Tribeca Hacks StoryMatter Hackathon at CERN

Team3 on the balcony at CERN

In March 2014, I was over the moon to be selected to take part in the Tribeca Hacks and CERN’s StoryMatter Hackathon, at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s really hard to write about this amazing experience in a short blog post, which is why it’s taken so long to write, but I’ve had a go!

Watch this amazing documentary of our week at CERN – it gives me goosebumps!

After taking the CERN shuttlebus to the familiar sight of CERN reception at Meyrin, I can’t put into words how excited I was to be back at CERN, and then sitting in the Geneva afternoon sunshine and meeting the steady stream of other attendees arriving. I stayed in Building 38, one of the three buildings at CERN, which offer different kinds of visitor accommodation. Building 38 is the on site-hostel which is comfortable and next door to the main restaurant which is large and has lots of different food options for the discerning CERN employee or visitor.

It's a beautiful sunny day at CERN

On the evening of our arrival, we all met for dinner in the main restaurant building and found our teams. Each of the 7 teams had 6 members that included: 1 x blackbox, 1 x storyteller, 1 x scientist, 1 x designer and 2 x technologists. It was really exciting to meet my team, which we later named Team 3, in the flesh after spending a week or so chatting about our ideas on Google Hangout and exchanging emails. My team consisted of Ivaylo Getov (Blackbox, from NYC, USA), Jason Wishnow (Storyteller from NYC, USA), Jasmine Idun Lyman (Designer from Gothenburg, Sweden), Kyle Gustafson (Scientist from Lausanne, Switzerland) and Julian Maciejewski (Technologist from Warsaw, Poland) and me, another technologist from London, UK. As we were quite an opinionated bunch with much experience of developing and managing our own projects and creativity, it took a bit of time to brainstorm through the set of ideas that we’d each percolated over on the week or so on the run up to coming to CERN and agree on an idea to pursue.


Welcome talk

We had a beautiful week at CERN weather-wise and awoke every morning to the sight of sunshine bouncing off the surrounding Alps and Jura mountains. On our first morning (and the rest) we were up very early (I got up at 5 or 6am every day) and were taken to the CERN Idealab, which would be our base for the coming week. Organisers: Opeyemi Olukemi, Manager, TFI Digital Initiatives, Amelie Leenhardt, Program Coordinator, TFI Digital Initiatives and Neal David Hartman, Artistic Director of CineGlobe Film Festival, led the introductions and outline of the week ahead. Our mission was to investigate new ways of telling science stories in a non-linear fashion, using technology, and our challenges were to come up with a prototype and/or a video to outline and document our projects to show at the end of the week at the prestigious CineGlobe Science Film Festival, held in the Globe at CERN, plus to strengthen connections between the disciplines of storytelling, technology, design and science, hence having a cross-disciplinary team.

Rummaging through CERN bins for parts

Amazingly, we were allowed to rummage in a couple of skips of electronics to look for inspiration for our projects, we had so much fun finding odd devices, bits of old interfaces and computer boards!

Prof John Ellis talk on CERN

On our first day we were wonderfully honoured to be given a talk on the history and work of CERN by Professor John Ellis, including an introduction to how the LHC works, particle physics and supersymmetry, he patiently answered lots of questions from us too. We were also very admiring of his Standard Model equation tank-top!

Last minute hacking

Our team decided to make an app telling the story of dark matter, our prototype uses interview clips that we recorded on site with Professor Martin Pohl, Director of the Nuclear and Particle Physics Department at the University of Geneva, and Team Leader on the AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) project. The AMS is a particle detector bolted onto the International Space Station and is looking for evidence of antimatter and dark matter as it orbits the Earth.

Team³ late Sunday night hacking

Taken from our blurb, this reflects what we were interested in creating:
“Axion invites a player to immerse themselves in a unique audiovisual world and reflect on their journey. By allowing a player to discover the thoughts and statements of these scientists, we hope to draw a parallel between the visual poetry and the scientific language, illuminating a creative and expressive side of the discussion that is often not showcased, or that most people outside the scientific community do not hear. We want to leave the viewer not with answers, but with a sense that it is acceptable to be uncertain – realizing that the method of science is not the ultimate source of answers, but rather a way to ask questions.”

It's a BillT!

On day three, we had some special visitors who had come to hear about the StoryMatter Hackathon – it was none other than Bill Thompson, Gareth Mitchell and Colin Grant of BBC World Service technology programme Click Radio, they made a lovely radio programme about the StoryMatter Hackathon and interviewed us about our project. Another special visitor was David Reid from BBC Click TV programme, who made a film about the CineGlobe festival including coverage of the development of our apps at the Hackathon.

