Emotionally Intelligent Knitted Textiles: Emotional sensing and responsive action

Three year PhD (2013-2016)
An investigation into the potential of intelligent textiles to convey emotional responses in ways that are personalisable, responsive and unique.

People involved:
Amit Gupta – PhD Researcher
Frances Joseph – Primary Supervisor
Mark Stefan – Secondary Supervisor

This research will engage with advanced materials, digital information-processing technology and new design methodologies to create emotionally intelligent textiles which can express, signal and strengthen notions of identity.

While there is a growing body of research and development of smart functional textiles for biomonitoring and other health and medical applications, there are opportunities for the development of expressive textiles that can sense, communicate and respond to emotions (Baurley, 2004). There is still limited research being conducted in relation to this particular field of design application.

This PhD research will focus on exploring the responsive, creative and communicative potential of sensitive textiles. While the outcomes of this research may be useful for specific applications such as assisting disabled people to better communicate emotion, the project will engage with more fundamental research exploring the technologies and affects of integrated fibretronic sensing and presentation. E-textile development challenges the way designers and technologists think, requiring a bridging between them to create new trans-disciplinary approaches (Van Langenhove, 2007).

While Amit brings professional experience in knit design and production, the project will involve consultation and collaboration with electronics engineers, computer scientists and cognitive scientists. This will contribute to a growing area of research at the Textile and Design Lab at AUT and support cross Faculty research.

Nationally, AUT has the potential to lead New Zealand in the area of e-textiles with this project contributing to this growing profile. Smart textile applications are becoming conceptually and aesthetically more sophisticated. A range of traditional textile techniques are now being extended and used in the production of smart textiles, including knit. While there are particular problems to be addressed in developing smart knitted textiles (Solemani, 2008) the medium offers a number of advantages that warrant further research and application. Soft, flexible and easy to wear, knits are versatile. The comfort and fit offered by knitted garments is unparalleled. Knitting technology has advanced considerably during the past two decades with the introduction of new knit structures, use of new, modified yarns and development of versatile knitting equipment.

Today, the integration of knitting technology and garment design concept is leading to the development of intelligent clothing. For different intelligent clothing applications, different knit structures can be chosen to suit confining pressure and conductivity requirements. Conductive knitted fabric of specific stitches can be innovatively used as powerful devices for intelligent uses, such as monitoring sensors and heat generators. More research is needed into the improvement of mechanical and electrical properties of conductive yarns and knitting structures, to provide a reliable alerting system that can withstand a minimum wash cycle.

Amit Gupta – amit.gupta@aut.ac.nz
Frances Joseph – frances.joseph@aut.ac.nz


  • Ouwerkerk, Martin (2011). Unobtrusive Emotions Sensing in Daily Life. In Sensing Emotions Pp. 21–39. Springer. Accessed November 20, 2013.
  • Uğur, Seçil 2013, Wearing Embodied Emotions: A Practice Based Design Research on Wearable Technology. SpringerBriefs in Applied Sciences and Technology, PoliMI SpringerBriefs. Milan ; New York: Springer.