Imagine you are feeling your way through a maze blindfolded, informed only by what you can feel. Now imagine the maze isn’t real, but actually a digital construction…
This Matrix-like scenario was recently used by the Interactive Architecture Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London to test its latest innovation, Sarotis: Wearable technology that functions as a second-skin to help heighten the user’s awareness of his or her surroundings. Combining soft robotics with depth sensors, the prosthetic technology can work in tandem with Google’s Project Tango technology. This computer vision technology uses a combination of depth sensing, motion tracking, and area learning technologies to allow a smartphone or device to “see” its environment in 3-D. Sarotis then translates this data into a tactile response, inflating or exerting pressure to guide the user. It is made from a soft fabric that wraps around the body like a second skin.
Using the Google Project Tango Dev Kit they conducted experiments, specifically targeting its 3D scanning capabilities for an Android device in combination with soft robotic wearable devices. Check out their work.
In 2016, a range of commercially available mobile devices arrived on the market carrying integrated 3D Cameras capable of depth and object perception. If 3D vision technologies are as successfully adopted as their 2D predecessors, we should expect 70% of the world’s population to carry one in a decade. This project began with an interest in how this technology will not only change the way we record, but also interact with the world around us? The Sarotis Project looks beyond mobile phones and tablets, towards more intimate wearable technology futures. Where advanced vision systems and other sensor technologies are connected directly to the body through softer interfaces.
Here we present a two phased study; a series of technical experiments and a speculative film. First an experimental prosthesis was designed to study whether a person’s awareness of space could be amplified using live 3D scanning technologies controlling the inflation and deflation of a wearable soft robot. Results were successful and suggested possible applications for people with visual impairments. It also revealed the possibility of haptic navigation of virtual spaces within physical space.
To express the Sarotis vision of future soft wearable technologies, a speculative film provokes us to consider how fluidic hydrogel interfaces may dissolve the distinction between our own physiology and that of the softening machines that will extend our bodies.