Goldsmiths PhD presents EEG-amplifying dress in Osaka


PhD student Rain Ashford recently travelled to Osaka, Japan to exhibit and present her ThinkerBelle EEG Amplifying Dress. In this blogpost she describes her experience.

In September 2015, I was very excited to exhibit and present my paper on part of my PhD practice, the ThinkerBelle EEG Amplifying Dress, at the annual design exhibition of the 19th International Symposium on Wearable Computers.

The symposium (part of the 2015 ACM joint international conference of ISWC and Ubicomp) is devoted to discussing and sharing pioneering research, knowledge and issues in wearable technologies. It attracts international attendees including academics, manufacturers, fashion and textile designers, users, and related professionals working with wearables. The conference includes workshops, a gadget show, various gatherings and great opportunities to meet peers researching and working in the field, as well as research presentations.

About the ThinkerBelle EEG Amplifying Dress

I created the dress in response to a subsection of feedback data from field trials and focus groups investigating the functionality, aesthetics and user experience of wearables and in particular wearer and observer feedback on conducted in the course of my research on Goldsmiths’ Art & Computational Technology PhD programme.

The user experience case for creating the dress was to facilitate engagement in social situations in which a wearer finds themselves in a noisy or crowded area, where it is not easy to hear others, communicate and where forms of non-verbal communication may prove useful.

ThinkerBelle_OsakaI constructed the dress using a satin fabric and fibre optic filament which is woven into organza. Using a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG headset, data in the form of two separate streams, ‘attention’ and meditation’, are sent via Bluetooth to the dress, which amplifies and visualises the data via the fibre optic filament.

Attention data is shown as red light, and meditation signal data as green light. The dress is constructed so the two streams of data light overlap and interweave. The fibre optic filament is repositionable allowing the wearer to make their own lighting arrangements and dress design. The red and green light fades in an out as the levels of attention and meditation data of wearer heighten or decline, allowing observers to make their own interpretations of the data. The choice is left up to the wearer whether they want to divulge information regarding the physiological source of the data being visualised.

Read Rain Ashford’s paper on the ThinkerBelle EEG Amplifying Dress

The design exhibition invited submissions of new and original examples of wearable technology and textile research. I exhibited my ThinkerBelle dress alongside the other selected submissions of garments, accessories, textiles and devices. The exhibition was divided into the categories of Functional, Aesthetic and Fibre Arts and the jury panel consisted of renowned designers and academics including:

  • writer, artist, designer and technologist Maggie Orth
  • founder of Misfit Wearables Sonny X. Vu
  • lecturer, fashion and costume designer Dr. Tricia Flanagan
  • founding Co-Director of CoLab, co-director of the Textile and Design Laboratory, and an associate researcher at the Knowledge Engineering & Discovery Research Institute, Dr. Frances Joseph.

I also participated in two workshops. The first, Wear and Tear: Constructing Wearable Technology for The Real World, was organised by colleagues at Georgia Tech Wearable Computing Centre and was a really useful and enjoyable day of reportage on building devices and systems. Georgia Tech’s Professor Thad Starner gave a keynote on wearable technology and was followed by various speakers who discussed challenges during the process of building their devices.

In the second workshop, Broadening Participation, I presented a poster on my PhD research on responsive and emotive wearables. The event was aimed at increasing “the involvement of women, all students from developing countries, as well as underrepresented minorities, including persons with disabilities, in the field of ubiquitous and wearable computing”. The day included keynote speakers and a careers panel in which speakers discussed issues, such as, career paths employment and work-life balance.

I am very grateful to the Goldsmiths Postgrad Research Committee for the bursary that enabled my travel to the conference. It was fantastic to exhibit and discuss the dress with a new audience in Japan and I enjoyed immensely seeing new examples of wearable technology and developments in the field, plus meeting local students and academics from Japan, as well as from China, Singapore, USA, Canada and Europe.