More than Human Centred Design


Demonstration for Weaving a Second Skin: Exploring Opportunities for Crafting On-Skin Interfaces Through Weaving

DIS 2020 Best Demo Award

  • Ruojia Sun, Hybrid Body Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Ryosuke Onose, Hybrid Body Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Margaret Dunne, Hybrid Body Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Andrea Ling, Hybrid Body Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Amanda Denham, Hybrid Body Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, Hybrid Body Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States
  • Corresponding email(s): cindykao@cornell.edu
  • Project webpage
  • Research group webpage
  • ACM DL Link: Extended Abstract
  • ACM DL Link: Associated Paper or Pictorial

We demonstrate the unique opportunities for adapting weaving for the fabrication of on-skin interfaces. Compared to current fabrication methods for on-skin interfaces such as screen printing, weaving affords more complex circuit typologies, material inclusiveness, and versatile textures and patterns. Through 8 case studies, we explore the functional and aesthetic opportunities of woven on-skin interfaces. In our 4 functional case studies, we present 2 multi-functional on-skin interfaces with input and output on the same device. The first interface combines a capacitive touch sensor input and thermochromic display output, while the second consists of pressure sensor input and shape memory alloy (SMA) haptic output. Next, we demonstrate electrical connection across layers (VIAS), enabled by the 3-dimensional capacity of weaving: an LED in the top layer is woven to be connected in parallel to an SMA spring in the bottom layer. Our last functional case study features a novel material, a stretchable optical fiber, which is easily woven into our interface. We also demonstrate 4 aesthetic case studies, exploring pattern, texture, unusual material (up-cycled plastic bags), and blank space to reveal the skin underneath. Our case studies show that by adapting the woven craft, we expand the design potential of on-skin interfaces.

Who is the target audience and why design for them? While those in the wearable computing community may be particularly interested in the capabilities of WovenSkin, our demo is designed for sharing our novel approach with anyone who is interested in wearing, crafting, or learning more about on-skin interfaces. Just as woven textiles are ubiquitous, we believe that woven on-skin interfaces can appeal to a wide range of users, and our demo aims to demonstrate WovenSkin devices’ functional and aesthetic customizability toward individual needs and preferences. On the other hand, our fabrication approach can be used by textile practitioners, who may be introduced to the form factor for the first time, as WovenSkin bridges the gap between textiles and on-skin electronics. We also wish to make our fabrication approach easily understandable for those who do not have textile experience, but are curious about crafting on-skin interfaces beyond rapid prototyping techniques. Lastly, we design our demo for those who want to learn more about on-skin interfaces, as this is an emerging field with ramifications for the future of wearables. We hope to showcase the possibilities of applying the woven craft to on-skin interfaces through tangible examples, to increase interest in and knowledge about this field in the DIS community and beyond.

What were the challenges or limitations encountered in this project? While our devices are durable enough for daily wear, they are not designed to be reusable. The warp yarns are not tied, rather the device edges are secured with fabric glue, which is sufficient for single use, but the edges can fray when touched while wet, limiting their useful lifetime. To finish the edges more permanently, the fabrication process would become more time consuming, furthermore a stronger adhesive would be needed to match the quality of the device. Medical grade adhesives would allow for more flexible, comfortable, and long lasting devices, reducing textile waste by increasing the lifetime of a single device, but they would increase the cost of fabrication. Compared to rapid prototyping methods, hand weaving can be quite slow, especially the time it takes to set up a loom. This time allows for rich sensory handcraft, but weaving can also be easily scaled up. When prioritizing throughput, industrial looms can quickly fabricate large quantities of woven devices, and jacquard looms can even allow for more complex designs.

What are the opportunities and next steps for this project? Further areas of research include fabricating thinner devices, integrating microcontrollers, and expanding the geometries of design. Various lace weaving techniques could be explored for Blank Space designs to create thinner, more conforming on-skin interfaces. Another method for improving flexibility and comfort would be to build upon thin-film electronics research to miniaturize electronic components and integrate a microcontroller seamlessly into the woven structure. For even more expressive designs, WovenSkin devices could be fabricated beyond the rectangular samples produced thus far. Exploration of tapestry and other hand manipulation weaving techniques could allow for the free form shapes seen in other body art form factors.

To the Demo Visitors: We’re interested in your imagined use cases for WovenSkin devices based on your own needs and your thoughts on the hybrid textile on-skin form factor. Please reach out to us at rs989@cornell.edu with any comments or questions.