A new project aimed at creating a garment that can act as a communicative interface for deafblind people is expected to begin in early 2018.
The University of Borås, Sweden, co-ordinates the project with universities and companies from seven different countries.
The deafblind are a group in society dependent on other people, such as family members or assistants to sense the world. Now, researchers in the EU project ‘SUITCEYES’ will develop a prototype made from smart textiles to provide the deafblind with new communication opportunities.
Project co-ordinator Nasrine Olson said: “By using sensors and other technologies, the garment will take in information about what happens around the person. This will enable linguistic communication, and it will also enhance learning as well as add something fun for the bearer.”
The idea is that the garments will transfer information to the bearers through haptic language, i.e. a language of touch and movements, and can tell the bearers if someone is looking at them or where the ball they dropped is in the room.
Nils-Krister Persson, research leader of Smart Textiles at the University of Borås, said: “Smart textiles are perfect to use when we develop the interface, as our body is constantly in contact with textiles. It’s more or less just in the shower that it isn’t.”
The project is expected to start in early 2018 and last for three years. At the end of the project, hopefully there will be a prototype that could be developed into a product of the participating companies.
Olson added: “We believe that the garment could be used in other areas as well, such as sports, so a trainer can monitor an athlete’s movements, or divers or firefighters in areas with limited vision who need their hands free.”