Agent Unicorn – The first SPARKS Residency Wearable by Anouk Wipprecht

The well-known Fashion-Tech Designer has worked the communication aspects of her apparel into an unicorn-shaped headset. During her stay at Futurelab she teamed up with a team of Neuroscientists and experts, creating an accessory that logs the wearer’s observations through EEG.

Courtesy of Annouk Wipprecht
Credit: Main image Agent Unicorn by Marije Dijkema

Anouk Wipprecht is the first artist selected to spend a SPARKS Residency at the Ars Electronica Futurelab. The well-known Fashion-Tech Designer has worked the communication aspects of her apparel into an unicorn-shaped headset. During her stay at the Futurelab, she teamed up with a team of Neuroscientists and experts, creating an accessory that logs the wearer’s observations through EEG.

Picking up brain activity with a built-in camera that takes short movies when the wearer’s attention strikes. Her personal focus is on children but ‘she’d wear it herself too’ she said. During a pause in one of her many team meetings, Anouk Wipprecht talked to us about how the idea came about and how she’s developed it up to this point.

melinashoot3

Behind the scenes of main image photoshoot. Credit: Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

Based on the media buzz about you, your name is synonymous with Fashion-Tech. What’s the interrelationship between your interest in fashion and the field of responsible research and innovation [RRI]?

Anouk Wipprecht: By
 curiosity
, I
 try 
to
 connect 
myself
 to
 different 
fields.
 From
 wearables
 to
 robotics, 
from
 micro-controllers
 to
 sensors,
 to
 an
 ongoing
 research 
into
 reliably
 (and
 wirelessly)
 measuring 
bio-signals.
 I
 see
 fashion
 as 
a token 
of
 expression 
and
 communication
 and 
I
 like 
to 
make
 that 
electronic 
and
 interactive.
 My 
designs 
monitor
 your 
body
 signals,
 stress 
levels
 and
 measure
 out
 what 
happens
 in
 your
 surroundings. 
It
 processes 
data
 
and
 data 
visualizes 
the
 outcome
 by
 means
 of
 expression, 
that 
happens 
within
 the
 garments,
 often
 of
 an computational 
nature.
 A
part from that,
 my
 work
 is 
to
 create.
 Another
 to
 demonstrate.
 A 
third
 one 
to 
research 
the 
interactions
 that
 my
 designs
 cause
 and 
confluence and
 engineer
 the 
finding
 back
 to
 my 
system. 
These 
prototypes
 need
 to
 be
 ‘worn’
 in
 order
 to
 be
 tested.
 I
 see
 them 
as
 case-studies 
as
 every 
design 
is
 measuring,
 triggering
 and
 also
 visualizing 
another
 interaction 
that
 I
 test 
out.

SD_DSC5627_smallweb-e1442520120540-868x653

An example of an interactive dress: Robotic Spider Dress powered by Intel Edison. Credit: Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

As you already mentioned, your designs are often fully High-Tech embed: the design of your dresses as well as the system behaviors and the planned interactions look seamlessly connected. How did it come about that with your current Futurelab residency you are focused on creating a ‘device’ instead?

Anouk Wipprecht: This 
is 
correct.
 On
 the
 topic
 of
 ‘wellness’ 
I
 chose 
a 
different 
track.
 Creating 
a custom-designed
 ensemble 
was
 my
 original
 intent
 but
 the project manageress Claudia 
[SPARKS 
project
 liaison
 Claudia 
Schnugg] 
pointed
 me 
on
 the
 “device”
 direction,
 allowing
 to 
use
 my
 concepts
 to 
develop 
an
 instrumentation 
that
 addresses 
[mental]
 health
 through 
the
 concept
 of
 RRI
 via
 fashion.
 It
 got
 me
 to
 be
 creating
 a cool 
product
 that
 has
 the 
potential 
to
 yield
 significant
 benefits 
for 
therapies
 and
 research.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 14.12.26

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prototypye camera horn with embedded FlyWire camera. Credit: Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

You work with EEG sensors that monitor the brain activity and when the wearer’s focus threshold hits 80% it triggers a movie capture to indicate the wearers attention point and logs it. What are you trying to find out?

Anouk Wipprecht: Based
 on 
my 
former 
Intel -Edison-
based
 ‘Synapse’
-dress,
 a
 dress
 which 
logs
 your 
mood
, we researched
 the
 wearer’s 
focus 
points.
 This 
time 
through 
a
 more 
adapted
 accessories 
than 
my 
former
 3D
 printed 
bodice:
 I
 playfully 
try
 to
 sets
 an
 art-deco 
style
 headpiece 
in
 the 
shape 
of
 a
 unicorn 
horn,
 mounted
 on 
the 
head
 as an 
interface 
between
 the
 brainwaves 
and
 the
 surroundings.
 A
 state
 of
 high
 concentration 
abstracted 
through 
EEG
 allows 
the
 wearer
 to
 activate 
and 
trigger
 a 
video 
capture.
Controlled,
 quantified
 and 
modulated
 by 
leveraging 
inputs 
from
 the
 body’s
 electrical
 system,
 once 
more 
through 
the
 Intel
-Edison-
module,
 I 
am
 trying
 to
 monitor
 people’s
 vision,
 what
 is
 in
 front
 of
 them.
 My 
aim 
is 
to
 create 
a 
learning system
 that
 brings
 more 
self-awareness 
to
 the 
wearer.
 To 
show
 people
 what
 engages 
them,
 not
 only
 that
 something
 triggers
 their 
attention
 but
 also
 what 
triggers 
that
 
state.
 It
 makes
 the
 biofeedback
 method
 much
 more
 gratifying
 and
 comprehensible.
 With
 my
 remote
 team 
in
 Hawaii 
and
 Neuroscientists
 I
 test
 possibilities.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 15.58.00