Team3 being interviewed for BBC World ServiceClick

Our team worked long hours and had little sleep during the week as we figured out what we would make and how. We constructed our non-linear app, which we called Axion (a hypothetical elementary particle) by taking an XBOX Kinect strapped onto a camera into the depths of the tunnels under the buildings of CERN to film and turn images of the tunnels into a mesh construct, which the user of the app would navigate around to find interview clips from Professor Pohl. We made sound recordings from around CERN to be used in the soundtrack and searched for inspiring images from outer and inner space. My contribution was an sensing e-textiles device which was used to navigate around the mesh tunnels in the app and we called The Oracle!

During our week at CERN, it was Paolo’s birthday, he didn’t think anyone knew, but we put on a surprise birthday party for him, with caek, music and bubbles – it was wonderful and a very touching way to celebrate our new friend’s special day!

Birthday party for Paulo

Visiting ATLAS at CERN

Our stay was full of amazing highlights and another was a tour of ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus), which is one of the seven experiments attached to the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator. We took a lift 100 meters underneath CERN’s Meyrin Campus to visit 7000-tonne ATLAS. As well as listening in awe to our guide and taking many photos, we also (with the permission of the guide) wore some of Jasmine’s knitted gas-masks and did a quick bit of filming for a film she was making back in Sweden. The knitted gas-masks gave a fun and surreal feel to our trip; they certainly amused the rest of our StoryMatter tour party!

Visiting ATLAS at CERN

Opeyemi and Amelie set us tasks for every day of the week, including setting our milestones and actions to enable us to stay focussed on our projects. Everyone worked so hard on their prototypes that the presentation evening at CineGlobe came all too soon, during the late afternoon we took our prototypes over to the CERN Globe and set them up and rehearsed among ourselves our presentations to do on stage to the 200+ attendees. We had a brilliant evening of presenting and a lovely cocktail event after where the attendees came round and partook in demos and chatted to the teams.

Pretty CERN Globe at night

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Afterwards we had a raucous party in the Idealab with trays of lasagne, pizza, beers, wine and more. The dancing went on all night and into the morning. I only had a few hours sleep before it was time to get up and pack to leave, I was very sad to leave CERN and it was heart wrenching to say goodbye to everyone. I had the most brilliant week, with the most talented and wonderful new friends, which was amazingly well organised by Opeyemi, Amelie and Neal, plus with the help of brilliant CERN staff and students too numerous to mention, who helped us locate tools, interviewees, beg and borrow kit and info. If I had the opportunity I would go back to CERN without hesitation and have keeping an eye out for jobs and other creative opportunities.

StoryMatter hack party

I have a ton of photos here if you’d like to see more of the antics we got up to!

Route Marie Curie at CERN

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Team3 are still developing our Axion app in our spare time and keeping in touch across 1000s of miles around the globe via Google Hangout and email. We are now using a NeuroSky MindWave EEG headset to allow the user to navigate the tunnels and interviews of our app. We have also interviewed more scientists to broaden the range of the stories about dark matter. We’ve also been applying for development grants and sponsorship to help us develop Axion. In April, Ivaylo and Jason took Axion to the Tribeca Interactive Festival, in New York, to demonstrate and allow attendees to experience it.

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Quantified Self Europe 2014: Emotive Wearables Breakout Session

Quantified Self Europe pre-party

It was great to visit Amsterdam again and see friends at the 3rd Quantified Self Europe Conference, previously I have spoken at the conference on Sensing Wearables, in 2011 and Visualising Physiological Data, in 2013.

There were two very prominent topics being discussed at Quantified Self Europe 2014, firstly around the quantifying of grief and secondly on privacy and surveillance. These are two very contrasting and provocative areas for attendees to contemplate, but also very important to all, for they’re very personal areas we can’t avoid having a viewpoint on. Rather than me try to summarise a few of the talks, if you’d like to find out more about the excellent presentations and discussions at the conference, search for ‘QSEU14’ or ‘europe’ on the Quantified Self website where many of the sessions have write-ups, photos and video documentation.

My contribution to the conference was to lead a Breakout Session on Emotive Wearables and demonstrated my EEG Visualising Pendant. Breakout Sessions are intended for audience participation and I wanted to use this one-hour session to get feedback on my pendant for its next iteration and also find out what people’s opinions were on emotive wearables generally.

I’ve been making wearable technology for six years and have been a PhD student investigating wearables for three years; during this time I’ve found wearable technology is such a massive field that I have needed to find my own terms to describe the areas I work in, and focus on in my research. Two subsets that I have defined terms for are, responsive wearables: which includes garments, jewellery and accessories that respond to the wearer’s environment, interactivity with technology or physiological signals taken from sensor data worn on or around the body, and emotive wearables: which describes garments, jewellery and accessories that amplify, broadcast and visualise physiological data that is associated with non-verbal communication, for example, the emotions and moods of the wearer. In my PhD research I am looking at whether such wearable devices can used to express non-verbal communication and I wanted to find out what Quantified Self Europe attendees opinions and attitudes would be to such technology, as many attendees are super-users of personal tracking technology and are also developing it.

