In "New vest offers wearer a portable hug," the Boston Globe reports that engineers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have designed a vest to help people suffering from autism or high anxiety. This inflatable vest has pockets that hold air bladders and is powered by 10 AA batteries. When you push a button, the vest squeezes -- or hugs -- you. Now the engineers also want to know if their vest is effective -- apparently a premiere. So they're testing it with both students and psychatric patients. So far, it's just a prototype, but read more...
Therapeutic vests exist for a while, but they were using weights. The engineers at UMass have decided to simply use air. And as says engineering professor Sundar Krishnamurty, about previous weighted blankets, "there hasn't been any scientific study on 'why does it work [or] what makes it work."
Before going further, does this vest look exotic? Not at all, it just looks like a regular vest as you can see below. "Student engineer Joe Patterson (left) with graduate student mentor Brian Mullen (right) as UMass Board of Trustees member Dennis G. Austin (center) models an inflatable vest designed for people who suffer from anxiety disorders and find comfort in the physical pressure from hugs." (Credit for the picture: UMass; credit for caption: Andrew Ryan, The Boston Globe)
So how was this vest built?
UMass students created the vest by cutting off the sleeves of a jacket and attaching an inner body of air bladders connected to an electric air pump.
In a former article from the Boston Globe, which is now on line on the Umass website, "A vest that hugs (PDF format, Andrew Ryan, August 4, 2006), you can discover some more details about this vest.
[It integrates] five air bladders into what looks like a puffy winter vest. The bladders are blown up by three pumps powered by 10 AA batteries in the front right pocket. The black vest takes a little more than a minute to inflate, giving the wearer a quick squeeze at the touch of a button.
Will such a vest ever come to the market? Even the UMass engineers don't know today. But it sure can be useful for many people.
Sources: Joan Axelrod-Contrada, The Boston Globe, October 9, 2006; and various websites
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