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

g.Sahara [dry electrode] based EEG measurements + Intel Edison development. Credit: Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

How does this set apart from the current state of wearables, utilizing an on-body camera?

Anouk Wipprecht: By the
 current
 state
 of
 wearables 
as
 activity 
trackers
 and
 body 
sensors,
 I get the information 
that
 there
 is
 something
 happening
, 
for
 example
 – your
 heartbeat
 goes
 up,
or
 your
 stress
 level 
rises. 
But 
it
 does
 nothing
 to 
help
 you
 understand
 yourself.
 By
 placing
 an
 extra-
set
 of 
eyes
 on 
the
 body,
 I
 am
 able
 to 
create 
an 
interface 
which
 not
 only
 knows
 that
 you
 stare
 at
 something,
 but
 also
 why.
 Having
 a
 grip 
on 
what
 gets
 your 
attention
 throughout
 the
 day
 without
 having
 to
 record
 it
 yourself, 
makes
 you 
aware 
of 
certain
 habits
 you
 face.

IMG_6141

Anouk Wipprecht with Dr. Christoph Hintermüller of G.Tec with g.Sahara electrodes, Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

gtechsensor

Credit: Anouk Wipprecht

You already started proprietary. How much have your designs changed since you’ve been working together with the Ars Electronica Futurelab crew?

Anouk Wipprecht: The 
cool
 thing 
about 
being
 here 
is
 that 
you
 get
 to
 deal
 with
 people 
who 
are
 highly 
specialized 
in
 a
 wide 
array
 of
 fields.
 Receive
 cohesive
 feedback 
and
 suggestions 
in 
response
 to
 specific
 queries,
 whether 
they’re 
about
 design 
or 
technology 
is 
really
 important
 in
 a
 process
 like
 this.
 I, 
for
 example,
was 
playing 
around 
with 
the
 Intel 
Real Sense,
 and
 there 
were
 two
 other 
teams 
busy
 with
 that too.
 On
 the
 same
 floor! 
In
 a 
scientific 
sense,
 my
 residency
 association
 with
 the
 Ars
 Electronica 
Future lab 
provides
 me
 with
 access
 to
 channels
 like
 the
 company
 G.Tec,
 who 
I
 have 
a
 meeting 
with
 today, 
at
 which
 we’ll
 be
 talking
 about
 attention-deficit.
 They
 are
 market
 leaders 
in
 Medical
 EEG
 devices.
 But
 also, 
as
 a
 designer 
you
 often 
have 
limited 
access
 to
 high-level
 science
 departments. 
Ars 
Electronica 
is
 an 
institution
 that’s 
famous
 for 
transdisciplinary
 research,
 so
 without 
this
 linkup,
 I
 would not be in
 contact
 with
 Dominik 
Laister 
at
 the
 Barmherzige
 Brüder 
Hospital 
in 
Linz
, who
 became
 a 
very
 valuable
 advisor.
 As
 a 
member 
of
 the
 staff 
of
 their
 autism
 competence
-center,
 he
 was 
able 
to
 give
 me
 information 
about 
the 
potential
 effectiveness
 of
 the
 device,
 links 
to
 certain
 research
 papers,
 and
 helps 
me
 to 
integrate 
important
 features
 into 
the 
concept.
 For
 example 
P300
 within
 the
 10/20
 system
 and
 Nc 
trigger
points 
that
 I
 am
 interested 
in
 for 
attention-deficit.

melinashoot1

Photoshoot of main image Credit: Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

Are there any personal points of contact between you and the subject of ADHD?

Anouk Wipprecht: My
 designs 
are 
conceived 
to
 perform
 a
 certain
 function—they 
communicate.
 For
 example,
 they 
use
 smoke 
to
 say
 “Hey,
 don’t
 invade
 my
 personal
 space!”
 and
 are
 thus 
an
 extension
 of
 natural
 physical 
reactions.
 In
 a
 nutshell,
 what 
my
 fashion 
brings 
about, 
is
 non-verbal
 communication.
 Children 
on 
the 
ADHD
 spectrum
 are
 constantly
 beset
 with
 communication 
problems.
 Fashion
 sort
 of
 translates
 messages 
in
 spheres 
in
 which 
verbal
 exchange
 fails.
 The
 design 
can
 cater
 to
 overcome
 communication 
difficulties
 in 
a
 playful
 way.
 Tracking 
your
 mind 
without
 having
 to
 wear
 an
 invasive 
electrode
 cap,
 which
 is 
used 
in
 a therapeutic 
setting. 
It
 is set
 in 
a
 more
 game-like
 environment.
 My 
concrete 
approach
 as
 a designer 
is
 to
 get
 EEG
 devices
 out
 of
 its medical
 niche.
 For 
children, 
it’s
 primarily
 designed
 as 
an 
aid
 for
 use
 during
 therapy
 sessions
, to 
facilitate 
conversing
 with
 the 
therapist.
 As 
street
wear,
 it’s 
of
 course
 less 
helpful
 when
 the
 aim 
is
 to
 remain
 in conspicuous.
 Though
 I,
 as 
a
 geeky-conscious
 girl, 
would 
certainly 
wear it.