Demo-ing EEG Visualising Pendant

My EEG Visualising Pendant is an example of my practice that I would describe as an emotive wearable, because it amplifies and broadcasts physiological data of the wearer and may provoke a response from those around the wearer. The pendant visualises the brainwave attention and meditation data of the wearer simultaneously (using data from a Bluetooth NeuroSky MindWave headset), via an LED (Light Emitting Diode) matrix, allowing others to make assumptions and interpretations from the visualisations. For example, whether the person wearing the pendant is paying attention or concentrating on what is going on around them, or is relaxed and not concentrating.

After I demonstrated the EEG Visualising Pendant, I invited attendees of my Breakout Session to participate in a discussion and paper survey about attitudes to emotive wearables and in particular feedback on the pendant. We had a mixed gender session of various ages and we had a great discussion, which covered areas such as, who would wear this device and other devices that also amplified one’s physiological data. We discussed the appropriateness of such personal technology and also thought in depth about privacy and the ramifications of devices that upload such data to cloud websites for processing, plus the positive and the possible negative aspects of data collection. Other issues we discussed included design and aesthetics of prominent devices on the body and where we would be comfortable wearing them.

I am still transcribing the audio from the session and analysing the paper surveys that were completed, overall the feedback was very positive. The data I have gathered will feed into the next iteration of the EEG Visualising Pendant prototype and future devices. It will also feed into my PhD research. Since the Quantified Self Europe Conference, I have run the same focus group three more times with women interested in wearable technology, in London. I will update my blog with my findings from the focus groups and surveys in due course, plus of course information on the EEG Visualising Pendant’s next iteration as it progresses.

Visiting CERN Open Days 2013, Geneva, Switzerland + France

Super-excited to be on the underground tour to see ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)

For a long time it’s been an ambition of mine to visit CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which straddles the countries of Switzerland and France. Here they use the largest scientific instruments in the world to smash particles together at the speed of light in the hope of finding the smallest known things in the universe, the particles that make up matter. “CERN” comes from the acronym for the French “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”, or European Council for Nuclear Research, which was founded in 1952 with the task of establishing a world-class physics research organization in Europe. When CERN was founded, its goals were around the research and understanding of what laid inside the atom, hence the term “nuclear” in the name.

Yay ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)!

In July I discovered that CERN were putting on two open days for the public before major upgrade work, so I knew I had to get there somehow! The lottery for underground tickets to see the legendary Large Hadron Collider, detectors and other experiments were hard to get hold of, as they only randomly released a few a day over the course of a month. As you’d expect geeks from all over the world were sitting like me refreshing the page constantly, to get the chance to grab tickets each time they released a few to the public, consequently they were snapped up within a couple of minutes every time.

Totally fabulous & excited to be in the particle accelerator tube tunnel, in the LHC ring at CERN!

Eventually I was lucky and grabbed a couple of tickets for ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). The 10,000-tonne ALICE detector is 26 meters long, 16 meters high, and 16 meters wide, and is used to study quark-gluon plasma. The detector sits in a cavern 56 meters below ground close to the village of St Genis-Pouilly in France, receiving beams from the LHC.

Super-excited to be on the underground tour to see ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)

So in September I went to Geneva to visit CERN, as you’d expect it was a wonderful and awe-filled experience. There was so much to see and so many brilliant physicists, computer scientists and other experts who gave their time to conduct tours, give amazing talks and answer questions. Of course my highlight was going underground to see ALICE, which was breathtaking and to see part of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator ring itself which is 27 miles in diameter. Also seeing the architecture, signs and small things like the bikes and scooters that the physicists use to move around, which gave one an idea of scale.

Bikes and scooters to get around the LHC spotted on my underground tour to see ALICE

Totally fabulous & excited to be in the particle accelerator tube tunnel, in the LHC ring at CERN!

Magnetic field warning signs - there are some jolly big magnets in the LHC and other detectors at CERN

We also visited Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) Payload Operations Control Centre (POCC). The AMS is a particle-physics detector that looks for dark matter, antimatter and missing matter from a module which is attached to the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). It also performs precision measurements of cosmic rays and 17 billion cosmic-ray events were collected in the first year! Data is received from the module on the ISS by NASA in Houston, and then it is relayed to the AMS Payload Operations Control Centre (POCC) at CERN for analysis. This experiment is run by a collaboration of 56 institutions. The detector measures 64 cubic metres and weighs 8.5 tonnes, was assembled at CERN.

At the AMS dark matter experiment talk
A model of the AMS module which is bolted onto the outside of the ISS.

