Nov 102014
 
Smart Phin by Board Formula - via Wired.com

Smart Phin by Board Formula – via Wired.com

The best way to collect data in difficult locations is to use an adrenaline junkie to gather it for you. The Smart Phin can help surfers collect valuable data about the water they surf for researchers in order to understand more about our oceans.

Benjamin Thompson from Board Formula, the small company behind the Smart Phin, wants to involve surfers in collecting important data for scientific research. The Smart Phin attaches to any surfboard and comes with an smartphone app to upload data. Thompson eventually wants to start selling Smart Phins and has decided to keep the companion app open source, so developers can come up with their own apps that work with the fin.

Like the wearable technology health care researchers are currently adapting to monitor patients’ movements and vital signs, the Smart Phin acts as diagnostic technology, only for the ocean instead of the “wearer” (Quinn, 99). Much like more traditional wearable tech, the Smart Phin collects and measures information; Not only does it note the surfer’s location and time, the Smart Phin also logs the temperature, pH levels, and salinity of the ocean. The information is then uploaded via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, once the surfer hits dry land again. The more sensors in the water, the more points of data for scientists. Similar technology could also eventually be applied to wetsuits or diving equipment for information gathering at greater depths.

Crowdsourcing data collection via the Smart Phin could be a boon for marine scientists by helping to measure how climate change affects the world’s oceans.

Sources:

The Next Big Thing You Missed: Surfboard Collects Oceanic Data While You Ride Waves

Riding Massive Waves Could Fight Climate Change

Board Formula

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Oct 202014
 

By: Ashleigh Havens

In September 2013, Israeli start-up company OrCam released the OrCam visual system to help the 300-million visually impaired people in the world “see.” OrCam is a portable device that is similar to Google Glass, composed of a camera and a small computer about the size of the typical glasses case that uses augmented reality. The device attaches by magnet to users’ glasses. OrCam is able to recognize text, products and even familiar faces. At the push of a button or a point of your finger, OrCam recognizes objects, and will read you information through the bone conducting earpiece. This device has a transducer that converts electric signals into mechanical vibrations which sends sound to the internal ear through the cranial bones. This makes the audio discrete so others do not realize you are receiving assistance. Through extended use, OrCam will recognize your personal objects such as credit cards, money notes, friends, favorite products, and more. Using this device helps the visually impaired to become more independent and relaxed about interacting with the world.

This product currently sells for $3,500. There is a possibility for reimbursement if it is covered by your vision insurance plan. Some vision insurance plans, usually premium plans will have limited funding for assistive devices. Most of the time this reimbursement is on a case by case basis. There are grants that you can apply for that you can use toward the cost of the OrCam device.

As with many new technological advances, this device has some faults. First of all, it is only available in the United States and the only language it supports is English. As this product advances the company hopes to make it capable of translating language and available to a wider audience. The OrCam does not recognize handwritten text.

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykDDxWbt5Nw&feature=youtu.be

www.orcam.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CyW04lSd4Y

Apr 222014
 

My project concept was to create a device that would allow people suffering an anxiety attack to alert people around them of their impending attack.  The device checks a wearer’s pulse and alerts those around the person when the pulse increases.  I know this sounds oddly familiar.  If you’ve ever been on a treadmill you know that there are heart rate monitors that will do this for people working out.  My device isn’t much different than a heart rate device.  The difference is the intent of the device.  My device is meant to address issues in the mental health arena.  I’ve lived with people who had anxiety attacks and there is no way to know the person is suffering unless they tell you.  The idea behind my device is to give the person wearing it and the people around them to understand what is happening.

When I started this project I had anxiety.  I am not adept at sewing or coding.  The first thing I had to decide was what I was going to create the device on.  I decided a cuff or bracelet would work, but I decided to use a sleeve.  You can buy sleeves at REI.  I owned workout sleeves.  They are exactly as they sound they are sleeves without shirts.  They fit by using elastic on the openings to grip the skin of the wearer.  The sleeves cost roughly $25.