3dmodel

Untitled-1

Series of Real Sense horn LED renders with L.A. based Igor Knezevic, Credit: Anouk Wipprecht and Igor Knezevic

Can you name an example what you have in mind that the device would be able to log?

Anouk Wipprecht: I
 hope 
that 
the
 device 
fosters
 a learning 
effect
 to
 enable
 the
 wearers
 to 
recognize
 which 
invasive
 events
 over
 the 
course
 of
 the 
day
 have 
had 
a 
strong 
effect
 on 
their 
brain
 activity.
 The
 horn’s
 built-in
 camera 
records
 the
 child’s 
experiences — for 
instance,
 during
 a
 visit 
to
 the 
zoo.
 Depending 
on
 which 
animal
 the 
child 
is 
seeing,
 there’s
 an
 emotional
 reaction
 and 
the 
brain
waves’
 swings 
trigger 
the
 camera.
 Now, 
things 
are
 pretty 
fuzzy
 in
 data
, but 
by
 development
, I
 hope 
to
 design
 this 
better.

vita1

vita2

Behind the scenes during the teaser movie with Vita and Local Androids. Credit: Courtesy of Local Androids

Credit: Local Androids

Why is the development of this project so close to your heart?

Anouk Wipprecht: I
 focus
 on 
children,
 generally
 speaking,
 anyone
 can
 wear
 this
 to
 measure 
his/her 
brain 
activities
 and
 to
 draw 
conclusions
 from
 them — for
 example,
 how
 we
 react
 to
 various
 colors;
 how 
a 
piece 
of
 chocolate
 cake 
produces 
a
 spike;
 or
 even 
how
 we
 respond 
to
 hearing
 our
 own
 name.
 But
 the
 essential
 feature 
is
 that 
these 
brain
 activities
 can
 also
 be
 evaluated
 as
 to
 when 
and
 how
 the
 particular 
child
 becomes
 especially
 attentive,
 and 
this
 can 
suggest
 the
 point 
of
 departure
 of
 the 
respective
 therapeutic
 measures.
 Conceived
 as
 a
 playful 
element
 are 
the 
built-in 
LEDs 
that
 flash
 during 
brain
 activities.
 It
 can
 make 
the
 therapist’s 
job
 easier
 by
 enabling 
recognition
 of
 precisely
 these
 points.
 That
 can
 certainly
 be 
interesting
 for 
all
 wearers 
by
 potentially
 pointing 
out
 sources
 of 
irritation 
and
 stress
 that
 they
 would
 otherwise 
not
 be
 cognizant 
of. Wearing 
this
 unicorn
 horn-shaped 
agent 
is
 a
 way
 for 
children
 to
 escape
 being
 socially
 stigmatized.
 It
 demonstrates 
in
 a
 playful 
way 
that
 by 
giving
 current
 medical
 devices
 a 
fashionable 
twist,
 you
 can
 create
 something
 which 
is 
easier 
to
 digest
 from
 an
 UX 
state
 of
 mind.

unicorn

Behind the scenes during the teaser movie with Vita and Local Androids. Credit: Courtesy of Local Androids

The designer is using:

Intel Edison, https://www.adafruit.com/datasheets/EdisonDatasheet.pdf

FlyWire-Camera, http://www.flywirecameras.com/

EEG, http://www.gtec.at/ [g.Sahara system]

Tests with:

Intel RealSense Camera R200 http://click.intel.com/intel-realsense-developer-kit-r200.html

Anouk Wipprecht 
hopes 
to
 make
 the
 project
 Open
 Source 
available
 later 
this
 year.

This project is part of Sparks, a H2020 project funded by the European Commission

2 comments

  • We live in the States and have an 8 year old boy we are working through all the ideas and issues relating to his relating to world through the lens of adhd. How do we find out any studies or research opportunities with the”unicorn” apparatus?
    Would love to know what lights my son up!
    Any info would be great.
    Matt
    Matt@havenslo.com

  • Hello Matt,
    We’re happy to hear that Agent Unicorn might be helpful for you and your family! If you want to know more about research opportunities or studies, it’s best to contact the artist, Anouk Wipprecht, herself. She will be able to tell you more. Here is her website: http://www.anoukwipprecht.nl/
    All the best from Linz, the Ars Electronica Team

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