CERN Control Room
Being in charge, in the CERN Control Centre ;-)

It was a fab treat to have a look round CERN Control Centre (CCC), which combines the control rooms of the Laboratory’s eight accelerators, as well as the piloting of cryogenics and technical infrastructures. It was boggling to see all the control stations and monitors, I also noted all the empty champagne bottles, which together made a timeline of CERN’s milestones and achievements.

CERN Control Room

The Microcosm sculpture garden is wonderful and features some amazing examples of former CERN experiments shown as sculpture. Plus the many exhibits and kit on show which are too numerous to mention in a short blog post. There was even a music festival comprising of CERN staff bands, which was also fabulous. I didn’t get to see everything, there was far too much to fit in my one day at CERN, but here are a few of my photos of my most amazing day at CERN.

CERN staff band Music Festival
The CERN staff bands play at the Open Days music festival.

Garden of sculptures made with old bits of CERN experiments

Microcosm sculpture garden made of old CERN experiments.

Robotics Exhibition
There was also a great demonstration of robots!

At the ATLAS Globe and exhibition
My final sight of CERN was taking off from Geneva airport and seeing the Dome (above) and the CERN complex all lit up – I was very sad to leave!

Underground trip to see ALICE
Friendly physicist taking us on a tour underground.

ALICE Exhibition
ALICE exhibition

Emergency Stop - underground at CERN
One of many huge emergency stop signs underground in the particle accelerator ring.

Oh yes, I finally got my paws on a couple (well 3) official CERN t-shirts, which completed my trip as I’d been after a CERN t-shirt for many years, in fact I’d even taken to designing my own celebratory t-shirts for the switch on of the LHC back in 2008!

Rainycat celebratory LHC t-shirt designs!
Celebratory t-shirts I designed for the switch on of the LHC in 2008 – I really should do some more for the Nobel Prize announcement!

ALICE A Large Ion Collider Experiment t-shirt
In comparison, an official ALICE t-shirt from CERN circa 2013

Ada Lovelace Day 2013 – Lynne Bruning, E-textile Enchantress Extraordinaire

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Now in its forth year, ALD celebrates women in technology and science, from students to the famous names and of course Ada Lovelace herself. Ada was a mathematician who is known as the world’s first computer programmer because of her notes suggesting the first algorithm for computer, for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, the first general-purpose computer. On Ada Lovelace Day it is now traditional to write a blog post about a women in technology or science who one finds inspiring.

Raw choc caek in Inspiral with Lynne & Nikki.
Lynne also has excellent taste in caek!

This year I’m writing about my good friend, Lynne Bruning, tech educator, fashion designer, innovator, e-textile enchantress, blogger and whose non-stop enthusiasm for all things wearable tech, fashion, art and life itself is an inspiration.

Lynne uses her BA in Neurophysiology from Smith College, a Masters in Architecture from the University of Colorado and her family history in textiles to create stunning, colourful, bespoke technology infused fashions and as her blog says, Lynne “jets thru the universe creatively cross-pollinating the worlds of science, textiles, fashion and technology”. She is constantly updating her website and others such as Instructables with new tutorials, how tos, with news of testing components and ideas for getting the most out of making e-textiles and wearable technology – who else would conduct a thorough investigation into the best conductive thread to buy and what to avoid? Lynne, also periodically broadcasts her tech tips and tricks, and conducts show ‘n’ tells on The eTextile Lounge, on Livestream, where lively conversation between Lynne, her guests and viewers can be found.

In terms of innovation, Lynne has created a technique to hand-weave conductive thread and LEDs. Her work also includes the creation of assistive wearable technologies, such as her Bats haptic coat, which is designed to assist visually impaired wearers to navigate their environment using sonar. If an object is within 24″ a vibrating motor will activate and buzz that an object is coming up in the users path. See image below.

Lynne Bruning's Bats haptic coat

Not content with all of the above, Lynne also exhibits her work and has curated wearable tech shows and workshops at events such as Maker Faires, plus gives presentations on technology, fashion and e-textiles.

International Symposium on Wearable Computers 2013 (ISWC), ETH Zurich, Switzerland

At the International Symposium on Wearable Technology, Zurich 2013

I had a great time at the 17th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC), held this year at ETH Zurich, Switzerland alongside UbiComp. This year there was a record amount of submissions for all calls: papers, posters, Gadget Show and the Design Exhibition. The full programme and abstracts can be found here.

Showing my Bluetooth EEG Visualising Pendant at the Design Exhibition at ISWC

Me with my EEG Visualising Pendant

This year I submitted my EEG Visualising Pendant for selection in the Design Exhibition. The pendant uses EEG (Electroencephalography) signals, which are gleaned from a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile, a standalone headset device that detects electrical signals from the brain, which are accessed via a single electrode on a protruding arm from the headband. The pendant displays attention / concentration data as red LEDs (light emitting diodes) beside meditation / relaxation data in green LEDs on an LED matrix. The pendant has live, record and playback functions, which give the user the choice of displaying live EEG visualisations or recording and playing up to four minutes of previous brainwave data visualisations on a loop if they’re feeling mischievous or want to appear to be concentrating / paying attention or relaxed, or just want to use the pendant as an aesthetic piece of jewellery without the EEG headset. More information on the EEG Visualising Pendant can be found here.

