Category Archives: wearables

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”.

IMG_3730


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!

Baroesque – Barometric Skirt

Barometric skirt - coming together

I wanted to bridge the gap between what for me had been an enclosed capsule of capturing / visualizing my own physiological data and entwining it with data from the environment around me. The barometric skirt visualises data from four sensors, three of them are environmental: temperature, pressure and altitude, the forth is a temperature sensor that sits on the inside of the skirt and pulls in my body temperature. I’m interested in how I can display my physical data alongside that of the ‘bigger picture’ of elements that I am surrounded by.

Getting Baroesque Barometric Skirt ready for Smart Textiles Salon

If you haven’t seen or heard of a barometric sensor board before, it’s a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) and the BMP085 I’ve used integrates temperature, atmospheric pressure and altitude sensors, these together constitute a suite of sensors that can be used for looking at weather data. You may have heard of ‘pressure’ attributed to weather terms such as high or low pressure – high pressure generally relates to warm, sunny weather and low pressure colder, wetter weather. Sensors in a barometric board are also used in altimetry to measure one’s present altitude, or for example, how high one has climbed.

Barometric skirt - coming together

I decided that I had to make a bespoke skirt for this project due to the way I wanted the RGB LED strip to display from inside the skirt. It took me a while to find a skirt pattern that I thought would suit the project, I’ve gone for an A-line skirt with a dropped waist, which I thought would support the components quite well, especially as RGB LED strip requires a 12 Volt supply, which isn’t exactly light! My initial idea was to make a jolly big pocket for the battery pack, but after spending a day experimenting with pocket making, I decided to make a Velcro on-and-offable components substrate apron (for want of a better term) which goes in the middle of the skirt fabric and lining layer, I made a fitted pocket on the substrate apron to hold the 12V battery pack.

Fabric painting

The skirt required an illustration to enhance the component design and after pondering weather icons and scenes I decided that I wanted a Japanese feel and practiced fabric painting on with calligraphy brushes and tested various fabrics for holding paint, washability, shrinking and ironing capabilities. In the end I chose to create some Okami style weather designs inspired by the beautiful characters and fan art, so after making 2 or three prototype skirts in satin and organza (and being driven half mad by this task) I painted weather bound characters directly onto the skirt.

Barometric skirt - coming together

Having got the skirt (with the lining to shield the wearer from electronics components) mostly made, I moved on to the electronics. This took some of thinking about as I wanted to visualise data outputted from four sensors individually via RGB LED strip, the resulting rats nest took up three breadboards and contained so many components and wires it would have been a nightmare to reproduce and solder onto stripboard. Luckily a way to consolidate this somewhat came with the introduction of two array ICs. I added another temperature sensor to the circuit for measuring my own temperature and the whole lot was driven by a Shrimp kit instead of my usual choice of microcontroller board such as a LilyPad Arduino. “The Shrimp” as explained on the Shrimping It website is “a Arduino-compatible, handmade circuit you can use to create your own digital inventions” – basically it’s a low cost kit of components that you can put together yourself on breadboard or stripboard. This saved me a lot of space as I crammed all my components (bar the barometric sensor I wanted on the outside of the skirt and 12V battery pack) onto one piece of stripboard.

I’ve written the code, or sketch in C, with the inclusion of the Wiring library and the example code library for the BMP085 which does all the complex and clever calculations to convert readings to °C (Celcius), Pa (Pascal) and m (meter) readings. If you’ve got the barometric sensor set up using the Arduino IDE you can open the serial monitor to see the readings fly by.

Testing my Baroesque Barometric Skirt for Smart Textles Salon

Barometric skirt: long day of wire stripping, soldering, swearing, desoldering & soldering again!

