According to the National Autistic Society, there are approximately 700,000 people¹ on the autism spectrum in the UK. Those with a developmental disability such as autism can experience a wide range of symptoms, such as difficulty processing sensory information; seeing, hearing, touch, taste and smell.
Sensewear, one of the winners of this year’s AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards 2017, is a collection of clothes designed to stimulate and enhance awareness of the senses that may be helpful to those with autism.
Clothing to stimulate and sharpen senses
When working on an entry proposal for the Lexus Design Award 2015, Dubai-based colleagues Emanuela Corti and Ivan Parati became aware of some of the difficulties people with autism can experience, such as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that is received from the senses.
The team approached therapists at the Dubai Autism Center to present their concepts and gained valuable insights to further the development process, also partnering with Alessia Moltani, designer and founder of textile sensor company Comftech, to create garments which had a “low-tech” feel.
Sensewear is an interpretation of therapies already in use in clinical settings. “Our aim was to integrate the technology into daily life, transforming it into wearable clothing and accessories that can improve the lives of children and adults not only with autism, but also those who experience daily stress and anxiety,” said Emanuela.
The Sensewear collection is anchored by the Sensewear smartphone app called ‘Appme’, which collects wearer’s data via Bluetooth from the clothing and interprets this into feedback to better support wellbeing. Garments include an underwear T-shirt called ‘Senseme’ which monitors vital signs and connects with the app to allow the user to get a more general picture of their wellbeing.
Other garments comprise of an inflatable jacket to provide the wearer with a calming sensation, a biteable necklace to release stress and anxiety and an aromatic scarf to help the wearer to feel comfortable and relaxed. The Sensewear smartphone app ‘Appme’ is able to activate other garments in the collection e.g. it can inflate the jacket automatically if it senses that the user is in a stressful situation.
Impact of the Health Tech & You Awards
Since winning the Health Tech & You Awards, Sensewear is now formally registering as a start-up and exploring further funding opportunities.
Ivan says: “We have also been selected for a European fund programme Wear Sustain, an initiative to engage art, design and creative industries to work more closely with tech industries to shift the development of wearables to a more sustainable and ethical approach.”
“We are formalising our collaboration with several autism centres in order to begin trials and gather data,” he adds.
As well as development in the tech world, Sensewear has also been invited to exhibit prototypes at the Fashion Clash Festival in Maastricht.
¹The NHS Information Centre, Community and Mental Health Team, Brugha, T. et al (2012). Estimating the prevalence of autism spectrum conditions in adults: extending the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. Leeds: NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care