This morning I was introduced to a brand called Sensewear. They are currently doing amazing work by taking an innovative approach to managing autism. First written about in back in 2015, the wild-looking line of prototype clothing got media attention for how it successfully fused health tech and clothing.
Now fast forward to 2017 and Sensewear’s collection continues to make headlines with its range of clothes designed to stimulate and enhance awareness of the senses for those with autism. This is great news, because according to the National Autistic Society, there are approximately 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK.
Those suffering from autism, suffer from a wide range of symptoms, some more extreme than others. Recognised as a developmental disability, they usually have difficulty processing sensory information; seeing, hearing, touch, taste and smell. To combat this, Sensewear clothing stimulates and sharpens the wearers’ senses.
The Idea Behind Sensewear
If this idea was to go to market, Sensewear could, in theory, help about 700,000 people, (National Autistic Society) on the autism spectrum in the UK. The innovators behind the idea are Emanuela Corti and Ivan Parati. The thought process behind Sensewear came about whilst they were researching for a project that they were working. It was in this moment that they became aware of some of the difficulties people with autism can experience, such as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that is received from the senses.
“In the future wearable technology could be designed to be more responsive, and may be able to relieve patients from various health conditions.”
During the development of Sensewear, the team approached therapists at the Dubai Autism Center to present their concepts and gained valuable insights to further the development process. Emanuela and Ivan wanted to avoid designing garments that had a medical look and feel, aiming to create products that feel low-tech, so partnered with Alessia Moltani, designer and founder of textile sensor company Comftech.
The range is made up of:
• Senseme is an underwear T-shirt that monitors vital signs and connects with the app, allowing the user to get a more general picture of their wellbeing while wearing the garment.
• Pumpme inflatable jacket can be activated using the collected data, which allows a micro pump to fill the jacket with air. The jacket exerts pressure on the wearer’s body giving a calming sensation and buffer against unwanted external sensations.
• Squeezeme scarf for when the wearer experiences sensory overload. Usually worn around the neck, its elastic material stretches across the body in order to generate a soft pressure that would calm the wearer like a warm hug.
• Hearme, a hoodie poncho helping to focalise hearing by making sounds near the wearer’s ears. The poncho, that gives new perspective to the meaning of the word Hearables, is covered with stripes of different textures containing sensors that emit sound in response to movements and touch, with two built-in headphones in the hood to help the wearer listen to these new and unexpected sounds.
• Biteme, a biteable necklace to release stress and anxiety. The various parts of the accessory provide different textures and flavours. It was designed to be similar to multi-sensory children’s toys and can be used to train and discern different tastes and experiences. The necklace also has GPS location tracking, so if the wearer is lost, they can be found using the app.
• Pullme is an aromatic scarf, which is essentially a portable collection of familiar scents and fragrances that is used to make the wearer feel comfortable and relaxed. The scents are inserted into an atomiser and sprayed out when the scarf is triggered by body gestures.
The future role of clothing in health technology
Designed to be comfortable to wear for those who have difficulties with sensory processing; Emanuela shared, “Our aim was to integrate the technology into daily life, transforming it into wearable clothing and accessories that can improve the lives of children and adults not only with autism, but also those who experience daily stress and anxiety.”
On the future role of clothing in health technology Emanuela prophesied; “In the future wearable technology could be designed to be more responsive, and may be able to relieve patients from various health conditions, such as paralysis.” She also adds, “Just as prosthetics and robotic exoskeletons are becoming cheaper to produce, and are lighter and more discreet, then wearable technology can also play a part in being able to help patients.”
As one of the finalists of this year’s AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards 2017, we hope that Sensewear will be one of the winners to be announced on 27th April 2017 at a gala awards ceremony at the new Design Museum in London. Wish you the best of luck Sensewear.