We’ve seen plenty of hacks that analyze biometric signals as measures of athletic performance, but maybe not as many hacks that are trying to study behavior. Well, that’s exactly what developmental psychologists at Indiana University and the University of East Anglia have done with their open-source, wireless vest for measuring autonomic function in infants.
Their device includes a number of components we’ve seen already. There is an HC-05 Bluetooth module, AD8232 electrocardiography (ECG) analog front-end, LIS3DH 3-axis accelerometer, MCP73831 LiPo charger, a force-sensitive resistor for measuring respiration, and a Teensy microcontroller. Given how sensitive an infant’s skin can be, they opted for fabric electrodes for the ECG instead of those awful sticky ones that we’re accustomed to. They then interfaced the conductive fabric with copper plates using snap fasteners (or press studs or snap buttons, whichever terminology you’re more familiar with). The copper plates were connected to the circuit board using standard electrical wire. Then, they embedded the sensors into a vest they sewed together themselves. It’s basically a tiny weighted vest for infants but it seems well-padded enough to be somewhat comfortable.
They did a short test analyzing heart and breathing rates during a period of “sustained attention,” basically when you’re quietly fixated on a single object or activity for a period of a few minutes or longer. They were really pleased with the vest’s ability to collect consistent data and noted that heart and respiratory rate variability decreased during the sustained activity test, which was an expected outcome. Apparently, when you’re pretty fixated on a singular task, your body naturally calms down, so to speak, and the variability in some of your physiological responses decreases. Well, unless someone slowly walks up behind you and pinches you, of course.
They provided detailed instructions for recreating the vest, so be sure to check those out. They probably want their device to look a lot less than body armor though. Maybe the Sewbo can help them out with their next iteration.