I spent the next two weeks stripping wire and soldering, I also did a lot of desoldering and resoldering as I endeavoured to get the shrunken, but still a rats nest of wires in the correct groupings of PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and digital input and output to their respective pins to match up with my code. I can’t underestimate the value of double checking wires and tracks before soldering, though it’s incredibly easy to make mistakes as wiring is always fiddly and tracks are so close together. Also, don’t forget to work out where your track cutting should be before squeezing everything into a small piece of stripboard – always leave an extra line or two in tracks for contingency! If you’re using a coin cell battery, it’s a good idea to get a small, solderable holder for it, but be selective in which type you choose as some are much more fiddly to release the battery than others! I should also mention that I couldn’t find a stripboard friendly version of a 2.1 barrel socket for the 12V battery pack, so I used an SMD one, but had to dig into the stripboard to join two track holes together. Another top tip is try to get a track in between your 12V and ground tracks, just in case of any stray solder bridging!

Feel like I've had enough of soldering for a bit!

Before sewing the stripboard and RGB LED strip to the apron substrate, I added some strong Velcro to hold the apron to the skirt lining fabric, next time I do this style of embedded electronics I will use a stronger substrate for the electronics as lining fabric isn’t really robust enough for suspended 12V battery packs! Until I do a better photo shoot / video enjoy some the photos and video I’ve made along the way.

Barometric skirt - coming together

In June 2013, I presented the Baroesque Skirt at Smart Textiles Salon in Ghent, Belgium.

Presenting my Baroesque Barometric Skirt

Smart Textiles Salon

Getting Baroesque Barometric Skirt ready for Smart Textiles Salon

Nano4Design – Nanoforce, QMUL

Intelligent Nanocomposite Fibre for Sensing Prof Ton Peijs, Professor of Materials, QMUL

On 28th February I gave a talk (slides below) at the Nano4Design workshop at Nanoforce, QMUL, a day of presentations and networking around the convergence of design (mainly textiles at this event) and nanotechnologies, which was chaired by Dr Martin Kemp of NanoKTN. Nano4Design is a focus group to bring together the design and nanotechnologies communities together.

I really enjoyed the presentations, which have definitely expanded my knowledge on nanotechnologies in the field of textiles. I made tons of notes and below are my summaries of the talks.

Prof Ton Peijs, Centre for Materials Research, QMUL, kicked off the presentations with a keynote on intelligent nanocomposite fibre for sensing. He talked about intelligent fibres for smart textiles, that included sensors, actuators and touched on conductive materials to make strain sensors. Part of his talk focused on the process of manufacturing yarns and using nanotubes in polymers, to make a high strength nano-reinforced fibre.

Intelligent Nanocomposite Fibre for Sensing Prof Ton Peijs, Professor of Materials, QMUL

Bill Macbeth, Textile Centre of Excellence, talked about Yorkshire’s Textile Innovation Programme, whose aims include developing and delivering training to meet the changing needs of industry, as well as feasibility studies, industrial research, experimental development. He mentioned projects such as combating counterfeiting in textiles and looking at provenance for textiles made in Yorkshire using DNA profile of dyes as proof that cannot be washed out, is cost effective and are acceptable as evidence. Bill also talked about nano-enhanced textiles and fascinating 3D weaving machines that were capable of making very strong woven structures for automotive and aerospace.

Professor Janis Jefferies of Goldsmiths College, U. of London, gave a talk on the Wearable Absence project. It is a system of wearable devices that incorporate wireless technologies and bio-sensing devices such as temperature, heart rate, respiration and GSR (galvanic skin response) sensors. The sensors collect data to analyse the wearer’s emotional state and in turn to activate a database of images and sounds, creating a narrative or series of messages to evoke memories of an absent person. This is done via speakers in the garment’s hood or shoulder seams, scrolling text on an LED array, or video and photos.

My talk, ‘Sensors for e-textiles creatives’ discussed how cheaply available electronic components, microcontrollers, plus the evolution of hacker / maker culture and its expanding communities are causing a boom in interest in coding and electronics from new sections of society, from kids to crafts people to new ways of approaching tech start-ups for creatives. Plus how these new approaches are changing the way designers and artists are able to create work. New considerations to how electronics are designed, such as the sewable microcontroller, the LilyPad Arduino, means electronics no longer have to be seen as cold, sharp, grey and dull and hidden inside work! I showed some examples of my wearable electronics work, which incorporates electronic components and e-textiles into the design of garments and artworks.

