This is a design project based around a self-inflated life jacket which is triggered to inflate by changes in bodily signs such as cerebral hypoxia during drowning.
The vest uses Footfalls and Heartbeats smart fabric technology which monitors respiration. More specifically, the fabric detects change in circumference and stretch around the chest while the diver suppresses breathing.
If the user blacks out the body becomes limp and the life vest is triggered to inflate and bring the diver to the surface in an upright safety position ready for resuscitation. The chest strap is in direct contact with the skin to prevent any inaccurate readings.
The inspiration for this project came from the death of a family friend due to shallow-water blackout during freediving. He was an athletic and healthy medical student who took safety precautions as he knew the risks of what he was doing. Shallow water blackout is something that can happen to even the most experienced divers and can occur without little warning. Therefore the issue was established and I saw potential within the Footfalls and Heartbeats smart fabric technology to make improvements to the sport and prevent the likelihood of it happening again.
The project’s focus was breath hold divers (also known as freedivers or spear fishermen) who have insufficient safety devices in their underwater pursuits. With the rapid increase in casual and competitive freedivers worldwide there is clearly a safety issue within breath hold diving that needed resolving.
The purpose of the design was to address the negative issues of wearing safety gear that hinder the actual experience of the intended user as well as the overall functionality of the safety device. The design of the vest allows for maximum movement and entails a sleek streamlined design that aims to work with the body as opposed to against it.