What would Linus say? Arduino used to create more soothing blankets

Researchers create smart e-textiles to help those with sensory issues

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Prototype blanket using LilyPad Arduino technology

Image credit: ITworld/Phil Johnson

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Tech@LEAD conference in Washington, DC, a one-day event devoted to adapting new technologies to make cultural events and institutions accessible to those with disabilities. I’ll be writing more about the conference tomorrow, but I wanted to share an interesting use of Arduino technology that was on display.

Traditionally, a weighted blanket can help calm people with sensory integration issues, such as those with autism. Annuska Perkins of Good Labs is experimenting with using LilyPad Arduino to enhance these blankets in ways to make them more interactive to further help soothe, as well as to promote guided play and relaxation. Perkins brought some prototypes of these e-textiles to Tech@LEAD.

LilyPad Arduino is an Arduino controller and a set of input sensors and output devices that can be sewn (with conductive thread) into fabrics to create interactive textiles. Inputs include buttons and switches as well as light, temperature and motion sensors. Through the Arduino they can control LEDs, vibration boards and buzzers. People are putting LilyPad to work in some, er, interesting ways.

Among the LilyPad-powered items Perkins brought was a blanket with a sensor that will trigger a buzzer when covered up by your hand. Then there was the Blinkie Blanket, which uses 5 LED lights, triggered by touch, which can help, for example, to guide the user in relaxation. Here’s a Vine I took of the Blanket in action:

In the future, Good Labs plans to enhance the blanket to provide biofeedback and connect with other devices to promote social interaction.

It was great to see Arduino technology being put to use in such a way. I look forward to seeing what other ways Perkins - and other smart folks - apply technologies like these to helping others.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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