Wearable coping mechanisms for urban rhythms

0pokkkio9.jpgI first read about the work of Teresa Almeida two years ago when she presented Modes for Urban Moods project at ITP. Her quirky looking inflatable dress was meant to help city dwellers cope with the absence of physical space. It was the first prototype of her series of wearable accessories which reflect one’s experience in urban space.

Yuga is the latest addition to the project.

While the Yuga handbag helps managing feelings of frustration that might occur in urban space, the belt deals with attention. It detects physical proximity and movement and according to the data collected, the belt will create brief compositions – that allow others to notice the wearer’s presence or help him or her reclaim attention and/or interact with the surroundings.

The handbag helps managing feelings of frustration – of communication, misunderstanding or alienation. Can you give us some examples of moments when those feelings arise? How does the bag help in coping with them? What’s the technology hidden inside the bag?

0dababaaag3.jpgAt the time I had just read an article about Heathrow airport shutting down last August and some woman interviewed was quoted about the desperate situation and how she felt like throwing herself on the floor and cry like a baby but couldn’t, since that was completely unacceptable for a grown up woman, due to social conventions. I had just felt that helpless that morning. The handbag functions as an external body that ‘screams for you’, when you throw it on the floor. Whimsy and playful, like some real toys for kids.

The technology: it has a shock sensor invented and handmade by Luka Frelih, an audio record/playback module and speaker, all plugged into an arduino board. The belt works the same way, but uses a different sensor. I wanted to have everything connected with conductive thread and velcro but it didn’t really work that well and needed some extra wires.

The belt deals with attention – it detects physical proximity and movement. According to the data collected it creates compositions – that allow others to notice the user’s presence or thus the user him/herself to reclaim spontaneous attention and/or interact with the surroundings. Do you feel that anyone would need such an accessory or is it meant only for the insecure?

Originally the belt would be for the most vulnerable and for those situations one might feel fragile or neglected and in need to amplify the presence or the boundaries of own body and affect the immediate space. Though it all depends on how much attention one needs. Or wants. Anyone could use it.

How’s your project “modes for urban moods” going on? are you still developing it?

Well, Yuga is somehow still part of Modes for urban moods, but a new series created within a new urban context. Modes started in New York, now in Ljubljana and hopefully somewhere else next, it is an evolving project. Meanwhile I gathered all my sketches and illustrations on a little book and though I’m not currently developing any other of the accessories from the first series I’m still willing to, maybe if I go back to NYC..

Why do you develop projects for women only? Does it mean that we tend to be more stressed and frustrated than men?

So far the projects have developed according to my own experience as motive, and women’s products seem to offer wider choices or at least I know better what to look for and work from there. It doesn’t necessarily mean women are more damaged :)

Thanks Teresa!