For my final project this semester, I pursued wearable technology. For the functionality of the artifact I was first inspired by a collaboration with Levis and Google. Together, they designed a jacket for bicycle commuters that utilized conductive thread to recognize hand gestures. This meant you could control basic aspects of your phone just by touching your jacket.
Another interesting example of wearable technology is the company The Unseen. They developed apparel and accessories that changed colors based on environmental factors. In the following example, a bag changes color based on heat (hand prints).
Both of the above examples are very interactive, which I wanted to replicate in my artifact. As for the aesthetics, I was inspired by the Instagram user interface. Therefore, I implemented a flat design aesthetic in my artifact. Flat design is common in graphic design and characterized by minimalism, color gradients, and borderlines [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_design]. The Instagram logo in particular is a great example of this aesthetic.
I initially set out to create apparel that encouraged interaction. Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to change scope to apparel that discouraged interaction (for the time being). While the goal is completely different, the engineering in many ways is the same, as well as the specifications. I originally intended to use the psychology of social media to encourage people to high-five and shake hands. This would be done through the use of bright colors and dynamic graphics.
The same principles however, can be utilized to discourage behavior. This can be done through the use of harsh colors like red and startling patters such as fast blinking. Therefore, I developed the following functional and aesthetic specifications for my artifact.
I initially aimed to utilize a white t-shirt as my base to better mimic the Instagram user interface.
Yet, I realized that this didn’t provide ample contrast to the brightness of the light. I therefore transitioned to a black t-shirt as my base.
I also needed a place to hold the electronics. I felt this would be best placed on a glove. The glove would need to hold a microcontroller and a capacitive touch sensor. In the image below, the microcontroller is in blue and the capacitive touch sensor is in green.
This allows for easy connection to the addressable LEDs on the sleeve as well as easy connection to the capacitive touch sensor.
The most heavily engineered component of this project is the capactive touch sensor. The following schematic demonstrates their function.
Furthermore, the LEDs I utilized operate in the following way.
While the data processing and programming may normally be complicated, it is made simple with the capacitiveSensor and neopixel library. The capacitive sensor library is able to measure changes in the RC circuit caused by human skin (increased capacitance). Even a thin layer of fabric minimized the impact of this RC circuit. The addressable LEDs only require 3 pins (power, ground, and data). The data pin can power each LED in the strip individually.
The final artifact was made by wrapping the addressable LEDs in a thin fabric then sewing the fabric to a long sleeve t-shirt.
Aside from the LEDs, all the electronics are attached to glove using Velcro that has been sewed onto the glove.
Putting it all together, the following video demonstrates the functionality of my final project. As can be seen, a startling red blinking light is activated when a touch is sensed.
Another interesting application of the shirt is long exposure photography. Here are two examples of pictures taken wearing the shirt.