• Ramyah Gowrishankar
Search Menu

The soft radio

‘Soft Radio’ is a crocheted spherical device that fits in the palm of your hand. It is soft to hold and has a texture of any regular crocheted textile. The radio has a loop on top that can be twisted to change between two modes: volume and channel seeking. The values corresponding to the present mode ( i.e volume or fm band frequency) can be changed by wrapping the knitted chord around the crocheted sphere. The direction of the wrapping determines if the values are decreased or increased. It has 2 LEDs that give a visual indication of the states of the radio and a power switch made from a metal snap button. A set of headphones can be attached via the headphone port. The materials used include simple electronic components, conductive yarns and regular wool.

The soft radio is an attempt to illustrate the opportunities of creating ‘soft’ digital interfaces by deriving interaction-gestures from the context of textiles and interpreting traditional craft techniques for incorporating electronics in a way that complements the material characteristics of textiles. The radio acts as a starting point to my doctoral research that, amongst other things, aspires to develop an interaction language specific to the medium of fabrics rather than borrowed from regular electronic devices.



Smart Textile Salon, June 6th 2013, Ghent, Belgium.


DeFInt (MA thesis)

Designing Fabric Interactions (DeFInt): A study of knitted fabrics as an electronic interface medium was the subject of my masters thesis in New Media at Media Lab Helsinki. The focus was to specifically use the familiar “language” of fabrics to create novel experiences and interactions in our everyday scenarios.

Defint aspires to investigate the existing interactions and our material understanding of fabrics to find opportunities for creating interesting and fun interfaces. It is an in-depth material study as well as an attempt on building a more creative and active relationship with one’s surroundings through e-textile artefacts. These fabric artefacts react to different gestures as well as various objects that it comes in contact with.

The field of electronic textiles although a young one, has gained momentum in the last decade. Textiles have been an integral part of our cultures for thousands of years and have adapted to the different needs and lives of people. They provide a rich source for interactions and scenarios from the context of our everyday lives that can be reinterpreted for electronic interfacing. Creative practitioners working in the field of e-textiles aim at efficiently combining electronics with traditional fabric materials. However, not many have tried to derive inspiration from the existing language of fabrics to design these interfaces. Most of the commercial e-textile products, while incorporating cutting-edge technologies, seem to copy or directly follow previous trends in wearable computing rather than truly attempting to design specifically for the medium of fabrics.

This project explores methods of integrating fabrics and electronics to create interfaces that are specific to the medium of textiles. Following the approach of ludic design, this work also emphasises the potential of e-textile interfaces to invite unexpected interpretations and responses from the users while enabling an active, creative relationship with their surroundings. The practical work focuses on an in-depth study of knitted fabrics as a medium for electronic interfaces. The process involves working and experimenting with knitting yarns, conductive threads and off-the-shelf electronics while using traditional fabric construction tools like knitting and sewing machines. Using a material-driven approach, a collection of single instances of fabric interactions or “soft triggers” that explicitly interpret fabric related actions as inputs were prototyped. These soft triggers were designed to essentially work with physical properties such as conductivity or shape of the other objects as a way of creating an immediate relation between the user, the soft trigger and their surroundings.

A copy of the thesis is available for download here.

A hands- on approach was taken in which sketching and prototyping were important steps for concept development. Learning to be proficient with construction and assisting tools was also an integral part of this investigative process.

More details about the different techniques used as well as various intermediatory findings and tutorials can be found in the project blog:


Shape sensing soft trigger from ramyah gowrishankar on Vimeo.

Scrolling soft trigger from ramyah gowrishankar on Vimeo.



The Music Sleeve

The Music Sleeve is a wearable controller for playing music on a Mobile Device. This knitted sleeve, which otherwise could act as a scarf, can be slung across one’s shoulders and made to function as a music controller by putting a handful of coins in it. This project was done as part of “Design and Irritation”, a research study led by Katharina Bredies fromthe Design Research Lab at the The Music sleeve presents a novel and interesting way to interact with other existing devices, in this case the music player. Made from soft materials and having unfamiliar form it is appealing and curious to start with. Being wireless helps one to move it around without constraints. Using only a few rules, the interaction is very logical and easy to grasp.Deutsche telekom Laboratories in Berlin.

The Sleeve can be rotated around the shoulder to freely move the coins inside.The Sleeve has four pull strings along its length dividing it in four equal sections. These strings can be pulled thus blocking the way of the coins inside or locking them in a particular section of the sleeve. Depending on the location of the coins inside the tube and the combination of strings pulled, different messages are sent to the music player in the phone. For example, rotating the sleeve downwards skips to the next track, locking the coins within half of the knitted sleeve by pulling the strings shuffles the playlist.