From smart shirts that can tell you about your heart rate to socks embedded with sensors that can provide running feedback, wearable technology has proven its usefulness for athletes.
Now, however, Microsoft is working on a computerized article of clothing to improve your mental health too. The company developed a prototype of a smart scarf that can you can command to heat up or vibrate from your phone, according to MIT Technology Review.
The company presented a paper on the device at Stanford University’s Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction on Sunday.
The scarf could ideally be used to soothe or calm those with disorders such as autism that have trouble maintaining control of their feelings. Researchers have consulted with people who have autism, visual, or hearing disabilities when developing the device.
Here’s an image of the scarf taken by health news website MobiHealthNews that was shared on Twitter.
You’d be able to control the scarf with an app on your smartphone through Bluetooth. The scarf is comprised of various customisable modules — some can heat up on command, others can vibrate. You can switch these out, let’s say, if your ears are cold but you want one of the vibrating modules closer to your neck, by unsnapping the modules and arranging them however you want.
Eventually, Microsoft wants to add the ability to cool you off as well. If you’re sweating because you’re nervous, for instance, the scarf would detect your perspiration and start cooling you to calm you down.
Heated scarves aren’t new, but most current ones come with somewhat bulky battery packs and can’t vibrate. Microsoft’s scarf is made of industrial felt that’s overlayed with conductive copper.
It’s still an early stage prototype, so it’s unclear if and when we’ll see such a product enter the market. Regardless, the concept provides another glimpse at a different type of practical use case for wearable tech beyond exercise tracking.