Wearable Senses, Department of Industrial Design, TU Eindhoven
As told by Oscar Tomico, Stephan Wensveen, Kristi Kuusk,
Martijn ten Bhömer, René Ahn, Marina Toeters, and Maarten Versteeg
How do you describe your lab to visitors? Wearable Senses (WS) focuses on designing close-to-the-body interactions, specifically designs that incorporate wearable computing or smart textiles. It is a community that feels like an emerging multidisciplinary culture, where practitioners from research, education, and industry help and challenge each other on a continual basis.
What is a unique feature of your lab? Wearable Senses aims to integrate research, education, and innovation. Students work in close collaboration with the WS staff and are encouraged to explore design opportunities hands on, which is visible in the open space where students, staff, and coaches work together. However, the focus on intelligent products and systems distinguishes the approach of WS from, for example, textile and fashion schools that offer courses on smart textiles. In line with our educational principles, we advocate a competency-centered and research-through-design approach. This approach can be seen as an iterative transaction between design and research in which skills, knowledge, and attitudes are generated through cycles of designing, building, and experimentally testing experiential prototypes in real-life settings. This approach is supported by the availability of the tools and materials in our TexLab. Our students and staff not only have the opportunity to work with a variety of textile techniques, such as sewing, knitting, and weaving, but also can use soldering stations to directly integrate electronics into textiles. Further, a materials library provides high-end innovative textile and electronics materials
How many people are in the lab, and what is the mix of backgrounds and roles? At WS, people from very different disciplines work closely together. Interaction and fashion designers, people familiar with the details of human physiology, psychologists, sociologists, and engineers are all required to create propositions that are accepted by end users in the market. This combination, as we learned through experience, is by no means trivial. Moreover, WS has developed a strong network of industry partners (regional, national, and international) and in this way receives support on different levels from both the textile and the electronics world. The composition of the staff reflects our relation with industry. Industry professionals have an important role in coaching students and extending the network by involving clients from industry who can propose design briefs for students. For example, Marina Toeters, who combines her work as a fashion designer with student coaching at WS, developed the design brief Worn Identity, where students have to think about the societal impact of customizable and interactive fashion and design product-service systems for these opportunities. By having industry and other stakeholders involved in setting up these design briefs, we make sure the projects have a level of societal relevance. Finally, industry collaborates with WS on the realization of projects developed by students and researchers.