Space-Age Snuggie: Blankets Become High-Tech Babysitters

The things in our homes seem to be getting smarter by the day. Appliances like washing machines, always sort of dumb before, are now equipped with “brains” to help them communicate. It seems that this technology is now carrying over to the non-appliance objects that we live with every day…things like blankets. Wait, blankets?

Studio NMinusOne says that a smart blanket could be an astoundingly useful tool. Just think of how much time we spend under blankets – for most people, it’s about a third of our lives. A blanket that collects data about our sleeping patterns and communicates that data to a dedicated IP address could provide an important glimpse into that lost third of every day.

The IM Blanky, as the Studio NMinusOne project is called, is kind of like a big, soft, flexible circuit board. Which admittedly sounds quite uncomfortable, but it drapes just like a regular blanket. It has 104 tilt sensors along with lots of other small sensors built into the fabric, all of which manage to look like a very attractive floral pattern. An Arduino processor turns all of the sensor data into a real-time 3D map and then sends the info to the internet.

It might seem a bit odd at first, but the idea actually makes a lot of sense. The blanket could be used to monitor vital signs in the ill or elderly, or it could provide daily feedback for people who have trouble sleeping. It could count the cuddles shared by a new couple or provide a hugging sensation for lonely folks. On a more sinister note, it could even keep track of lazy house guests who are really napping when they claim to be job hunting…or even tattle on philandering spouses.

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See more in Home & Personal or under Gadgets. April, 2012.