One concept we were really focusing on this SXSW was that of Invisible UI. This was not only an idea that was brought to life in the form of Noti-FLY—tech-infused pants equipped with the ability to send you a push notification when your zipper is down—but also our “smart scrubs” of sorts, UnderCurrents.
UnderCurrents are tech-infused apparel that incorporates beacon technology to provide gentle, strategically placed reminders to the wearer via integrated motors and LEDs. The clothing sends “nudges” based on pre-programmed settings, helping the wearer—be it a doctor, police officer, fireman or average citizen—be aware of environmental factors and receive notifications when necessary, while keeping their focus on the task at hand.
While there are plenty of ways phones, wearables and tablets can make our lives easier and more efficient, users don’t need another screen and another type of tech to interact with. For UnderCurrents, we bypassed the typical interface and instead infused technology in the most seamless way possible, in an unexpected location: the user’s clothes.
For this particular case, we looked at the medical sphere, and the way the typical uniform of doctors and nurses could be enhanced in a way that improved their practice without distracting them or adding an additional action or task. Instead of giving healthcare professionals something else to do, we looked at how we could nudge them, when necessary, to do the important things they should already be doing.
The result? Smart scrubs we’ve dubbed UnderCurrents.
For UnderCurrents, we took standard scrubs and formed five activation sites by implementing the following materials: electric fabric and thread, flexible PCB, a battery, LEDs and disk motors, and a BLE component. In a hospital setting, these would work together with beacons set up throughout the building to remind the wearer to perform certain necessary actions. For example, if a nurse is about to enter the hospital room of an immunocompromised patient, their scrubs could recognize that and gently remind them to take proper precautions by lighting up or vibrating in the designated area (sleeve, shoulder, etc.). This could be just the notification they need when they have a thousand things on their mind. Along with nudges, a site could also serve as an alert of sorts and, in the case of a code blue, be programmed to immediately notify the nurse so they can get to their patient immediately.
It’s important to emphasize that UnderCurrents are not an extension of the user’s phone, but rather an extension of the world around us. This is technology that fits completely seamlessly into the wearer’s life, because they don’t really interact with it at all. They don’t have to do anything. In fact, depending on the “nudges” that are selected to be programmed into the scrubs, there’s a chance that the wearer might do everything right without being prompted and never need a reminder. In this case, they’re able to completely forget the tech is there at all and to keep their focus where it belongs: on their practice and their patient.
- Electronic fabric and thread and flexible PCB – Conduct electricity.
- BLE MCU – Allows for communication between clothes and beacons.
- Battery – Serves as power source.
- LEDs and disk motors – Light up or vibrate when necessary to serve as the nudge or alert.