Breathing Pillows

Breath-syncing pillows increase breathing awareness

Completion - spring 2020
Collaborators - Miranda Luong, Sabrina Zhai

Physical prototyping

Breaths are often unnoticeable in daily life, but awareness of breathing can help us regulate our stress and build a deeper connection with ourselves. We created a breathing pillow that simulates the motion of breathing using a closed air system with two air chambers to control the inflation mechanically. 
Context ︎
A 2011 study shows that 3-month-old infants and their mothers can synchronize their heartbeats to mere milliseconds.

We were inspired by the moment when your physical connection with the environments/others allows you to synchronize with them physiologically.

Visualizations ︎
Breaths are often unnoticable in daily life, but awareness to breathing can not only help us regulate our stress but also help us connect with others.

We looked at existing ways of visulizing breathing. Its motion is commonly associated with expansion and contraction, which led us to explore how to use expansion and contraction to represent the motion.

System Diagram ︎
As shown in the diagram below, to simulate the motion of breathing we designed a closed air system with two air chambers to control the inflation mechanically.
Breathe Detection ︎
We designed a wearable made of a knit band with a short flex sensor attached along its length. The flex sensor would track the changing curvature of the wearer’s waist as their diaphragm expanded and contracted. This data would then be read by Arduino which instructs the inflation and deflation of the pillow.
Pillow Inflation ︎
Since air pump only allows one-way air flow and does not provide precise change in air volume, we designed a closed air system using vinyl sheet and hot sealer to insert inside the pillow for inflation and deflation which allows a much more fine control of the inflation.
Linear Actuator ︎
We designed a box to enclose the electronics, the linear actuator, the accompanied inflatable, and hide the deafening sound produced by the linear actuator. We modeled the box in Fusion 360, citing dimensions of the linear actuator and giving enough space for an inflatable to expand and contract.

Next Step
We hope to expand the project into a collaborative experience. Right now it only allows people to feel their own breathing, but we are planning to have two participants experiencing each other’s breathing at the same time to see if it can help them synchronize and create emotional connection.