Throughout the last few weeks I have considered and researched several ideas using Arduino technology. The main ideas centre on creating sensors to monitor drop in body temperature particularly for individuals exposed to extreme cold or affected by extreme cold and thoughts of breathing issues and infants and babies within the age of 0 and 6months of age that are at risk of SIDS. However on researching SIDS further I discovered many negative aspects to working on a design related to such a delicate topic and therefore am not pursuing this area further at present.
Following a discussion with art students at an onsite show about numbness in extremities such as hands and feet, something I immediately related to my knowledge of a family member who suffers from this problem. This sparked ideas which lead me to research the condition and with the help of a student nurse we pinpointed Raynauds Phenomena, a condition diagnosed as either a syndrome or disease. (For details about Raynauds please see this site: http://www.raynauds.org.uk/ ).
There are a few different studies on the cause of the phenomena, one being that it’s not ambient cold but a sudden drop in temperature from holding something cold, going outside to a breeze.
I first considered only monitoring temperature of the extremities, although I could also program a particular response for drop in temperature in short time spans which may be more beneficial. However, whether the sensor would feel that on the extremity or a second sensor for ambient temperature would be useful will have to be tested.
In my previous blog I mentioned weaving a conductive thread into knitted garments that could be created by the individual or pre-made. A conductive thread was considered to allow for softness and subtlety in the design. Further consideration was given to detecting pulse rate and conveying information through, LED’s, with aesthetic consideration to the design, ie sensor placed in buttons.
I spoke to Berit about the project and my intention to design a prototype incorporating a conductive sensor into textile technology aimed at supporting individuals with medical conditions such as Raynauds or those exposed to the cold environments. Berit told me about various projects and advised me to keep my ideas simple and produce a small prototype. This seemed to be something obvious that I had not fully considered instead aiming for a concept with multiple applications and a prototype to prove the concept.
During a Culture Lab communication tools session I spoke to one of the disability advisers for the university who was very interested in the idea of creating a sensor to detect cold in extremeties and suggested it may be possible to survey students with Raynauds Phenomena at Newcastle. This gave me the idea of an anonymous questionnaire that could essentially ask quite directly if they would be interested in using a monitor and whether they believed it would make a difference to their wellbeing.
I have also looked at ways of monitoring cold affecting extremities other than arduino. Thermochromic dye is one consideration as it changes colour depending on the temperature, currently it is mainly used in fashion however the temperatures at which the colours change can be very precise. Despite this I recognised that thermal dyes may have limited use, as you may not pick up the visual changes in areas not easily visible to the eye; also if you don’t notice your fingers change colour you may not notice fabric changing colour. Especially feet where you wouldn’t be able to see the sock change colour at the toes while wearing shoes or if you’re sat at a desk and your feet are under the table. For these reasons having arduino would be a superior form of monitor as it can vibrate, make a sound or shine with LED’s.
In taking the concept of designing a sensor for extremities such as hands and toes I have looked at:
- How these could work
In addition to Raynauds I generally considered human exposure to extreme cold and talked to a climbing instructor about uses for the sensor in extreme conditions etc.
This could include going to cold places but also those who are sat still for long periods and don’t notice numbness or temperature change. The climbing instructor informed me that a sensor wouldn’t be useful for the climbing itself as climbers generally noticed changes in body temperature and simply wrapped tape around their hands to alleviate the cold.
However, diving is an area where the sensor may be useful as divers drop in depth andcan become cold very quickly and less experienced divers may not notice how cold their hands are until it comes to needing to use their hands, which can mean using time to try, and warm them back up. A monitor could inform a diver as they drop in depth of the temperature of their hand reminding them to keep hands warm enough and kept in a useable state.
Some of those I have spoken to about this concept see it as quite ridiculous that someone would want a monitor to tell them what their own body is doing, yet many can imagine the issues if they think of or are reminded of getting pins and needles and not noticing until feeling the prickly pain. This idea is still just concept and there would need to be a large amount of testing carried out before the concept could be considered a viable idea.