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High-tech 'habit' makes meditation measurable

At first glance, it looks somewhat like a shortened version of the habit a monk or nun would wear. Natural materials lend a deliberate classical touch to this high-tech meditation outfit by Danielle Roberts (artist at Awareness Lab). Together with a designer, scientists, businesses, students and DesignLab University of Twente, Roberts spent the past few months working on an ambitious plan: to realize a high-tech meditation kit that measures the correlation between the quality of meditation and environmental factors. The showpiece is the Silence Suit: a high-tech meditation outfit equipped with biometric and environmental sensors.

Roberts, who has decades of experience with meditation, was curious about how environmental factors affect the quality of one’s meditation. Winning a funding round via the European project WEAR Sustain – which supports research into sustainable and ethical wearables – brought her closer to finding the answers she was looking for. Roberts started by examining the effect light has on the quality of meditation.

hub

DesignLab is a 'hub' for WEAR Sustain projects. In addition to the Silence Suit, DesignLab also works on a robotic vest for posture correction and a high-tech suit for the homeless.

Together with designer Vera de Pont, businesses, scientists and students from the University of Twente, she developed a complete high-tech meditation kit. In addition to the Silence Suit, it consists of a proprietary software platform ('the Dataserver'), which stores and analyses qualitative and quantitative meditation data. With the help of an algorithm, the system gets to know the meditator better and better over time. Using Internet of Things technology, the Dataserver automatically adjusts the environmental factor to create the perfect meditation experience.

OPEN SOURCE

Of course, the Silence Suit is made of natural materials such as pure wool and a viscose/modal mix. The casings are printed with PLA, a filament made with lactic acid. With its nine sensors, the suit provides insight into aspects such as posture, breathing, heartrate and the pressure between one’s fingers and their relation to the quality of the meditation.

Most electronic components are readily available at any electronics webshop. This makes it easy to replace or upgrade the components, Roberts explains. “We chose these components deliberately. We want to make the suit and the software available to others via Open Source."

All in the details: 3D prints and laser-cut icons on the meditation suit’s fabric indicate where the sensors and cable connections are located.


Role of DesignLab

DesignLab worked on the technical aspects of the wearable: the design and development of two printed circuit boards and the printing of the casings. It also rewrote the firmware and the code for communication with the lighting system. Furthermore, DesignLab offered advice on the Open Source strategy.

Finally, DesignLab facilitated the 'Enlightenment Through Light' presentation, which Roberts used to demonstrate her Silence Suit/meditation kit to interested researchers, students and artists.


I enjoyed the collaboration with DesignLab very much. As a multidisciplinary team, we developed innovative solutions.Danielle Roberts, Silence Suit Maker bij Awareness Lab

Curious

Combining spirituality and technology is a touchy subject. Nevertheless, the meditation world is “curious” about the kit, Roberts says. “My experiments were filled in the blink of an eye. People are curious about their meditation data. They say the suit is quite comfortable, despite how many electronic components it has.” Personally, Roberts says that the Silence Suit helps her to become more aware of the intentions and results of her meditation.  

future plans

Roberts already has plans for the future: conducting more intensive experiments, measuring other factors such as sound and scent, making the kit available via open source and creating artistic visualizations of the meditation data. 

Her ultimate dream? Telemeditation: meditating together remotely. “This successful project has inspired me to keep going,” Roberts says. 

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Roberts (Awareness Lab) would like to thank the following parties from their contribution to this project: 

Designer: Vera de Pont
Intern Awareness Lab: Meike Kurella
ProtoSpace:  Anne van den Heuvel, Simon de Bakker, Jan-Jaap Schuurman
DesignLab: Stephen Geerlings, Klaas de Haan, Stefan Paun, Olaf van der Meer, Jelmer Dijkstra, Edo de Wolf, Frank Kresin, Nicola Liberati
System architecture: Hans d’Achard
Data science Germán Bravo
Researcher: Tom Bergman
Baltan Laboratories: Koen Snoeckx (mentor)