Spiky vest gets point across for commuter who hates train crush

Spiky vest gets point across for commuter who hates train crush

The two pet peeves Ms Cheng Siew Ming has when taking the train and bus are people being squashed too closely to her and when she cannot use her mobile phone because she has to hold a handrail.

To combat her travel woes, the 25-year-old invented two wacky products - a spiked vest, meant to keep fellow commuters out of her personal space, and a suction helmet which sucks the wearer's head to the ceiling of the bus to prevent him from falling over.

Her ideas have been shared thousands of times online after she invented them during a 11/2 day chindogu workshop when she was an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.

Chindogu is a Japanese term used to describe a bizarre tool invented to solve an everyday problem.

The vest - a plastic sheet with spiked tips - is made using a garden product designed to prevent birds and cats from messing up plants, she said.

The helmet frees up the commuter's hands to use his mobile phone, as his head would be sucked to the ceiling of the bus to keep him steady.

But Ms Cheng has no plans to mass produce them and said the designs are so absurd that she would feel embarrassed to be seen publicly in them.

"I don't think I will dare to step out of my house wearing the suction helmet," said Ms Cheng, who now works in a local design company, Stuck.

"It is more an experiment to see how a wacky idea may generate a creative start point for a design process."

The chindogu workshop was conducted two years ago by German designer Werner Aisslinger, a visiting professor at NUS.

But news of the invention, and a photo of Ms Cheng wearing the vest inside a train to surprised stares from commuters, had gone viral in the last week after it was picked up by publisher Fast Company's website, Fast Co.Exist.

Ms Cheng was quick to clarify that she has not worn the vest out in public and added that the picture "was a photoshopped image I created for the workshop".

She did not expect such a high level of interest in a product she designed two years ago.

"It is really a hacked-together prototype," said Ms Cheng.

"Honestly I'm quite taken aback."

leepearl@sph.com.sg


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