During the Design Exhibition, I was interviewed by BBC Technology News, the coverage can be found here. I was also filmed by Swiss TV.

Here’s my short video tour around the Design Exhibition

Rachael's fab fibre optic dress
Fiber Optic Corset Dress

Including my work, there were fourteen exhibits in the Design Exhibition, here’s a brief listing of them:

Fiber Optic Corset Dress (above), by Rachael Reichert, James Knight, Lisa Ciafaldi and Keith Connelly of Cornell University, USA, which glowed wonderfully in the darkened exhibition space. The dress also features in Rachael’s short film CyBelle Horizon.

Gorgeous Lüme

Lüme (above) by Elizabeth E. Bigger, Luis E. Fraguada, Jorge & Esther and built by Associative Data, is a series of garments that incorporate embedded electronics which illuminate based on the wearer’s selection of colour and other choices, controlled from a smartphone. The garments shone and changed colour beautifully. Lüme won the Design Exhibition prize in the aesthetic garment category.

E-Shoe: A High Heeled Shoe Guitar

E-Shoe: A High Heeled Shoe Guitar, by Alex Murray-Leslie, Melissa Logan and Max Kibardin of the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, is an intriguing and startlingly captivating shoe guitar that was created to explore acoustics in wearable technology and the practicalities of instruments for live multi-modal performances.

Brace Yourself – The World’s Sexiest Knee “Brace”

Brace Yourself – The World’s Sexiest Knee “Brace” by Crystal Compton and Guido Gioberto of the University of Minnesota, USA, is an interesting and playful look at how a stocking incorporating a bend sensor can be used to track movement in the leg in a new and more aesthetically pleasing way.

Play the Visual Music

Play the Visual Music by Helen Koo of Auburn University, USA, is a garment for musicians and performers which responds to sound and intended to provide visual multi-sensory stimulations to the audience.

Garment with Stitched Stretch Sensors that Detects Breathing +  AVAnav: Helmet-Mounted Display for Avalanche Rescue Jason O. Germany

Garment with Stitched Stretch Sensors that Detects Breathing & AVAnav: Helmet-Mounted Display for Avalanche Rescue

AVAnav: Helmet-Mounted Display for Avalanche Rescue, by Jason O. Germany of the University of Oregon, USA, has developed a series of prototypes to assist rescue teams locate buried avalanche victims.

Haptic Mirror Therapy Glove by James Hallam of Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, is a glove that allows the stimulation of a paretic hand’s fingers following a stroke by tapping the fingers of the unaffected hand. James’ glove won the functional category prize in the Design Exhiibition.

At the International Symposium on Wearable Technology, Zurich 2013

Garment for rapid prototyping of pose-based applications, by Jacob Dennis, Robert Lewis, Tom Martin, Mark Jones, Kara Baumann, John New and Taylor Pearman of Virginia Tech, USA, is a loose fitting body-suit as the title suggests for rapid prototyping of pose-based applications.

Garment with Stitched Stretch Sensors that Detects Breathing, by
Mary Ellen Berglund, Guido Gioberto, Crystal Compton of the University of Minnesota, USA, is intended to be “a comfortable, everyday athletic garment incorporating a breathing sensor to monitor the activities of crewmembers on NASA missions”.


A Wearable Sensing Garment to Detect and Prevent Suit Injuries for Astronauts
, by Crystal Compton, Reagan Rockers, Thanh Nguyen of the University of Minnesota, USA, was developed using pressure sensors to help detect and resolve areas of injury in spacesuits.

Garment Body Position Monitoring and Gesture Recognition by Sahithya Baskaran, Norma Easter, Cameron Hord, Emily Keen and Mauricio Uruena of Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, was designed to recognise arm movements that might lead to repetitive strain injuries and capture data on reaction time.

The Photonic Bike Clothing IV for Cute Cyclist

The Photonic Bike Clothing IV for Cute Cyclist by
Jiyoung Kim and Sunhee Lee Dong-A of the University of South Korea, uses solar panels to power heat pads to aid the comfort of the rider.

Strokes & Dots by Valérie Lamontagne is a collection of garments which are part of a research project looking at fostering advancement of creative innovation and aesthetics in wearable technology.

During the ISWC main conference, there were so many interesting papers presented, my favourites included:

Eagerly waiting for FIDO: Ficilitating Interactions for Dogs with Ocupations

Blitz the dog preparing for the FIDO presentation!

