Breathing Pillow

The user should be pleasantly guided to sleep to release him from his everyday stress.

Basic idea
Our pillows will relax the user with a rhythmical movement. We believe the rhythm of the breath can be influenced by the cushions move. The pillow adapts the breathing rate of the user and is then, after a while, replacing the movement of the pillow with a slowing, regular rhythm. This transition will happen smoothly. The user is not aware of a new respiratory rate to impose. The rate should be lowered to a normal breathing pattern during sleep. Once the system detects that the user is asleep the pillow stops breathing.

Target group
We target on stressed people, people with sleep disorder and people who take home work in their head and therefore can’t easily fall asleep.

People and animals tend to sleep on the chest or abdominal area on other living things. Often this can be found with couples, children and animals. We wondered whether in addition to the social proximity, the movement has an influence on this behavior occurs.

Prototype development and user testing
We have tried several ways to give the pillow a breathing exercise.
In the first experiments was to raise the head up and down, but this was perceived by most respondents as unpleasant and annoying. With this experience, we have adjusted the movement so the head is no longer raised, but the movement was only noticeable.

We experiment with different mechanical systems to make the movement as quiet as possible and a most comfortable experience. Even with the materials we have made several attempts. We have tried various movement systems of wood, metal, rubber, PET and Plexiglas.

We have repeatedly called in various people and asked them questions on the different movements and sounds. Many users have not felt the movement in the beginning, but have felt the light changes of movement as very pleasant and soothing experience after a while. The sounds that were produced by the servos could not completely eliminate but most testers  perceived it as not too disturbing.

According to these findings and adjustments, we started experiments with the pillowcase. We used different materials such as fur and fabric. For some, the fur was to too rough or perceived as pungent. Some found the fur to be inappropriate or repulsive. The pillow was perceived as too hard.

Technology solution
Inside the cushion is a box with two servos which are controlled by an Arduino microcontroller. These control a train system with a lash which pulls together two PET sheets. Through the power to bend the PET plates, it generates the lift and lower a of the cushion. The control of the prototype will take place by a knob to control the speed and a battery for the power.


First electronic prototype.

Building the box with the electronics

System for the movement.

First user tests.

Inside the pillow.

The final pillow

Technical problems
The battery discharges quickly because it powers the mechanical movement of the servo motors. This makes the battery also very hot. Our servo motors are still too noisy to produce a noise-free pillows. Through the use of high quality servos we might reduce the sound further.

Further steps
In further tests with users with sleep disorder we could test the effect and usage of our pillow optimally. In electronics, we would rely on high quality components to reduce the noise.


Soruce Code (Arduino)
Presentation (PDF 55MB)

Thomas Jakob, Manuel Hitz, Michael Fretz