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World Maker Faire 2014, New York Science Park

World Maker Faire
Yay, arrived at New York Maker Faire :-)

I was really excited to be in NYC in September to attend and do a presentation on my wearables work at my first US Maker Faire. Having exhibited at four UK Maker Faires in Newcastle, plus Brighton Mini Maker Faire and visiting both Elephant and Castle Maker Faires (where at the most recent I wandered about soliciting feedback on my EEG Visualising Pendant), I was full of anticipation for the World Maker Faire weekender at the New York Hall of Science, in Queens, New York.

Maker Faire
World Maker Faire is totally vast!

I had heard it would be big, but I wasn’t prepared for the hugeness of it, or that it would mainly be an outside event! It was comprised of several fields of stands and presentation stages, plus the entirety of the New York Hall of Science, which isn’t a small building. Because I had a big list of places I wanted to visit in Manhattan, I had intended to spend half a day on Saturday and Sunday at Maker Faire, but due to the vastness of World Maker Faire I spent two whole days there till closing each day and I still didn’t see everything or meet up with or find all the friends I had intended to say hello to.

Maker Faire is large!
Map of hugeness of World Maker Faire!

On day two (Sunday), on the Electronics Stage, I gave a presentation on my own work, primarily my Baroesque Barometric Skirt and EEG Visualising Pendant, which I wore around World Maker Faire, that incited much curiosity and feedback – which was a fun way to meet people! It was lovely that friends were in the audience and afterwards we had much fun wandering about and catching up. The talk slot was a bit short for me as I usually have a lot to say, so I had to wind up before my slides ran out, but I enjoyed the opportunity immensely.

Presenting on visualising physiological data
Me, presenting my wearable technology work at the Electronics Stage

Ivaylo, Mandy, Ran & me
Was fabulous to catch up with and hang out with Ivaylo, Mandy and Ran, plus thank you for coming to my talk :-)

In terms of what was on show, it wasn’t very different from what I’d been used to seeing at UK Maker Faires, i.e. lots of electronics, crafts and technology stalls from individual makers, hackspaces and organisations, but there were loads more large stalls from the big players such as Atmel, Intel and Arduino.

Signpost
Just one of the signposts around World Maker Faire!

It was great that there were many presentation stages and a multitude of talks to choose from, my favourite talk of the weekend was by one of my favourite inspirational wearables creators and thinkers, Kate Hartman, who spoke about the work her students have been up to at OCAD University in Toronto. I went up to Kate at the end to say hello, which was lovely. Check out her conceptual wearables, they’re very cool and have a look at the Social Body Lab and projects, which she runs at OCAD.

Kate Hartman talk
I really enjoyed Kate Hartman’s presentation on wearables

There were too many great stands and projects to document, but one of my favourites was the glorious Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, consisting of a car covered with over two hundred and fifty computer controlled lobsters, bass, trout, catfish and sharks. The Choir performs a choreographed repertoire of songs from pop songs to classical opera. It’s fabulous – enjoy the videos and info on the website!

Very amusing Sashimi Tabernacle Choir
The wonderful Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

A highlight of World Maker Faire was finally finding the OpenBCI stand. I had been conversing with Conor via email about their modular sensing kits that they had recently successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund. To emphasise the vastness of World Maker Faire, it had taken me two days to find them. After asking at multiple help points, studying the map and wandering around and around the fields, I finally found the OpenBCI on the last day by grabbing a kindly information stand helper, who on hearing my plight, wandered around with me to find their stand! I’m really glad I persevered, as it was lovely to meet Conor and Joel and fascinating to chat about and view their OpenBCI wares being demonstrated, plus they had a special discount offer for that weekend, which I took advantage of and can’t wait to get my own OpenBCI kit soon!

Conor & me
Great to finally meet Conor from OpenBCI

Another highlight of World Maker Faire was bumping into inspirational electronics engineer and entrepreneur Limor Fried AKA Ladyada, and Phil of Adafruit. I have been following Limor’s work since I got my first LilyPad Arduino back in 2008, which I bent her ear about and also showed her my EEG Visualising Pendant. When I got back to the UK I sent details of the pendant to Adafruit and fab fellow wearable creator, (whose work I’ve also followed for years) Becky Stern put up a page up about it on the Adafruit Wearable Wednesday blog – thanks Limor and Becky!

Limor Fried (Ladyada) & me
Yay, thanks Limor for allowing me to bend your ear on my EEG Visualising Pendant :-)

To sum up, World Maker Faire was huge, amazing and inspiring – I’d love to go again – thanks for having me!

Metrocard Man & Doge
Metrocard Man and Doge!

Mushy Daleks
Even at World Maker Faire there’s gotta be Daleks, especially knitted ones!

Giraffe
One has to say hello to the iconic Giraffe!

Strange and wonderful retro music makers
Strange and wonderful upcycled music machines

Drawing circuits
Ivaylo drawing a circuit with a conductive pen

Curreh vegan goat & other delacacies
Curry Vegan ‘Goat'(TVP) and other vegan delacacies were on offer!

Don't wear your EEG headset for too long!
This skellington is wearing their EEG headset wrongly!

OpenBCI stand
This skull is wearing their OpenBCI headset appropriately (I think)!

Posing with Make Robot
Posing with the Maker Faire Robot

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.

Visualising Physiological Data in Wearable Technology – Quantified Self Europe 2013, Amsterdam

I’ve just got back from a fabulous and thought provoking time at Quantified Self Europe 2013 conference in Amsterdam. It was great to return for the second QS conference (I blogged the first one here) and also to have the opportunity to speak again about wearable technology. This time, as well as a short intro to wearable tech, I spoke about some of my own projects that visualise data from sensors worn around the body, such as my Heart Spark proximity / heart rate hack, temperature sensing t-shirt, barometric skirt and EEG pendant (which I need to blog). I took tons of notes and photos whist at QSEU13, but for now I’m going to just leave my slides here as I’m about to go to uni for end of year progress review (yikes!).

Moi presenting 'Visualising Physiological Data' (on my wearable tech projects)