Richard Holman, materials technologist, talked about the D30 company portfolio in terms of shock absorption and impact technologies for footwear to motorcycle applications, personal protective equipment such as a riot suit used by the French Gendarmerie and snow board protection. D30 is a composite material comprising of several polymers. He said that ‘the key concept is sensitivity of dilated material that retains flexibility ‘.

Ellie Runcie of the Design Council, talked about the positives of connecting designers with companies to help define and resolve problems. How good design is concerned with what people need, what is technically possible and what is financially possible. She gave an example of a company working in nanotechnology that was struggling to define their business, but with expertise they were helped to develop their brand and applications for various audiences, which turned the company’s fortunes around and they went on to secure funding and become successful.

Accelerating Ideas to Market Through Design, Ellie Runcie, Design Council

Professor Raymond Oliver, Northumbria University, School of Design, talked about several areas around smart materials and technology, using examples such as the changing economic landscape over time and impact. For example, how the digital / physical fusion of embedding intelligent technologies into social environments can be mapped against assets, phases and aspects of a one’s life, which makes for human centered technology. He warned us though that ‘progress is slower than prediction’.

Olivier Picot, PhD researcher at QMUL told us about the production of reflective fibres for smart textile applications, using novel techniques to obtain visual effects based on diffraction and/or reflection of light. This is done via a bi-component fibre system where the fibre (natural or synthetic) is coated with a functional layer of liquid crystal, which gives it new properties, such as changing colour and appearance as a consequence of strain and environmental input.

Production of Reflective Fibres for Smart Textile Applications Oliver Picot, QMUL

Dr Andrew Dean of Spartan Nano, told us about his work with Durham University on nanostructure surfaces and reducing bacterial contamination and fouling on surfaces. We heard how they’ve been using nanostructured antimicrobial films for targeting pathogenic bacteria such as e-coli and staphylococcus aureus in order to kill the bacteria. In the future they’re hoping to develop this technology for use on bandages.

Nanostructured Antimicrobial Films for Textile Applications Dr Andrew Dean, Spartan Nano Ltd

Dr Daniel Lynch, from Exilica told us about his work in embedded fragrances in textiles using micrometer-sized polymers in nano-porous networks. A lot of plastics have odour issues, especially recycled plastics, so it’s really useful to have the ability to improve their smell! We heard about how research is looking into improving the washability aspect of these plastics so they will continue to smell nice after several washes.

Overall it was a really good day, plus I met and had chats with some really interesting people and not forgetting that it was good to hear about the work at Nanoforce, QMUL, so I’d definitely go to another Nano4Design event .

MusicHackTee interactive musical scale t-shirt

Meep, belatedly catching up with blogging about Music Hackday London, which happened back in December 2011 and was held in the wonderfully retro boardrooms of the Barbican, London.

My hack for Music Hackday was an interactive musical t-shirt and as you can see I’ve ‘hacked’ the official Music Hackday t-shirt ;-) I didn’t win any prizes, possibly because just about every sponsor awarded prizes only to people who made apps with their APIs – so a bit disappointing and a bit of an issue for Hackdays.

Basically I wrote a script that allows a LilyPad Arduino to use its pads as a musical keyboard. I’ve elongated these pads to make a musical scale and the user can play tunes in the C scale – C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C

The piece uses LilyPad Arduino with sewable conductive thread, rather than wires to conduct voltage and signal.

MusicHackTee

To play it the user takes a stylus and plays the notes on the LilyPad pads or can play by touching the conductive thread tracks or pad on the corresponding LEDs which also light up individually when a note is played.

It was also an exercise in acknowledging one’s blushing embarrassment in that it’s quite odd and one feels self conscious to be wearing a musical t-shirt played by someone else – maybe better to stick to playing such things yourself ;-)

MusicHackTee

If you’d like to see some of the hacks, have a peruse of the Music Hackday wiki.

You make my heart flutter – wearable sensing device & Heart Spark hack

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on the first stage of a project that involves hacking Eric Boyd’s excellent Heart Spark PCB pendant and combining it with a sensor module I’ve made from scratch.

