A wearable clothing technology that detects abuse

November 14th, 2007 - 8:26 am ICT by admin  
Adam Whiton, a technologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and apparel designer Yolita Nugent, created a wearable clothing system designed to detect harsh pushes, grabs, slaps and hits.

According to the duo, the system could help victims with the process of self-realization by building up a history of abuse or it could be coupled with a computer that helps the victim explore remedial options.

“Abuse pretty much exists because it remains isolated. How do you get people talking about it?” Discovery News quoted Whiton, as saying.

“The only real evidence used now in domestic abuse is documenting bruises and eye witness testimony,” he added.

Whiton and Nugent wanted to investigate whether the growing trend of wearable computers could eventually be tasked with other functions, like detecting abuse.

Their prototype system is a hoodie that has large fabric-based pressure sensors sewn into the liner. The sensors — which are divided into eight body zones, including upper chest, stomach, forearms, etc. — sort out and measure the intensity and patterns of forces exerted on the wearer’s body.

Whiton and Nugent interviewed abuse survivors to get responses about the idea and then simulated aggressive interactions with research volunteers.

They discovered some interesting facts including that the part of the body most prominently injured was the forearm, and that the victims are often grabbed by their wrist or put up their arm to block their face.

“When we correlated that with medical and police records of domestic abuse, we found that the forearms are the most heavily injured,” said Whiton.

The team also found that the duration of an incident could be correlated with abuse. Some victims, for example, make up excuses that they bumped their face in a doorway or tripped and fell. But an accident lasts just one or two seconds, while an abusive attack is generally many seconds or many minutes long.

“What is really new is the way they use this technology. To use a wearable as a tool to detect attack; this is smart,” said Maximillian Sergio, IC design project leader at Silicon Biosystems in Bologna, Italy.

However he added that wearable computers, like fashion, are driven by style and can’t look too much like computers.

“One of the first challenges is to produce something that is exactly like normal clothes, otherwise people won’t want to use it,” he said.

However Whiton sees the garment as supplementing knowledge, not necessarily being the final word in interpreting data.

“Although people like school teachers and nurses are required by law to report any suspected abuse to the department of social services…It can be an extremely subjective process,” said Whiton. (ANI)

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