For every expectant father who's ever wished they, too, could feel a fetus kicking their bladder, science now has an answer. Researchers in Japan have put together a suit packed with balloons, sensors, and warm water so you can feel what it's like to be pregnant. The suit, called Mommy Tummy, mimics kicking with a system of 45 balloons that inflate and deflate, and movement sensors and accelerometers pick up on the wearer's activities, so the "fetus," represented by a four-liter bag of warm water, can respond to exercise or sudden movements with redoubled kicking. Vibrating actuators produce the illusion of wiggling, as New Scientist describes:
When two vibrating sources placed a distance apart move at the same time, it triggers a sensation in between the two points. So by varying vibrating pairs over time, the simulated fetus seems to squirm.
And, in a cool but somewhat unrealistic move, the scientists have hooked the suit up to a screen, so you can watch a simulation of the fetus' response while you stroke your stomach or walk around. For the thrill-seekers out there, a 9-month pregnancy can be recapitulated in two minutes, or it can be spread out over a longer period for a more "natural" feel. The team, who will be presenting their work at the SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver in August, hope that the suit will help men understand what it's like to be pregnant. That's impressive design work. But what about that staple of early pregnancy, the pimple on the face of the miracle of life, morning sickness? Perhaps the scientists should explore a way to make suit-wearers as nauseous as after a bout of heavy drinking, and then deny them coffee, painkillers, and lunch meat. (via New Scientist)