Clothing makes it possible for even the shyest of people to be heard.
Making sure that a discussion between two or more people stays balanced isn’t always easy, and can often lead to great ideas being lost in the chaos and confusion of multiple voices fighting for position. Expanded Discourse is a piece of inflatable clothing from Zoe Padgett and Gerardo Guerrero that gives a physical form to our thoughts, and the time in which we have to express them. The designers hope it will allow for everyone to get their thoughts across during meetings, informal discussions and other situations where ideas are invaluable.
The clothing itself was built using Arduino, along with a PC fan and microphone audio sensor that allows the suit to inflate and deflate in time with speech. When someone wants to speak, they use a plastic attachment on their shoulder to inflate the suit, and as they express their ideas, it slowly shrinks back to its original size.
As Padgett explains on her website:
Through the design of a wearable that signifies when we have a desire to speak, and visualizes the process of expelling our thoughts, we hoped to explore how our communication transactions can be affected by visual awareness and haptic reminders.
For those who aren’t comfortable raising their voice to be heard, or have to wait for a lull in the conversation to speak, Expanded Discourse offers a stress-free option for expressing the desire to be heard. It also helps to highlight the importance of words, something which can be lost when they are exchanged without so much as a second thought.
As summarized by Padgett, there were some important lessons learnt from giving words a physical form.
The wearable proved to be an interesting addition to social interactions. The users had to exercise patience, and had to be aware of their role as either listener or speaker. Often the suit acted almost as a gavel, announcing that the user had a point make and conveyed an urgency when the listener is waiting to speak. It was a fascinating process, and we were delighted by the unique insights that came from the project.
Apart from the illustrations shown above, there is also a short video that demonstrates social situations where the suit could be useful.