Heart Spark: I uploaded a sketch (code) via fangled FTDI + some header pins

The Heart Spark pulses 6 LEDs to my heartbeat via a signal from my Polar gym chest band transmitter (that usually transmits / displays my heart rate on my Polar wrist watch). The Heart Spark is open source and Eric has kindly made the schematics, code, plus lots of other information available on the Sensebridge.net website pages for the Heart Spark. http://sensebridge.net/projects/heart-spark/

I’m very interested in how sensing technology can display vital signs and how this can be monitored and combined with other tech to give us an insight into our moods, and how our body is reacting to certain situations.

'You make my <3 flutter'

For this proof of concept, here’s the back story / premise I used when considering what I wanted to build and present at Rewired State’s recent (H)activate hack weekend at the Guardian:

“Geeks are very particular about their personal space, so what could be better than a mobile, wearable device that notes their heart rate when someone comes close. Whether you’re cool, calm and collected or get palpitations when a certain someone enters your space, it’s interesting to note how a particular person affects your physicality, whether that be geek love or geek annoyance. It’s not quite your heart on your sleeve, but round your neck!”

For this, I’ve created a heart-shaped proximity detector module to link to the Heart Spark – I’ve named this ‘Flutter’.

To create the Flutter module, firstly I experimented with various combinations of components: an IR proximity sensor, resistor, potentiometer, LED and transistor on a breadboard. The 3.3V coin cell battery that powers the Heart Spark could not give enough output, even when combining with a step up component which boosted the voltage up to 5V to power both the Heart Spark and the proximity sensor.

Circuit diagram for 'You make my <3 flutter'

So I began a period of trial and error with various combinations of batteries, resistors, transistors and twiddling the potentiometer. In the end I gave up fiddling and got my oscilloscope out to find out what was happening. I got some very curious signals from the various battery combinations and step up module I was using, but in the end the solution was to get more juice to the IR proximity sensor. This meant powering it separately and that more batteries were needed. So I settled on a 3 x AA battery pack, for which I’ve made a fabric heart shaped pouch dangling on a twisted twill rope, as it needs to be housed quite close and precisely to the sensor via battery pack connectors.

Hacking the Heart Spark with a proximity sensor - testing on the sillyscope

I have to say, I really feel that powering wearable technology is one of the more irksome things about trying to get this technology into wearables and I’m going to blog about this soon. On that note, the reason I added a 10k Ohm potentiometer to the heart-shaped IR sensor was so that small tweaks to the voltage can be made to the sensor.

Creating a heart-shaped proximity dectector module

To house all the components and with the help of a hacksaw, I made a heart-shaped substrate out of stripboard and coloured it black with a marker pen.

Hacking the Heart Spark – I have hacked Eric’s original code so that the top 3 LEDs on the Heart Spark light up when the IR proximity sensor detects someone in my space. I have some more interesting ideas for the code to work with the Heart Spark in the future, but in the first instance my goal was to get the Heart Spark to acknowledge the IR sensor and light up from its signal.

Hacking the Heart Spark

To upload code from my laptop to the Heart Spark, I fangled an FTDI board (which I usually use with LilyPad Arduinos) with some header pins – so I could connect it to the headers on the Heart Spark. I also soldered two pin headers to ground and positive / signal pins on the Heart Spark, which allows wire connection between the Heart Spark and the Flutter module.

Hactivate: battery pouch made

Hactivate: You make my <3 flutter

Stage 2 and next steps…

For the next iteration, I’d like to add a tiny camera to this work, set to log periodic photos of who or what situation is in front of the wearer. Plus find a way of grabbing the photo, heartbeat and proximity sensor data from the devices and send to my laptop via a sewable a LilyPad Arduino x-Bee transmitter. Sewable, because I’d like it to become part of the heart-shaped battery pack pouch.

I want to graph the data from the two sensors to plot how many times during the day I get fluctuations in my heart rate when someone enters my space and would place the photos from the camera at appropriate points alongside, to see who had made my heart flutter. I’d use this information to work out my physiological state and reactions to certain situations, and people throughout the course of a day.

