It’s late at night and you find yourself in a part of town where you probably shouldn’t be. By the pricking of the hairs on your neck you realize you’re being watched, followed… somebody is sneaking up. Your heart starts pounding, palms become sweaty. Before you can even think, your arm muscles suddenly grow enormous, spikes come out of the back of your coat, and a protective collar shields the back of your neck. You stop. The universe holds it breath as you turn around to face… a stray cat, quickly skipping out of sight.
From the soft robots in Big Hero 6 to the living quarters of the Mars One project, inflatable technologies are blowing up in popularity. No wonder — they allow for lightweight, safe, and soft barriers between squishy humans and hard tech or threats in the environment.
During her master’s work at California College of the Arts, Kristin explored the use of inflatable technology for wearables, and found endless possibilities for animating the body and amplifying human behavior or emotions. There are functional designs for isolation or protection, like an inflatable vest to calm the wearer or a helmet that protects from a bike fall. Then there are empowering forms, like a soft inflatable exoskeleton that protects personal space, or inflatable “muscles” that blow up when the wearer feels threatened.
To further develop these possibilities, we created a set of simple technology “building blocks” for workshops at the Creative Technology department at University of Twente (Netherlands) and at Stanford University’s Institute of Design (d.school) during the TEI 2015 conference.