What does it feel like to stutter? Is it like the constriction of asthma or a muscle spasm? A device is being developed to help share the experience of stuttering according to a post in Wareable. The wearable, Stacha, was inspired by project lead Yuka Fukuoka, a student at School of Visual Arts in New York who experiences stuttering herself.
Fukuoka started stuttering when she was nine years old and she describes her experience, which worsened until she was 24, as a “great influence” on her life. As a child, she was often told that the condition would disappear once she stopped being nervous. It didn’t. “Since stuttering is not very openly known many people think you can treat it if you just keep trying, that it’s a simple matter of mentality,” she told us.
Fukuoka and her team of six designers have been working on prototypes of the neck band that triggers stuttering by applying a small amount of electrical current to the larynx, causing the muscles to constrict. They hope to also embed a mic, allowing the band to apply more stimulus depending on the surrounding audio levels. That could make talking in a crowded area quite challenging.
An important element of research for this project is a documentary the team produced about a woman in Tokyo who has experienced social anxiety, loneliness and even anorexia in her youth because of stuttering. While most wearable tech devices focus on a problem experienced by a user, this project has a different philosophy according to Fukuoka.
She didn’t want to create something that focussed on “understanding a disability”. She wanted a design that caught the interest of people, regardless of age, and offered a unique learning opportunity. This, Fukuoka says, is where wearables are unique; put one on and it becomes part of you.
I’m looking forward to hearing the results of the testing and also about the potential for impact. Wearables are great for sharing experiences and we have a rather unusual example of utilizing muscle movement in our Adafruit Learning section called ‘Sup Brows. You can have your friend send you an SMS with a twitch of the brow using a Myoware sensor, EMG electrodes and an Adafruit Feather BLE. Although this project is humorous, it does show how electronics can contribute to a shared physical experience.
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