Bio-sensors, such as heart rate monitors, tsend readings via Bluetooth to the scarf

Bio-sensors, such as heart rate monitors, tsend readings via Bluetooth to the scarf

US computer software manufacturer Microsoft Corp has developed a prototype of a smart scarf designed to manage the users emotional state and interpret that of others.

'Swarm' aims for a universal design, with a focus on modular actuation components to accommodate users’ sensory capabilities and preferences, and a scarf form-factor meant to reduce the stigma of accessible technologies through a fashionable embodiment.

Microsoft said it imagines the overall scenario around the scarf’s use as someone, or everyone, wearing bio-sensors, such as heart rate monitors, that send readings via Bluetooth to the scarf.

“Devices for measuring emotion (using signals like heart rate and perspiration) are becoming cheaper and more reliable; the emerging category of “smart watch” products is already beginning to integrate heart rate sensing (e.g., the Samsung Galaxy Fit),” Microsoft says. “Within a few years, wearable affect monitors such as multi-purpose smart watches or speciality devices (e.g., Spire []) may be as ubiquitous as fitness bands are today.”

Indeed, Swarm (Sensing Whether Affect Requires Mediation), the sensor recorded data, retrieved from body’s emotional responses, can be fed to a smartphone or computer via Bluetooth, which can eventually be utilised by doctors.

Microsoft's report noted that, due to the nature of certain disabilities, many people have difficulty identifying emotions – either their own or those of others – such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Therefore, the inspiration for the laser-cut garment, comprising heat-producing interchangeable modules linked together with metal snaps, and made from industrial felt and conductive copper taffeta, was to design it for people with disorders such as ASD, to help relieve anxiety. This, through the embedding of actuations into garments including haptics, cooling, and air compression.

A spokesperson for Microsoft said the research prototype has been developed to explore “another example of affective computing”, but is not a product Microsoft is actually developing.

The scarf was developed by a Microsoft Research team led by the University of Maryland graduate student Michele Williams.