60-second interview: Akshat Bhatt, principal architect, Architecture Discipline
Architecture Discipline, in its efforts to initiate a discursion around the need to look into the post pandemic emergent space and future proxemics, proposes a prototype design that shall ease our re-habitation into the new normal. This device can primarily be helpful for visually- or hearing-impaired people as it will help them detect whether they are in safe levels of proximity.
What prompted you to create the sChoker?
While the world is still grappling with ways to deal with the pandemic, what is evident is that social distancing is here to stay. The way we dwell, our proxemic behaviour and its impact on interpersonal communication, and the way we organise ourselves in personal, social and public spheres; the post-pandemic ‘normal’ is bound to emerge with new rules, some of which will probably persist long after the crisis has ended. The new normal might entail a considerable number of strategies around intrusion definitions and proximity ‘control’ in our existential circles. For this very purpose, we need to predict, design and create new applications and products that shall ease our re-habitation into the new normal.
Explain the design process that led to the prototype. What is it made of?
We wanted to create an icon which is in keeping with the times. It needed to be easily available, simple, uphold privacy and anonymity, and allow people to be socially ‘normal’ and not ‘distant’. The sChoker – a smart choker and a social distancing neck brace – allows proximity monitoring as well as alerts while we move in a social gathering or a public space. It is inspired by the choker, a close-fitting necklace worn around the neck by women and men in various cultures and tribes, and acknowledged as a much-loved fashion accessory.
The first prototype proposed is made from carbon fibre and makes use of 3D printing technology or CNC moulding. Later versions could integrate materials such as velvet, plastic, beads, latex, leather, or metals such as silver, gold or platinum, etc. They can be adorned in a variety of ways, including with sequins, studs, or a pendant.
Elaborate on the sChoker’s features. How can it help people adjust to the new normal?
The sChoker – in this first version – makes use of simple thermal sensors (PIS) to detect close animate presence and inform the host so that he can ‘distance’ appropriately, while still maintaining privacy and anonymity. Ergonomically designed as a circular ring allows mounting of the sensors to cover a 360 degree angle, and wearing it around the neck (the straightest part of the human body while moving) allows sensing without obstruction.
The proximity monitoring integrated follows three simple steps:
SENSE: The sChoker works through a PIS/ PID sensor (passive infrared sensor/ passive infrared detector), which passively receives and detects infrared radiations that emanate from the body temperature of human bodies and animals in its field of view.
MAP & EVALUATE: The Choker has an integrated microprocessor chip that maps the multiple receptions, and processes it through a simple code that sorts the wavelength readings and converts it into a proximity value based on the intensity of the wavelength.
INDICATE: The indicating device is the primary communicator to the host; the values received and calibrated are converted to an output signal that is relayed as a visual signal (LED with RGB indication) or an audio signal. This device could either be mounted within the sChoker assembly or integrated in an external smart device (smart watch/ smart phone) that could be spoken to via Bluetooth.