Simone Schramm, a German product interface designer interested in the intersection between analogue products and digital interfaces, devoted her master’s thesis to the idea that when people continuously check their Fitbit or other electronic performance tracker to ascertain their health status, they are missing something important—their intuition. “Numbers are objective,” writes Schramm in her mission statement. “Humans are subjective. Undisputed trust into technology has the potential to replace innate intuition.” Her wearable concept, the muscle shirt, is designed to use data to transform what a wearer physically feels, and allow each individual to decide what the feeling means.
The muscle shirt measures athletic performance by using a heartbeat sensor integrated into a stretch fabric sleeveless exercise shirt. As the heartbeat increases through physical exercise, the fabric gathers at the back of the shirt and tightens on the user’s torso. The muscle shirt’s transition is gradual, ranging from relatively loose to comfortably tight. The user’s sensory perceptions are engaged, not just by the touch of the fabric contracting, but by the sight of the transformation. Slits positioned on the grey muscle shirt open when the fabric contracts, revealing an underlying color layer that the wearer (and others) can see. The prototype connects the heartbeat sensor to a stepper motor, which rotates a bar that gathers fabric
at the back of the muscle shirt.
The intuitive part: the wearer’s reaction to the muscle shirt’s changing touch and appearance. “It is perceived by the skin surface and has the potential to enhance the adequate posture of the wearer,” writes Schramm. To improve performance, the athlete can react by pushing a little faster or farther. The heart rate data doesn’t dictate good or bad health status; instead, the wearer decides what to do, based on his or her intuition and self-knowledge.