Breathing Garment: A respiratory regulation garment for voice pedagogy

Ozgun Kilic Afsar

Using OmniFiber technology, we fabricated a type of undergarment that singers can wear to monitor and play back the movement of respiratory muscles, to later provide kinesthetic feedback through the same garment to encourage optimal posture and breathing patterns for the desired vocal performance. Although this initial testing is in the context of vocal pedagogy, the same approach could be used to help athletes to learn how best to control their breathing in a given situation, based on monitoring accomplished athletes as they carry out various activities and stimulating the muscle groups that are in action. 

In the fabrication process of the garment, we worked closely with a classically trained opera singer. Our aim was to capture the somatic expertise in a tangible form. We had the singer perform while wearing the garment made of our robotic fibers, and recorded the movement data from the strain sensors woven into the garment. Then, we translated the sensor data to the corresponding haptic feedback; whether it's in the form of soft vibration, compression or lateral skin stretch. 

We were eventually able to achieve both the sensing and the modes of actuation that we wanted in the textile interface, to record and replay the complex movements that we could capture from an expert singer's physiology and transpose it to a non-singer, novice learner's body.
So, we are not just capturing the kinetic know-how from an expert, but we are able to kinesthetically transfer that to someone who is just learning.

The physiology of breathing is actually quite complex. We are not quite aware of which muscles we use and what the physiology of breathing consists of. So, this early prototype of our garment is designed to have separate modules to monitor different respiratory muscle groups as the wearer inspires and expires, and can replay the individual motions to stimulate the activation of each muscle group.

Eventually, our hope is that such garments could also be used to help patients regain healthy breathing patterns after major surgery or a respiratory disease such as Covid-19, or even as an alternative treatment for respiratory dysregulation such as sleep apnea.  

Project at a glance

Person People
Hiroshi Ishii
Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences; Associate Director, MIT Media Lab
Person People
Ozgun Kilic Afsar
Research Assistant