FIDO – Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations: Wearable Dog-Activated Interfaces by Melody Jackson, Thad Starner and Clint Zeagler of
Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. This research looks at how assistance dogs can communicate more directly with their human companions by using a wearable system of sensors embedded in an a dog jacket, activated by pulling, biting and nose touching. Examples shown included human companions who needed precise alerts to be given to them, such as a dog who could distinguish between a doorbell and a tornado alert and raise an alarm, and other canine companions who could get help from others in the case of a medical emergency. What fascinated me about this research is how intelligent and individual it showed the dogs to be, for example in the Q&A it emerged that some dogs can remember over 1000 commands or words and respond differently depending on breed and temperament. Another point that came out of the Q&A was how with the dogs help, this technology could be really valuable to people with severe disabilities such as ‘locked-in’ syndrome.

Lucy Dunne conducts Q&A with Halley Profita on Don't Mind Me Touching My Wrist: A Case Study of Interacting with On-Body Technology in Public

Halley Profita and Lucy Dunne during the Q&A

Don’t Mind Me Touching My Wrist: A Case Study of Interacting with On-Body Technology in Public by Halley Profita, James Clawson, Scott Gilliland, Clint Zeagler, Thad Starner, Jim Budd and Ellen Yi-Luen Do of University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. This piqued my interest as it examined social acceptability of wearables via how people felt about the placing of an e-textile ‘jogwheel’ (a circular controller) on specific parts of the body, their attitudes to where it was placed and why. The insights were both fascinating and amusing. The study used both male and female testers and used the setting of a lift as a public place. The testing was done in the US and Korea to find out how differing cultural attitudes affected the study. Korea was an interesting choice as contrary to the US couples do not hold hands or show affection in public and interacting with a wearable on the body did highlight different cultural attitudes to the body and personal space. The paper discusses a whole load of insights from the research, but to be brief, the study showed the torso to be the most awkward place to wear the e-textile jogwheel and the wrist and forearm to be the least awkward place to wear it. A majority of wearers found the e-textile jogwheel a potentially ‘useful’ device.

Sensor-Embedded Teeth for Oral Activity Recognition

Sensor-Embedded Teeth for Oral Activity Recognition by Cheng-Yuan Li, Yen-Chang Chen, Wei-Ju Chen, Polly Huang and Hao-hua Chu of the National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. This presentation discussed how a tri-axial accelerometer system could recognise oral activities such as talking, chewing, drinking and laughing. The system results showed “93.8% oral activity recognition accuracy when using a person-dependent classifier and 59.8%
accuracy when using a person-independent classifier.” They discussed the uses for this such as dietary tracking. I found this research quite intriguing as I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to self quantify and will look out for news of their future work in this area.

Thad Starner Keynote 'Through the looking glass'  at ISWC / Ubicomp

Thad Starner giving his keynote.

Wearable Computing: Through the Looking Glass by Thad Starner of Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. Although I’ve read so many articles about Google Glass and possibly talked the hind leg off a donkey on the topic of Glass / lifelogging / privacy / surveillance / sousveillance in the last 18 months, I was still really looking forward to hearing Thad, who is also Technical Lead/Manager on Google’s Project Glass, talk about the device and discuss its tech specs. As Thad was previously part of the MIT Media Lab ‘Borg’ collective alongside Steve Mann, I was especially looking forward to hearing him present his thoughts on and about the history of wearable computing. I really enjoyed his talk and insights and best of all he brought along a box of some of his old head mounted display projects, one of which I cheekily tried on, see photo below.

Cheekily trying on Thad Starner's computer / Twiddler glasses at   at ISWC / Ubicomp - I hope he didn't mind ;-)

ISWC 2013 was fantastic and I loved Zurich, next year it moves on to Seattle, being the last year (paws crossed) of my PhD, I hope I’ll have the time (thesis beckons) and money (am running out of cash) to get there! Many thanks to Lucy Dunne and Troy Nachtigall for all their hard work organising the Design Exhibition, and to Kristof Van Laerhoven, the programme committee, volunteers, speakers, exhibitors and attendees who made the conference such an excellent and thought provoking experience. Not forgetting to say thanks too for all the great vegan food that was organised for me!

Makers’ Guild: Making and Wearable Technology, C4CC

Fiddian welcomes everyone

I had a great evening at Makers’ Guild meet-up on Making and Wearable Technology at C4CC in Kings Cross. As the event title suggests, it was an evening of talks around various aspects of wearable technology. Fiddian Warman was our genial host on one of the hottest days of the year and kept us cool with a selection of chilled beverages.

Camille Baker presenting on 'Hacking the Body'

First up was Camille Baker, who is a media artist, curator and researcher, currently lecturing at Brunel University. She gave a compelling talk on ‘Hacking the Body’, a project that looks at the convergence of biosensors, wearable technology and performance. Her research looks at repurposing hacked data from sensors on around the body for performance and installation. Camille also showed some other examples of research, such as the Phillips SKIN project, which looks at emotional sensing via ‘soft technology’ garments.

