Interactive Hand Puppet

- Hand Puppet as Means for eTextile Synthesis

The interactive hand puppet is intended as a tool for interactive storytelling, to support child-adult- interaction with a thoroughly soft and textile-made object. The hand puppet consists of two layers: an inner sensor glove, designed to detect the movements of the user's fingers, and a woven outer layer that has a touch sensitive user interface integrated into its woven structure. The two interfaces can be operated simultaneously by two separate users; an adult and a child.

We explore this case of a hand puppet with purpose-woven smart textile pattern to situate the skills of the textile designer within the HCI-process. The qualities found in traditional textile design are tacitly synthesized in to the eTextile-design process. We see this mentality as having a natural dialogue with HCI-practice.

Our interest is to better understand how the traditional textile design variables (e.g. look and feel) can be utilized in the user interface and -experience design. Also, how could a pattern be designed to be fully utilised in the user interface design? How the visual cues in the design or the different textures and material feels can support the use of the user interface?

This work will push towards the inclusion of electrical components for textile design, and interfacing them within the textile design methodology drawn from this work. We aim towards the synthesis of woven eTextile design, consisting of user interface design, pattern design, sensor structure design and textile layout design.

Sketches of the interactions and the shape of the hand puppet. The interactions were co-designed with users.

Prototyping the outer layer.

Prototyping the inner glove.

The design process

In the early front end of the design process, the aim was to define the problem space and understand the users’ needs through desk research, user interviews and user observations. The process evolved through brainstorming and concept creation towards concept definition that at the same time set the design objective for the eTextile design process. One central aspect to consider was that the user interface needs to cater to two users of different skill levels, and the inputs need to be measured from both inside and outside of the object. The design-hypothesis of the preferred interaction was embodied into two functional prototypes of the outer layer and the inner glove, and the hypothesis was validated with children, by testing a simulation of the user experience.

A distinct eTextile design process took place parallel with the design development process. The sensor validation, the final shape of the hand puppet and the placement of the sensors and signal traces into the patterns were seen as prerequisites for the eTextile layout design, that also set the requirements for the chosen materials and the pattern design. Thus, the proposed user experience and interactions were a guideline for the eTextile design process, dominating the development of the technical solutions. That is also the point of departure of the woven construction development process, which aim was to integrate all of the outer layer sensors directly into the structure of the woven fabric and translate the desired user experience into jacquard weave patterns. Essential in this process was the reconstruction of the three-dimensional object into weaving files that consists the pattern of the object, and to understand the possibilities and limitations of the weaving technique.

eTextile development in practice

First, the test samples of woven sensors, as well as a figurative jacquard design were woven. After validation, the sensor structures and the jacquard pattern were synthesized into a complete eTextile layout design, and the pattern of the hand puppet served as a template, where those two merged. The visual appearance of the hand puppet was designed to incorporate the user interface as an integrated part of the look and feel of the puppet. The sensor structures and their placement became part of the design, and were either visually distinct from the pattern design, or blended into the design.

Besides sensors, two led-lights were integrated into the fabric.

The figurative pattern of the fabric and testing the colours.

Translating the user experience into jacquard weave patterns. From top-left: A sketch of the woven eTextile lay-out design, the file of the front piece with integrated sensors for TC2 looms, the woven pieces and the hand-stitched signal traces.

From top-left: The first prototype of the piezoresisitive pressure sensor, the front-piece of the hand puppet with integrated pressure sensor-belly and a cross section of the woven pressure sensor structure.

Pouta E. and Mikkonen J. V. Hand Puppet as Means for eTextile Synthesis. To appear In Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Tangible and Embodied/Embedded Interaction (TEI ’19).

2019 Emmi Pouta