A hackathon project to empower women through wearable tech

APRIL 2016

PearlHacks, UNC-Chapel Hill

Tools: Myo gesture control armband, Xcode, Objective-C

Award: Qualcomm Certificate of Excellence for "Best Rookie Hack"

The challenge

Personal safety is a deeply relevant issue for me and my teammates, particularly as young women. Based on our personal experiences, we knew that walking alone at night can be daunting and potentially dangerous, especially when in an unfamiliar area. In the event of an attack, in the case that your standard self-defense mechanisms fail, it is difficult or impossible to reach for your phone and get help. For this 24-hour hackathon, we wanted to tackle this issue and create a product that protected and empowered women alone at night or in any unsafe environment.

Our solution

We came up with Superwoman, a wearable device accessible at all times, that notifies personalized contacts or authorities in the event of an emergency. We decided to use the Myo gesture control armband. With our gesture recognition technology in place, the user just has to squeeze their fist three times in a row once they recognize that they're in danger.

Paired with our iOS application, this gesture triggers push notifications (containing location data) to the authorities and the user's personal emergency contacts. If the gesture is triggered by accident, the user can cancel the alerts just as easily.

Testing gesture recognition [source]


This was my first hackathon as well as my first time working with hardware! My contributions were connectivity, programming the gesture logic, and implementing push notifications. Although connectivity was unstable at times, Superwoman was a great learning experience and intro to wearable tech. We only had 24 hours, but given more time we would refine our mobile app and prototype a more stylish, subtle bracelet to better suit everyday use.

Driven Media, a new-media organization, chose to document our team's progress throughout the hackathon. They published an awesome hour-by-hour breakdown of our brainstorming, research, and development process. Check it out!