Other additions I’ve thought about are to include a temperature sensor, to record if someone becomes hot or flushed in certain situations or people and an accelerometer to assess body language by the user’s posture.

Mass participant uses? I’d love to hold a speed-dating event where all the participants wore the “You make my <3 flutter” device to attempt to determine people’s reaction to each other based on their physical data signals.

'You make my <3 flutter'

Thank yous to: Ciaran Anscomb and Eric Boyd for help and advice \o/

Ghost Ship Porthole electroluminescent dress

For White Mischief’s fabulous 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea themed extravaganza, I wanted to create something suitably inspired. I daydreamed about Jules Verne, sunken adventures, ships and galleons, then came up with the idea for a ‘Ghost Ship Porthole’ dress. To elaborate, I decided to use electroluminescent neon panels to illuminate sea-faring motifs so in the dark my dress would glow with a spooky light shining out of a ghost ship’s portholes.

Electroluminescent panel portholes

The motifs I sourced from vintage stencils and illustrations of anchors, seahorses, Japanese Koi, ship’s cats, pirate skulls and more. In this case, the portholes were limited in number by the amount of spare splitters (cable/sockets to power source) I happened to have.

Electroluminescent panel portholes

I plan to scale this dress up and incorporate accessories, I ran out of time to make the neon-ghost ship for my tricorn hat, but that’ll be made in time for the next calling of the Ghost Ship Porthole dress!

Electroluminescent panelled me

PS, If you haven’t been to a White Mischief event yet – do go, they’re wonderful!

Temperature sensing t-shirt (AKA: “Yr in mah face!”)

'Yr in mah face' temp-sensing t-shirt

At last weekend’s 24-hour Pachube Hackathon, I created an electronic wearable I wasn’t expecting to make! To clarify that statement, I intended to hack on a LoL Shield I’d recently soldered together (it has 126 LEDs = steady hands needed & much love to the soldering iron ;-)). Unfortunately, I’d mislaid an accelerometer to interact with the LEDs, so it was no go for that hack…

Spaghetti croc clip testing works!

After spreading out all my spare LilyPad Arduino components and kit from my toolbox on the table at Pachube Hackathon, I decided on a new hack – a temperature sensing t-shirt! I spent some time writing and debugging the code before it would happily compile in the Arduino IDE. I then tested the code by uploading it to the LilyPad and connecting all the modules together with crocodile clips, and yay it worked!

Creating my hack: big heart cat heads

I’m very interested in interactive wearables and so decided to create a t-shirt that would use loop poll Celsius data from a sensor on the t-shirt and average them, then visualise the results. The tshirt uses sewable LilyPad Arduino modules and conductive thread to sew all the connections together.

I didn’t have much time left, once I’d got the code to compile and uploaded it, then tested everything together with the crocodile clips, so the designing, cutting out from fabric and sewing all the fabric and components together with conductive thread was a manic rush. No prizes for tidy sewing and elegant design I’m afraid, but a prototype conceived designed and built is less than 24 hours!

Creating my hack: big heart cat heads

So here’s the amusing concept scenario… imagine you’re a shy and retiring geek like me, who might find themselves in a social situation, such as a loud, crowded bar. The temperature sensing t-shirt I’m wearing has two cat heads: one green – the colour of cool, calm collected cat – its LED eyes signaling temperatures of less than 27 degrees Celsius, if the wearer were to say have someone at close proximity talking loudly at them, the heat from their breath would push the sensor Celsius average over this point and the LEDs would turn off on the cool calm collected green cat head and come on, on the hot, red, angry coloured cat head!

Creating my hack: early conductive thread sewing

This would be a signal to whomever is causing the angry red cat’s LEDs eyes to light up, to back off “You’re in mah face” or perhaps if the wearer is hot and embarrassed, to have a nice sit down in a corner with a cool drink of lemonade.

Creating my hack: woo done in the nick of time!

