COMP_ENG 395, 495: Wearable and Physical Computing

Quarter Offered

Fall : MW 9:30-10:50 ; Hester


COMP_ENG 203 and (COMP_ENG 205 or COMP_SCI 213) is helpful to have a clear idea of what is going on underneath the covers, however, an introductory programming class is sufficient. Instructor Consent Required.


Instructor: Prof. Josiah Hester

Computing is everywhere, powerful mobile computers are on our wrists and in our pockets, IoT
devices are in our homes and offices, and innumerable tiny devices facilitate processes invisible to us,
yet enable critical applications in health and wellness, smart buildings, infrastructure monitoring, and
everything else. These devices combine a vast array of sensors, like accelerometers and gyroscopes,
with sophisticated algorithms and inference that allow for new types of interaction and wholly new
applications of computing.

This class explores the boundary between the computing and physical world, specifically in the
realms of wearable devices. We will develop and play with innovative wearable devices that can
understand your health, learn or anticipate your emotions, provide novel gestural interfaces, and even
broaden your senses. The class will touch on topics across energy-efficient computing, wearable
mechanical design, human health and behavior, and human computer interaction, to facilitate
exploration of the usefulness and limits of physical computing. We will build wearable computing
devices from scratch (software, hardware, mechanical), program them to be energy-efficient and
useful, and deploy them for various applications. We will host visitors virtually who are experts in
particular areas of wearable computing, and learn from them while designing unique individual
projects and demonstrations.

To enable rapid prototyping and be as accessible as possible, In this class we will use the M icro:bit
device for all our prototyping and building. This means that students can program their wearables in
Python/JavaScript/Blocks and also C/C++ if they choose.

● Basics of physical computing: sensors, actuators, computation
● Basics of wearable design (hardware): power, energy, size, weight
● Programming wearable devices
● Motion sensing and signal processing
● Bio-signal sensing and processing
● Deep dive on exotic sensing modalities
● Wearable interfaces and actuators
● Energy harvesting wearables
● Comfort, form factor, and human centered design