestures, like when we tap our fingers, that is probably we are waiting for something, or we seldom feel the change of facial expressions. These actions sometimes can be an indication of the internal change which may be missed by ourselves. In my work, I want to use a simple action or gesture as a switch to trigger the installation and I think there should be more sensors being applied, such as pulse detection. More specifically, in the first work, the Visible Pulse, at present, the signal can not be exactly a real one without pulse detection. So for further modification, I need a pulse detection sensor to obtain real data and convert it into the visible LED signal. When each finger touches the wrist, it will reflect a real pulse signal.

Emotional Apron By Jessy


  • Description and Discussion

The emotional apron is a wearable led matrix and its color will change according to the environment. There is a sound sensor attached to the apron and connected to the Arduino board. Technically, the sound sensor is an input port and triggering the led matrix to make changes. There are totally three states of this led matrix(see image 1.1-1.3), specifically, the led matrix will show a blue state to indicate the out space is sort of quiet, and change to red-state when in a pretty noisy environment like a crowded street, or a busy public space. As we are rarely in an environment without any sound, so when there is some external sound that is not enough to reach a level of annoyance, the led matrix will show the green state.

Wearables are sort of electronic devices that can be worn as accessories. They could be embedded in clothing, implanted in the user’s body, and tightly attached to the physical body like the sports watch that be worn on the wrist and will not affect the movement of the human body. Wearable technology should be basically placed in the area that will not disturb people’s movement, so in this project, I chose the apron as a basic wearable framework and embedded the sensor and device inside. In the process of testing, I firstly chose a hoody as a frame, but it turned out that the apron was more wearable which can be taken off or put on rapidly. Although the current apron needs to support by a laptop( the battery container is still being shipped)and the wire connections also need to totally replaced by the conductive sewing thread, but from the perspective of the overall operation, it is highly wearable. Additionally, according to the Body Map- Body Locations for Wearable Technology, it shows the upper whole body(the dark green area in the body map) is a better area to place the device, so I placed the LED Matrix around this area.

For most wearable devices, like smartwatches or fitness trackers, their goal is to use sensors to get users’ information, in other words, our internal information. My thinking is, the external or environmental information could also be considered to be integrated into the wearable devices, in other words, the wearable is not only to track our bodies but also from the external space. So the emotional apron is firstly sensing the external situation and delivering this information to people. The LED matrix is sort of a signal output that can reflect the external sound condition.


prototypeimage detail1 detail2 detail3

  • Code Link

  • Sensor List

4*5 RGB LEDs

Arduino Nano IoT

Jump line

Sound Sensor


Ordinary sewing thread & conductive sewing thread

  • Context

When doing the research, I found three wearable light projects that I want to share. The first one is called Turn Signal Biking Jacket, which is a useful wearable light application. The device is attached to the back of a jacket. People can wear it when doing some sports, especially when riding a bicycle. The controllers are embedded on the cuff, which is easy to click and other people will see the signal directly. Besides, this project is realized by Lily Pad with its related components, so technically the jacket could be washable without the battery. So I think this project is really practical and useful for many activities.  More making details could be found from


Image is from ‘’

The second project is a wearable prototype called Ceres(image above), it is designed by the studio called wearable media, a fashion tech studio based in New York City. There is an embedded microcontroller in Ceres programmed to work with NASA’s Asteroid Neo-Ws RESTful API, which collects and catalogs real-time data sets of near-Earth asteroids surrounding our orbit. So the suits will vibrate timely. This project is really beautiful, as it is not just a fashion design, but also a wearable design. The material of the suit is also soft and light, but at the same time, it will also help the user to be aware of the vibration. This project is also a combination of technology and aesthetics.

The last one is a little bit terrible called Bling Bra, even this project is mainly to make fun, but it is indeed a negative example of a wearable light project. Firstly, the way of attachment is too simple, which is only to install on the surface of the bra. The bra is a sort of private suit, which requires some biometric consideration when embedding the devices. So this project is incomplete as I could not find any meaning from the aesthetically and practically.


1.’Where to Wear it: Functional, Technical, and Social Considerations in On-Body Location for Wearable Technology 20 Years of Designing for Wearability,’ Clint Zeagler

2. ‘What is Wearable Technology, How it Works?’ Kela Casery, ’’

3.’What is wearable tech? Everything you need to know’,’ ChrisSmith’, August 17, 2019