Creating my hack: back view, negotiating tracks of conductive thread

But seriously, my t-shirt is a fun proof of concept, I’m very interested in how sensing tech such as temperature sensors can have wider and useful usage. For example, in a society where more of the population is living to a ripe old age, then smart wearables such as temperature and other sensing modules can help older or disabled people, who might need their health monitoring constantly, carry on living at home for longer and keep their independence. Also, I can think of various lifestyle and sporting uses, such as comfortable sports clothes that would also have reasons to track data, plus smart clothing for people who work with extreme temperatures, chemicals or in harsh environments.

Me and my hack - yay it works!

Smart Fabrics Conference, 4-6 April, London

Dr Jan Zimmermann on tech embroideries

Smart Fabrics Conference gathers together people and companies from fashion, technology, electronics, research, academia, textile and diverse applications communities, to discuss what’s happening in the industry and to showcase what’s new and being developed, plus panels discuss and answer questions.

Smart Fabrics - day 2

The conference was fantastic, an excellent eye-opener to the commercial world of smart textiles and I met some really interesting people working in this area. The conference was in it’s 7th year and as a newcomer it was great to chat to people who have been working in this area for over decade and hear their stories, plus talk to students and start-ups. At the moment there seems to be a really good buzz in this area, and it feels like the time is right – driven by forces such as an ageing population, lifestyle, medical, sports, military needs and entertainment – for smart fabrics and wearables to take off.

Dr Jan Zimmermann - tech embroidery

My observations…

Wins:

  • Smart fabric tech is still an emerging technology, but feels like it’s on the verge of an explosion of interest
  • Interest in sensing wearables for sport, medical, industrial, military and lifestyle interests is taking off and is where the funding opportunities are
  • Obviously lots of opportunity for innovation and room for more companies/creatives
  • I’m excited by fabric pick & place sewing machine that replaced traditional solder with conductive thread
  • Conductive embroidery with LEDs could be very exciting for fashion/textile artists
  • Performance & sporting events are a big driver for smart wearables

Challenges:

  • Smart fabrics technology is still looking for a killer app
  • Necessity for more standards and classifications
  • Sustainablility
  • Cheap disposables for medical purposes
  • Supply chain isn’t yet set up for wearable tech
  • “A lot of focus on the technology, but not enough on what the consumer wants”
  • Marketing focus
  • “Progress is usually slower than prediction”

My wish list:

  • Emerging tech could possibly thrive faster with some open source collaboration and sharing of ideas
  • Manufacturers should keep in mind emerging artists and designers for showcasing their products, as well as wanting to give to top designers
  • I’m really excited about developments in electroluminescent yarns, fabrics and films for artworks and wearables, though sadly I didn’t see much in development and available anytime soon in small quantities for artists like myself to buy
  • Would love to hear more about combining code with hardware prototyping, from hardware/code hackers like myself
  • Be great to explore some applications for smart fabrics use in gaming
  • I’d like to hear more user-testing examples, what do end users want/like?

I came away from the Smart Fabrics conference feeling very inspired and with a ton of knowledge. I hope it isn’t too long before some of the smart fabrics & tech discussed will be available to me, both as a designer and consumer.

Dr Uwe Mohring: novel illuminations

Dr Uwe Mohring: novel illuminations

HITEK: conductive fabrics

Upcoming: Smart Fabrics 2011, London

I’m always on the lookout for interesting events that’ll help me develop my work and next week I’ll be going to the 7th annual Smart Fabrics conference in London on 4-6th April. I’m pretty excited about this as I’m hoping to see lots of innovation in fabric tech and inspiration for my future wearable electronics and artworks. What would be particuarly useful is some info on advancements in the durability of conductive threads, fabric and printed circuitry, plus I’ll be looking out for the latest news on sensors and lighting for wearables.

Electroluminescent me

Can’t wait to see some new creative applications and how e-textiles are being used in areas I haven’t really looked into yet such as medical and space tech and I’m hoping to be wowed by new tech in R&D and smart fabrics I’ll see in the future.

I’ll blog as much as I can and a try to find a Twitter stream for the event!

Conductive velcro has arrived!