When we hear of wearable technologies that help create new, innovative and often intuitive products that improve our wellbeing in all sorts of life situations, not many of us would instantly think about how archival material would fit in this whole process. This is precisely what Michelle – a lawyer by trade, member of the Arduino Manchester group and generally a technology enthusiast – is setting out to demonstrate with her latest research project – Back to the Future. Michelle is designing fashionable heated gloves for women who suffer from the Raynaud’s disease (a condition that causes body parts – especially fingers, toes, the tip of the nose and ears – to feel numb and to cool in response to cold temperatures or stress). To this end, Michelle is conducting some research on the patients of the disease with a particular focus on when an attack occurs and the extent to which patients cool –using archival material. Michelle intimates that she is “playing with the idea of having sensors attached to [the heated gloves] which draws data and in turn, makes it more meaningful to the user”. At a Hackathon competition this past March supported by Numbers that Matter through The Creative Exchange, Michelle and her like-minded colleagues shared their ideas about the fashionable heated gloves and solicited input from other participating technology enthusiasts and technical experts. In preparation for the Hackathon, Michelle “purchas[ed] a range of heated gloves online and ‘hacked’ them to see: a) if they worked, b) how well they worked, c) whether batteries were required to make them work, and d) whether [Michelle and her
colleagues] could do something more meaningful to engage the community and use open data to promote wellbeing”. And this is where archival material accessed via Pararchive comes into play to help Michelle develop further her “piece of wearable technology” as she calls it in an effort to make a contribution to improving the lives of those suffering from the Raynaud’s disease. In doing so, Michelle is “looking back to archived material in order to create something for the future”. She notes that her fashionable heated gloves “fall into the new industry of wearable technology” and points to well-known examples of wearable technology such as “Google glasses and smart watches”. It perhaps comes as no
surprise that Michelle is also interested in the history and trend of textile manufacturing in the North West, particularly in Manchester that she notes was “well known for its history of textiles, being called the ‘cottonopolis’ of the North West [with the advent of the Industrial Revolution]”. Michelle intimates that she has “been to some of the manufacturing conferences run by the Manufacturing Advisory Service and it appears that manufacturing is coming back to Manchester/North West”. This is relevant for her Back to the Future research project because on completing the design of the prototype of her heated gloves, she would love to have it manufactured in Manchester or the UK because: a) it’s closer being an Australian turned Mancunian, and b) this would work around a whole range of issues associated with manufacturing elsewhere, particularly in the developing world. Stay tuned on the progress of Back to the Future! In the meantime, if you would like to be involved with Michelle’s project and get your hands inside some wearable tech, sign up to be a field trial participant here!