Back to Sleeper – Interview with Chrissy Glover

We recently came across a very interesting project by Chrissy Glover, which proposes an invention to help reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), caused by babies sleeping on their front. We’re humbled by submissions like this that demonstrate how our technology can be used to address real-world problems.

Read the full interview and find out more about how Chrissy built this wearable.

Hi, Chrissy! We see that you’re working with textiles and technology. Can you tell us a bit more about this field? What led you specifically to decide to combine these two mediums?

Hello! Basically, by utilizing advancements in materials such as conductive threads, textiles can be transformed into sensors and actuators that allow technology to be worn close to the body while remaining comfortable and non-obtrusive. I came into this field from the textiles side of it. I’m studying Fibers at the Savannah College of Art and Design, so I’ve learned a lot about different textile construction methods and have gained an understanding of which structures would be conducive to different tech applications. About a year and a half ago I learned that textile sensors were a thing, and was really excited since I’ve always like math and science. Since then, I’ve been working with Arduino and creating my own wearable tech garments and textile sensors, mostly through weaving but most recently by using Electric Paint.

Your recent project, ‘Back to Sleeper’ was featured on Adafruit’s website and is a very innovative concept. What led you to work on this topic?

I wanted to create a wearable tech project that would solve a problem and had comfort as one of the main design requirements. A classmate had mentioned SIDS and how there was a growing market for baby tech, so I researched SIDS and learned about the “Back to Sleep” campaign. So, I decided to make pyjamas that would recognise when a baby wasn’t on his/her back. And since the garment was for a baby, it, of course, had to be comfortable, so I thought it would be a good challenge.

To create the sensors, you used Electric Paint. Could you tell us a bit about what you found most interesting and challenging about working with this material?

I had to do some testing to see how the paint would interact with the knit fabric I was using. Since knits inherently have stretch to them, that caused the paint to crack once it dried and the fabric was stretched. It also made the fabric pretty stiff. So, I tested mixing Electric Paint with fabric paints in different ratios to try and get a better adherence to the textile, but ran into issues with retaining good conductivity and a nice fabric feel. Ultimately, I ended up applying adhesive fabric bonding to the fabric, and then applied the paint on top of it. This allowed the fabric to retain a good feel and also served as a barrier for the paint if the baby were to wet their diaper.

You also used an Arduino Gemma to connect to the Electric Paint. Could you please share more details on how you built it, and what kind of obstacles you encountered along the way?

I used the Arduino Gemma since it’s so small (about the size of a quarter), so it wouldn’t interfere with the baby too much. To make the sensors, I applied Electric Paint to two pieces of bonded fabric, then sandwiched them with a layer of cotton batting in between. The batting had holes cut in it, so the conductive layers would come in contact with each other through the batting when under pressure. The ends of the Electric Paint traces connect to stainless steel thread which is sewed to the pins on the Arduino.

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this project?

I suppose an advantage is that it incorporates tech in a comfortable way that doesn’t interfere with the baby. One disadvantage is that the output is sent as a beeping sound coming from the pyjamas as opposed to an external location that would be closer to the parent. I would like it to connect to Bluetooth instead so it could send an alert to the parents via their phone or a companion device, and could also be louder.

We assume that this prototype might require more testing. Are you looking to develop this technology further? Any plans to turn it into an actual product?

Yes, it definitely would require more testing, mostly in determining sensor values to trigger if the baby is on his/her back or not and evaluating how those values change over time, assuming that the sensors would compress with repeated wear. I don’t plan to turn it into an actual product; there are other baby monitoring devices out there that are much further developed and are already in the market. This project was more of a personal exploration of what can be done with textile sensors and comfortable wearable technology. I would like to work more on connecting it to Bluetooth though!

What do you find most interesting about wearables?

What I find most interesting is how they can be used to solve problems for the wearer, such as through medical monitoring or guiding the blind. By delivering technology through the medium of textiles and apparel, it takes on a much more human feel, thereby allowing tech devices to become more desirable to wear and allowing the wearer to not feel like a cyborg or something with a bunch of wires coming out of them.

After working with Electric Paint, are you planning to use it or the Touch Board in any of your upcoming projects?

I do plan on creating some woven capacitive touch sensors, so, yes I may end up using the Touch Board and there’s definitely a possibility to use Electric Paint in one of my future projects!

Images & Video: Chrissy Glover

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