Speaking Bodies
a speculative experiment on measuring stress and extending the body language

We are living in a meritocracy – which means that our value as human beings in matters of reputation, income and impact directly depends on our economical and social performance. In our society we tend to hide weaknesses and push ourselves to limits, even though stress and its psychological or physical symptoms can cause serious harm. This thesis is dedicated to this topic and how we fail to communicate it in an open dialogue with ourselves and others. Based on a theoretical research it is a series of thoughts and experiments without the pressure of presenting a functional and marketable product. Therefore one of the key moments was the development of a speculative concept which questions our behavior when confronted with symptoms like stress, nervousness and fear. What if we would extend our body language to open up about negative connoted feelings? The goal is to raise attention, provoke and initiate discussions.

Institute
Dessau Department of Design

Student
Luise Oppelt

Implementation Assistance
Moana Ricarda List (custom tailor)

Coding
Kai Höbold (programmer)

Supervision
Prof. Manuel Kretzer, Prof. Michael Hohl


The experiments include a research about the possibilities of measuring the body stress levels and how the results are related to the emotional sensation of stress. In the following attempts the stress level was determined with a heart beat sensor which shows the state of relaxation or excitation. In the testing the resulting values were mapped onto led lights and servomotores to transform them into signals and visualise the stress of an individual. For the realisation an elegoo computing platform and professional coding were necessary.

The first end result is a handmade futuristic vest model that visualizes the heart rate by a slight movement within the layered breastplates. The design is inspired by the interior view of a body showing the chest and lungs. The light signal moves from left to right – the movement has a calming effect during the resting pulse and becomes more nervous and faster as the heart rate increases. Thus, our clothing becomes a direct extension of our body language and gets nervous as our pumping heart begins to race or our breathing becomes shallower while experiencing physical stress.
The second attempt was to use servo motors to raise and lower scaled modules in a certain rhythm that accelerates with the heart rate. Inspiration here was the visible process of breathing and the animal world.

The second attempt was to use servo motors to raise and lower scaled modules in a certain rhythm that accelerates with the heart rate. Inspiration here was the visible process of breathing and the animal world.

One could say that the scenario, which in the end encloses the entire project and makes it a conclusive vision of the future, is a little utopia.

The year is 2038 and wearable technology devices have become the extensions of our bodies, equipping us with new abilities and communication possibilities. Products that create a more balanced interaction are part and parcel of the urban environment and are constantly being expanded and rethought by the industry. The working population in particular benefits from portable sensors in the professional environment, which communicate feelings and well-being. The acceptance and empathy towards mental illness has taken on an important role in society and a collective awareness has developed of how important the mental state of the individual is for a healthy community.

Institute
Dessau Department of Design

Student
Louise Oppelt

Supervision
Prof. Manuel Kretzer, Prof. Michael Hohl


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