IAT 320 – Umbilicus

What a crazy semester! After a few weeks of craziness, I have finally finished my very last project of the semester which is… Umbilicus. Okay, before you go all confused with the name, let me explain what it is first.

So the five of us (Kennett Kwok, Aldrich Tan, Ashley Lee, Conor Chambers, and myself) got together to form a group about a month ago. Since there were so many of us, it was quite difficult to just settle on one idea. We tossed around lots of different ideas but eventually, we come down to one theme that we all seemed to agree on – we wanted the final project to be something that is useful and not just expressive. From there, we explored on different ideas again. Some of the ideas revolve around twitter, dogs/pets, babies, personal belongings (such as backpacks, shoes, sweater), etc. We then narrowed it down again and after talking to the course instructor and teaching assistant, we decided to go on the babies path. It’s something that we all can relate to as most of us have babies in the immediate family that we can watch closely to help us with the project.

So after another week of brainstorming and researching, we decided to make a wearable tactile garment for the parent and the baby. We got the idea based on my niece’s story who became autistic because she fell off a bed and hit her head when she was just a few months old without anyone noticing. Through many research, we found that she’s the not the only one. There have been many cases where a child injured him/herself when the supervisor is not watching and therefore, they do not get the proper help they needed. From here, we thought if we can somehow inform the supervisor if the baby/toddler has fallen, we can help minimize the injury. We are not aiming to find a way to avoid these injuries to happen because it’s not possible, injuries and accidents are inevitable but we just want to aid the child.



A common scenario for our project would be when a parent or babysitter is supervising a toddler while multitasking with other duties. The child may be left unattended momentarily as the supervising figure’s attention may be focused elsewhere for some span of time. The child may, in this span of time, run off and trip on something, landing on his or her hands, back, bottom, chest area, or even hit his/her head, which would trigger the accelerometer and RF Link Module embedded within the toddler’s wear. This event would send a quick nudge or vibration via RF Link Modules to the supervising adult wearing the receiving sensors (relative to where the kinetic pressure was applied to), calling for their attention to the child. Though there may be some chances of false positives (for example, a child is playing and not necessarily hurt), it is much better that the supervising adult is aware of the child’s activities than not.
There is not too much interaction from the supervising adult’s side, as they only receive notifications and signals, but the interaction from a toddler wearing it would be based on unintentional gestures and kinetic pressure such as falling down, hitting something by accident, or being hit by something (hopefully something soft!).



 How did we make this happen? Well, we have built two garments as mentioned above and each of them have an Arduino that communicate in serial. Since our goal is to transfer the child’s movement to the parent in the same household, our project must be wireless. This process requires that the two arduinos use their RX/TX components for Serial Communication. To transmit Serial information in open air, an RF Link Transmitter and a RF Link Receiver will be used to send information. The receiving end (the parent end) will look for specific information that will trigger the vibration output. The transmitting end will look for specific and sudden movement of the toddler before sending information out. Accelerometers will be used to detect the baby’s movement.



We did some user testings to see which form would work best both for the baby and the parent. At first we wanted to set up the parent’s garment as a belt because it gives that 360 degrees feedback, however the result of our user testings have deterred us from doing so. Not everyone can differentiate the vibrations on the belt, some felt them fine and some just missed the signals. We then tested wrists but they were just too sensitive. Think about if you’re carrying a cup of hot coffee and the pager motor buzzes, you would definitely spill that cup of coffee everywhere. So we looked into different areas and we found that the triceps are a great place to put the two pager motors to represent a side fall. The other two is pretty obvious, we put them one on the back (spine) and one on the chest. Our testers told us that they are comfortable with where the motors are located and can feel them right away without being too obstrusive.


There’s a lot mor
e that can be done in the future to make this project much better. Should we have a mini Arduino, our lives would be much easier. The baby’s garment would not have to be so bulky like how it was when we submitted it. If we can find a way to not use the breadboard, that would also be much of a benefit for us as we can minimize the weight and increase the ergonomic value of these garments. All in all, it’s an interesting project as we looked at different kind of falls, attachment between parents and their children, body movements, reactions amongst other things. I really enjoy my role as the researcher and observer in this group.

For more information about the project, please watch our video:



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