Co.Design

Can't Get A Word In Edgewise? Let This Inflatable Suit Help

Why use a "talking stick" when you could wear a giant, billowing white suit?

Group communication isn't always easy. People talk over one other, or don't notice that the shy person has been waiting forever to say something. Expanded Discourse, a project by Zoe Padgett and Gerardo Guerrero, uses inflatable clothing to mediate conversations during office meetings, counseling, or tense discussions.

Equipped with a small fan, an audio sensor, a light sensor, and an Arduino controller, a billowing white suit inflates when someone wants to talk. As the wearer speaks, the suit deflates, physically mimicking the thoughts being expelled. A plastic piece that attaches to the shoulder, and which activates the suit, acts like a "talking stick" to give people their turn to talk.

Guerrero says he and Padgett, both master's students in media design at the Art Center College of Design in California, "were interested in the small, seemingly inconsequential daily exchanges all of us take part in." He writes:

Wearable technology enables us to not only quantify these fleeting transactions, but to hold and carry them with us. Perhaps we can feel the weight of a long-winded sentence, or refer back to a recent nudge. In this project, we investigated the possibility of making conversations physical and visual experiences.

Now you can visually identify exactly who is full of hot air--and how much.

[Images: Gerardo Guerrero, 2014]

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