Tag Archives: wearable technology

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.

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.

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.

RepRap

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

Don’t Break My Heart – wearable distance warning system for cyclists

Don’t Break My Heart is a wearable, colour-coded distance warning system prototype for cyclists to wear on their back. It incorporates a sewable LilyPad Arduino microcontroller, RGB LED, proximity sensor, conductive thread and fabrics to create an easily Velcro-ed on and off (moveable between garments & bags) and highly visible alert for traffic traveling behind cyclists.

A pulsating RGB LED heart is triggered by a proximity sensor if a vehicle is detected traveling close behind. I’ve used traffic light colour-coding for the super-bright RGB LED: a slow green pulsating light in the heart-shaped diffuser indicates a safe distance is being maintained, an amber faster light indicates that caution should be observed and a red rapidly pulsating light indicates to the driver that they need to back off and give the cyclist some space. As this is a prototype at the ideas stage, safe distances and final technology, such as sonar for proximity detection and other materials/components would be tested and confirmed later in the design process.

I created the first iteration of this piece of wearable tech at Hondahack within a 12 hour deadline. I wasn’t happy with the look of it just because I’d rushed to kludge it together for the presentations, so after and when I had the time, I unpicked the conductive thread and components, and put it back together.

'Don't Break My Heart' - proximity sensing visual warning system prototype for vehicles behind cyclists

For those interested, here’s my write up of my weekend at Hondahack

Held at the Guardian offices in November 2011 and brought together by the fabulous Rewired State people, Hondahack was a different kind of hack day than any I’d attended before as it was totally sponsored by Honda as part of their ‘Dream Factory’ which includes a group of people they’ve brought together and deemed ‘cultural engineers’ – quoting from the page in the Graunaid it describes them as “people who embody the Honda philosophy of pushing forward and venturing into the unknown”.

Welcome

One had to apply for a place at the hack weekend and twenty-three were selected, of which three were women, which is typical of hack days – more often than not because not very many women apply to attend these events.

The article in the Guardian about the event describes the attendees as ‘developers’, and as it was wrapped up in future publicity for Honda there was a camera crew who created a set of fancy videos capturing much posing of the Honda ‘cultural engineers’ around the Guardian offices and also contained sound bites from the attendees, which you can watch here.

Introductions

On the first morning we introduced ourselves and were shown some Honda motivational videos, we were then encouraged to openly brainstorm ideas and form teams. We then went and looked at the new Honda Civic car in the Graunaid car park, this took us up to lunchtime and after it was time to get hacking. Oh yes, we were given these values assigned to the new car to consider as a brief / guide for our hacks…

“If we never venture into the unknown, how do we get anywhere new?”

*and*

  • Quality: unparalleled reliability: ‘A class above’
  • Technology: intelligent, useful, innovative, ‘as standard’, economical clean
    Design: sporty + versatile, intuitive, personality, stand-out, confident, aerodynamic
  • Evolution: quiet + comfortable, refinement, honing of everything

My hack was a hardware hack, which is strangely still pretty much an anomaly at hack days, so I didn’t really expect it to win anything, plus many of the other attendees were creating vehicle / cyclist warning apps. Anyway, my hack was a prototype for a wearable distance warning system for cyclists to wear on their back that was Velcro on-and-offable. It used a traffic light LED system to indicate to traffic traveling behind of their proximity.

Sewing my Hondahack components together to make Don't Break My Heart

Here’s my description that I wrote on the day… http://hacks.rewiredstate.org/events/power-of-minds/don-t-break-my-heart

“London can be a daunting and scary place for a cyclist. Here in Kings Cross we have seen many cyclists hurt or killed on the roads, in London and all over the UK visibility for cyclists is an issue. My hack for Hondahack is a piece of wearable technology using LilyPad Arduino, RGB LED, proximity sensor, conductive thread and fabrics to create an easily velcro-ed on and off and highly visable alert for traffic traveling behind cyclists. A pulsating RGB LED heart is triggered by a proximity sensor if something is travelling close behind it. A green calm pulsating heart indicates a safe distance is maintained, an amber faster heart indicates that caution should be observed and a red rapidly pulsating heart indicates to the driver that they need to back off and give the cyclist some space.”

I created my hack in less than 12 hours and as I didn’t have the relevant components at Hondahack, I had to go home and get them. So I breadboarded / crocodile clipped a prototype, wrote some code and was up and soldering at 7.30am on Sunday before I went back to the Graunaid where I spent all day furiously sewing my e-textiles, wearable hack together with conductive thread before the presentations at 3pm. I wouldn’t have stopped and eaten all day if it hadn’t been for Emma Mulqueeny, who very kindly made me a tasty vegan risotto and reminded me to eat it – which I wolfed down when it was placed in front of me.

Presenting my Hondahack: Don't Break My Heart

My hack called ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ didn’t win any prizes, but it was nice to get an honourable mention from one of the judges in the summing up. All the winners and hacks are here on this handy page – far easier to browse than me writing them all out for you.

Sewing my Hondahack components together to make Don't Break My Heart

A few weeks after Hondahack I was really pleased to hear that Honda decided they were not going to keep the IP for all the hacks (which at first seemed to be the case).