Critical Objects Final Project: Hand / Held
HAND / HELD
wearable intimacy for lgbtq couples in unsafe spaces
TOPIC: LGBT discrimination
Hand / Held is a pair of wearable gloves intended to be shared by an LGBT couple. The gloves allow for a tactile connection between the couple when they are together in spaces where it is unsafe to show physical affection. The gloves— with a mixed aesthetic of protective material and a brace— hold the wearer’s hand in a partially bent position, reminiscent of the position it would be in were the user to be allowed to hold their partner’s hand, and evoking a passive sense of longing.
The idea of a remote way to touch or hold hands has been done before, in a plethora of ways— usually as a remedy for a long-distance relationship or for when a couple can’t be together. However, I approached Hand/ Held from a different perspective. After all, it is not distance that prevents LGBTQ couples from holding hands— it’s a culture of homophobia. Even when a couple is sharing physical space, they are limited in what physical affection they can display.
To reflect this, I wanted to make a device that worked best when the couple wearing them are in close proximity to each other, to reflect the paradox that no matter how close the couple is, they still can’t touch. I chose to use small transmitters and receivers for this reason. To accentuate the sense of longing for touch, I wanted to fabricate a glove that forced the wearer’s hand into a curved state— almost as if they were holding a ghostly hand.
My first challenge was just to get the radios ( a transmitter and receiver) talking to one another. I used the Arduino IDE and the RadioHead library to show the communication. I then added a flex sensor and a vibration motor and worked on debugging the connection.
Once the technology was working on the breadboard, I moved on to the design of the gloves. In order to achieve the bent-hand-holding position and to conceal the flex sensor and vibration motor, I used a combination of rubber gloves and a wrist splint.
The current gloves are the first prototype of this project. Currently, each glove only contains one of the two modules— either a flex sensor and a transmitter, or a receiver and a vibration motor. Ideally, both gloves will contain both modules so that either wearer can send or receive a pulse.
I built this code in the Arduino IDE and uploaded it to Arduino Uno boards. Because of their relatively large and unwieldy size (and the fact that I was using flex sensors from the ITP shop and they couldn’t be soldered), they could not be integrated into the Hand / Held glove and had to be worn separately. In future iterations, I want to adapt the code for a smaller microcontroller and create custom PCBs in Eagle that are small enough to fit inside the glove so that it functions as a cohesive unit. With smaller hardware, I would have greater flexibility in the overall aesthetic of the garment.
The final change I need to make is to assign each pair of transmitters and receivers a long random string that allows them to pair only with each other, so that if two couples are wearing the gloves in the same space, only the signals from their own partner’s glove will get sent to them.