Textura

The relationship between a parent and child is a unique and precious one, strengthened by communication. As children, we are nurtured by our parents to verbalize our thoughts, but what happens in the case of a non-verbal individual, like someone who is diagnosed with autism? Why are they forced to understand us and not the other way round? Why do we push them to learn our ways of communicating when their body is speaking to us?

 

To challenge and invert this unidirectional flow of communication, Textura explores the applications of galvanic skin response and heart rate sensors in detecting human emotions, all packaged into a single tactile experience.

Advisor

Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman

Role

Design Research

Soft Goods Design

Code Development

Video Production

Year

2022

Outcome

Presented at NYC Design Week'22

Masters Thesis

Soft Goods with embedded Technology

Design for Inclusion

Recognition

Pratt Shows at NYC Design Week'22

Research

Combining knowledge of interviews over an 8 month duration, literature reviews and personal experiences, data suggests that relatively inexperienced parents of younger children found it difficult to connect with their autistic child in their early adolescence and only with experience was a stronger bond formed. Moreover, therapists who play a key role in this tripartite relationship seldom get precise information on the child’s emotional state outside of therapy sessions.

Conceptualization

Through user journeys and research analysis, the iterative process focused on:

  • Tactility of the product: Tactile sensations were found to be an enjoyable experience for children with autism, hence the inside of the pouch contains customizable tactile options that would encourage the child to engage with the pouch.

  • Unraveling emotions: Since a combination of biometrics heart rate and galvanic skin  through which emotional data can be translated with 87% accuracy in the least intrusive and private way. The basis for the development revolved around solutions that could incorporate these sensors

  • Maintaining engagement: Highly sensitive autistic children may not take kindly to an on-body experience, thus the ideas generated gravitated towards a semi on-body experience. These ranged from handheld devices, to clothes, to gloves and finally settled upon a carriable pouch.

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Outcome

Autistic children often struggle to convey their emotions to those around them, including their parents. Therapists and parents are thus bound by a common desire to offer autistic children a space to communicate their authentic selves, an effort stymied by both parental misreads and parent- therapist conversations that may talk past the child.

Textura strengthens these communications via a tactile + digital ecosystem. Textura communicates real-time emotional data to therapists and parents while simultaneously offering autistic adolescents an intuitively likable, tactile sensory experience. The tactile + digital ecosystem offers a new potential route forward for all stakeholders by allowing the child to emote, the parents to offer better and more fine-tuned emotional responses, and the therapists a novel source of information that could facilitate better therapeutic interventions.

Prototype

  • Pouch: Through landscape surveys, analysis and reviews I found that my demographic likes animals, bright colors, “fantastical” beasts and fruits & vegetables. After dozens of explorations, Octopi Guy and Roboco were selected for the final prototype. Made with carefully selected fabrics, various versions were made for testing with children. The final product was constructed with a soft omni-directional velvet 

  • Tactile Experience: Through research and review sessions, tactile sensory experiences were achieved through the juxtaposition of fabrics with 3D textures

  • Glove: The base into which technology could be embedded discreetly was geared to include best contact points in the hand region, the index finger and the lower end of the palm, for heart rate and skin conductance respectively using anthropometric data, ease of use and material explorations I landed on an ambidextrous, hypoallergenic spandex glove to act as the vessel for the electronics

  • Fittings: The selected fitting were child and pinch safe, as well as easy to use and allowed for various attachment points

Details

Inside the pouch is a glove embedded with heart rate and galvanic skin response sensors, connected to the parent’s app. When the child engages with the pouch, the app informs the parent on an estimated emotional state and therapist suggested steps to resolve or improve the current state. On the other hand, the app also informs the therapist on the child’s emotions timeline so that they can build effective remediation plans. This whole system can also be fed into an AI model, wherein a solution from one part of the world can help a parent from another part of the world; learning and growing from the community.