Me presenting 'On Wearable Technology, Makers & Making'

Second up, was myself. I gave a rambling introduction to wearable technology from early examples, such as abacus rings of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) to the influence of science fiction, with some ideas from Star Trek that have come to fruition in real life, to cyborgs and ethics. I also spoke about how Makers have become involved with wearable tech in terms of making and also teaching and passing on skills. Finally I showed examples of my two latest wearable tech projects, the Baroesque Barometric Skirt and EEG Visualising Pendant.

Third up, was Alex Glowaski, who is a curious Hacker and Maker from San Francisco, she gave a great talk about ‘NFC (Near Field Communication) for Wearables’. Alex compared the technologies of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC for using in wearable tech, plus also gave some info on other tech such as Bluetooth and QR codes. The highlight of Alex’s talk (for me) was a user case and video demonstrating her Cheer Follower fitness tracker which uses NFC – I’m looking forward to hearing news on how this exciting project progresses.

Alex Glowaski presenting on 'NFC for Wearables'

There followed some interesting Q&A before decanting to the pub for excellent conversations and swapping info on projects and ideas. Thanks very much to Fidd for organising, Camille and Alex for being fabulous, to C4CC for hosting and to all the lovely people who came along.

Alex Glowaski's video on Cheer Follower wearable tech

3D Printing and Creativity for Wearables FTW!

3D printers have been around since the ‘80s and Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp is credited with building the first working machine, he coined the term ‘stereolithography’ a method of printing material one layer on top of another to form an object. I encountered my first RepRaps and MakerBots at Newcastle Maker Faire four years ago, printing out tiny chess pieces and other miniaturised objects. I’ve since encountered them on a regular basis and have learned to love the sound of the RepRap singing to me in a quiet room. For me as an artist, the possibilities of 3D printing are very exciting and I’ve been keeping watch for examples of how other artists, engineers and designers are using this technology as well as contemplating how I could incorporate 3D printed parts to my own work.


RepRaps in a room full of 3D printers at last month’s Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire – image by Rain

If you haven’t been taking much notice of 3D printing lately, the originality, stylishness and innovation of work made with this technology has leapt leaps and bounds in a short space of time and will no-doubt change the way we approach designing and selling an almighty range of objects. For wearables, the possibilities are so exciting, from enclosures for electronics, interlocking items, delicate jewellery, handbags, assistive technology, dresses, shoes, spectacle frames, bikinis – the list seems endless – made from intricately printed materials in complex forms, for example, mesh, interlocking shapes, chainmail, wonderfully organic configurations and digital fabrics. The availability of different kinds of strengths and textural qualities of materials to choose from is also a boon – from hard, polished or brittle to more flexible nylon plastics, to edible foodstuffs such as chocolate!

Being able to print one-off designs or small runs of objects is excellent for start-ups, small companies, one-person-bands and those who would find the usual process of manufacturing too expensive and prohibitive, plus and for artists like myself it gives a whole new medium of creating that I didn’t have before. For consumers it will give much choice in the form of customised products to buy and enjoy. It has also been announced recently that 3D printers will be appearing in schools as part of the UK secondary school curriculum, which will have an amazing influence on the work of future artists, designers, architects and engineers!

"The New Craftsmanship. Iris van Herpen and her inspiration" exhibition and Centraal Museum Utrecht

Iris van Herpen at Centraal Museum Utrecht – image by Kulturtrends on Flickr

To celebrate this exciting medium, here are some of my favourite examples of usage of 3D printing in wearables. Iris van Herpen’s work is amazing, have a look at her website if you get the chance, she’s inspired by the forces of nature and works with a multitude of different materials and textures. I really like her organic and boggling 3D creations, some imitate crazy, unworldly bone structures, others such as her latest Stratasys Connex shoes remind one of polished tree roots!

Stratasys Connex multi-material 3D printed shoes, designed by Rem D Koolhaas for Iris van Herpen Paris Fashion Week Couture Show Collection – July 2013

Stratasys Connex 3D printed shoes, designed by Rem D Koolhaas for Iris van Herpen Paris Fashion Week Couture Show Collection – image by Stratasys Ltd

Industrial designer, Ron Arad, has been working with 3D printing since 1999, producing jewellery, vases and lighting. He’s designed a range of one-piece spectacle frames, which have gill-like sides for hinges, for pq eyewear’s Springs range. The specs are made using a technique called selective laser sintering (SLS), where mass is built up in layers from polyamide plastic powder, liquefied and fused together with a laser. These stylish specs really make me want to have a go at designing my own!

