E-Textile Sensors for Sensory Therapeutic Products

Bonnie Binary is a social tech company in the emerging industry of e-textiles. They craft sensory and playful experiences to comfort and entertain people with a range of needs and disabilities. Experiences include a combination of responses such as vibration, sound and warmth packaged in sensory textile cushions and designed to comfort, calm and soothe. Their ambition is to create a simple and intuitive textile control interface for use in soft huggable therapeutic products. They have been making and testing a variety of different textile sensors using crafting techniques which function well and have proved successful but do not yet lend themselves to production at scale.

So with funding from the South West Creative Technology Network (SWCTN) they were keen to explore scaleable manufacturing methods and were lucky enough to partner up with researcher Dr Russell Torah at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science. For this project they explored the use of printed inks on flexible materials to create a reliable control interface. Below you can see a design for a music cushion showing eight fabric buttons and the accompanying sensor design that will sit beneath the fabric cushion covers.

They also collaborated with Smart Fabric Inks to print the proximity  sensors on two different flexible materials, Mehler fabric PVC coated Polyester mesh and Kapton film and tested four sensor patterns to assess the different ink coverage of each pad and used standard connectors between printed ink traces and the micro board. The sensors work successfully through the fabric covers detecting both single and multi-touch gestures. After successful first tests in the studio showing the sensors functioning they will next embed the sensors in products and test user experience and functionality. They aim to adjust the sensors for different touch gestures and pressure levels for different needs.

So What happens next? Bonnie Binary are now looking for research partners and further funding to work on reliable methods to embed the sensors into the cushions, produce miniaturised bespoke electronics and work on mapping the user experience.

Please do get in touch to discuss research opportunities and industry partnerships:

www.bonniebinary.co.uk
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/annielywood
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