3D pq eyewear by Ron Arad, image by pq eyewear

Ron Arad 3D-printed sunglasses for pq eyewear – image by pq eyewear

I’m still in awe of the Shapeways in collaboration with Continuum Fashion’s N12 (Nylon 12) 3D bikini that I blogged about back in 2011. What made this so amazing for me was that it was designed using a specifically written algorithm for Rhino 3D CAD software to create the structure of the 3D printed fabric. The algorithm uses a ‘circle packing’ equation on an arbitrarily doubly curved surface. The size of the circles are made in response to curvature and edge conditions of the form to create smooth edges. The bikini parts are still available for order from Shapeways, and of course is customisable in terms of size.

N12: 3D Printed Bikini developed by Shapeways in partnership with Continuum Fashion - image credit Ariel Efron

N12: 3D Printed Bikini developed by Shapeways in partnership with Continuum Fashion – image by Ariel Efron

Designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti in collaboration with Shapeways created a breath-taking nylon dress for Dita Von Teese. The dress was designed on Rhino 3D CAD and is constructed from 3000 articulated joints in a netted structure which allows for movement of the wearer. By applying spirals based on Fibonacci’s Golden Ratio theory to a computer rendering of Dita’s body the dress was a perfect fit for her body. The components were made using the selective laser sintering (SLS) method mentioned earlier.

Dita 3D printed gown by Shapeways, Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti, photo by Albert Sanchez

Dita 3D printed gown detail, photos by Albert Sanchez

Shapeways, New York designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti created this fully articulated 3D-printed gown for Dita Von Teese – images by Albert Sanchez

Jake Evill’s Cortex exoskeleton was created to protect injured limbs and body parts, and are custom made from x-rays and 3D scans rather than casts. The exoskeleton aims to be more comfortable and hygienic than traditional casts as they’re lighter, washable and recyclable, plus they look rather cool.

Jake Evill's exoskeletal cast, image Jake Evill

Jake Evill’s Cortex exoskeletal cast – image by Jake Evill

Bespoke Innovations make ‘Fairings’ coverings for prosthetic limbs that are tailored using 3D scanning and allow for all sorts of personalised customisation from various polished materials to etched or embossed tattoos, graphics, texts – which look fab and give existing prosthetics a whole new aesthetic.

Bespoke Innovations Deborah Fairings, image by 3D Systems

Bespoke Innovations Fairings – image by 3D Systems

These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of amazing things to come from 3D printed wearables, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what turns up in terms of implantable medical objects and wonder how far away the possibility of printed organs will be!

For those wanting to make use of 3D printing in their work, one requires a 3D model or an app to transform a 2D drawing to 3D and access to a 3D printer of course. Entry level printers are relatively cheap to buy, you can currently pre-order a Velleman K8200 from Maplin for £699.00 (yep, they see the potential of the Maker movement!), a MakerBot Replicator 2 will set you back $2,199.00 and a RepRap Prusa Mendel kit £499.00. Obviously, 3D printers vary in the quality and intricacy of what they can make and prices of the printers get a lot more expensive at the commercial high-end of their capabilities.

3D printers

MakerBot Replicator 2, 3D printer at Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire – image by Rain

Of course not everyone has the spare time to lovingly build and maintain a 3D printer, or the cash, space, or manufacturing needs to own one permanently, so access to 3D printers can be achieved via local hackspaces or one of the many 3D printing meet-ups and groups around the UK. For those who don’t own or have access to a 3D printer and would rather send off their designs to be made, then US company Shapeways will print your objects and mail them to you. I’ve been experimenting with some frame designs and enclosures for my EEG Visualising Pendant. It’s very easy to use the Shapeways site to order printing and if you’re just starting off their 2D app to transform a drawing into a 3D object is very straightforward. My novice tips for making / uploading designs would be to not make the walls of your design too thin and watch out for bits of your design that are simply floating, i.e. not attached to anything or not ‘watertight’ – everything needs to be closed! For example my, thin hypotrochoid line drawings did not work out as a printable object as when turned into 3D the lines were simply too thin to be printed as walls.

Experimenting with 3D printing for my wearable tech work

Example of one of my 3D printed frame models

3D printed frames for my EEG Visualising Pendant

Here’s the printed frames on my EEG Visualising Pendant

There’s also a varied selection of materials and corresponding prices to print from, ensure you read about and compare materials before you select as they have different properties, strengths and suitabilities. Shapeways charge you by the amount of material you use, so bear that in mind when contemplating creating large objects!

You can also use free modelling apps to build 3D objects, such as Blender, Autodesk, SketchUp and Sculptris. Once you’re happy with your design or object you can upload it to your account, where after selecting materials it’ll have to pass a couple of quality assurance hoops, which are useful as they help you spot duff designs and weaknesses before printing. Whilst you’re waiting on your order approval you can peruse and buy amazing work by other designers which could turn into a addictive pastime!

'Kittyspirals' 3D printed pendants

Some of my ‘Kittyspirals’ 3D printed pendants – image Rain Ashford