Once I got the sleeves it was time for me to layout how I wanted the LilyPad and LED lights would be set.  I bought the Sparkfun stickers.  I laid them on my sleeve to configure everything.

LilyPad stickers laid out on a black sleeve

LilyPad sticker with LED lights planned out

I originally bought gum drop looking LED lights, but they didn’t work for what I was doing.  I did want the person wearing the device to alert those around them that they were having a panic attack, but I didn’t want the sleeve to alert everyone in the room.  The gum drop LED lights were to obvious for my project.  I chose to use the LED lights that came with the Protosnap and the one extra LED light that comes with the LilyPad.

 

Once I configured my components I was ready to paste my parts down on the sleeve.  I used fabric glue to paste the LilyPad and lights down.  I left them on their for a day before I started working again.  I am not a good or confident seamstress.  I realized I needed to sew a ton of components and was looking to create a project that would have very little sewing.  So I hopped in my trusty car and drove to my local Radio Shack.  The very nice man showed me two different Electrically Conductive Paint pens.  I chose the Bare Paint pen http://www.bareconductive.com/

Bare paint conductive pen in case

Bare paint I used to “sew” my components together

Electric Paint Pen with Conductive Ink is a pen applicator full of conductive paint.You can paint on all different surfaces to create a circuit, although you shouldn’t try it on your skin.  The pen ink will conduct electricity. I also bought because once I painted my original circuit I could paint over the original paint to blend into surfaces or add other elements to the circuit.  This pen saved me so much sewing time, although I am grateful for it I don’t think it was the right thing for me.  At the time of this writing I haven’t hooked up my pulse sensor.  Prior to hooking up the sensor I had to pain my circuit.  The first time I did it I made the lines too thin and they broke off immediately.  The second time I used the pen I put my hand in the sleeve and the lines broke again.  I tried to keep the sleeve on my arm and draw the lines, but once again the lines broke.  Finally, I decided that since my sleeve is a prototype I wasn’t going to put my hand in it and I laid down thick lines between the LilyPad and the LED lights.

In class today my paint snapped so I have to start over.  Also, I figured out that my pulse sensor is made as a plug and play for the Arduino UNO – yikes!  Needless to say today was a setback.  I removed all the paint from the sleeve and my instructor, Kim Knight, gave me wire glue to use.  I think it functions the same as the paint, but it may be more durable on bendable fabrics.  I plan to connect my Red, Purple and Black wire tonight and let them dry overnight.

I let the paint dry overnight and I couldn’t get any of my LEDs to light so I set everything together with Alligator clips.  Now, the LEDs work, the pulse sensor lights up now I just need to get the code right and I will be on my way.  This thing will not be beautiful, but I hope it works.

I finally got the code to work… and guess what?  It worked!  AHHHHHHHHH!  There goes my anxiety, but now if I ever need to check it, I have a my own homemade device 🙂

Image of a sleeve with alligator clips attached tio LilyPad and LEDs and pule sensor

Alligator clips attach my project together

Feb 262014
 

Tech in Motion hosted a fashion show for wearable tech this past week. There were ten companies that presented clothing and accessories as a part of the company’s Social Media Week. Included in the show were a knitted brains sensor that would lights up in different colors depending on your brain activity, an umbrella which lights up with a variety of colors and also in the accessories category geometric 3D printed nails by the New York City based group TheLaserGirls.  The show also included 3D-printed shoes and nail art, as well as coffee-infused fabrics that can absorb odors to keep you smelling fresh. The idea behind the show was that wearable tech is now available for the average consumer.  I count myself as an average consumer and at this point none of the fashions they showed wowed me to the point of wanting to buy, but I’m excited to see what else is out there.

nails umbrella sensor

Feb 102014
 

http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/sep/13/rise-wearable-technology-infographic#zoomed-picture

This hypertext nugget is trying to school you who have no idea about wearable media, present company included.  So I thought I would help break down the graphic for you.

First, Wearable Tech, the graphic gives a solid definition of wearable tech, but let’s throw an example out there like the Nike fuelband. The Fuelband tracks numerous things going on in your life such as how many steps you take, how many calories you expended and when to call your mother – I am totally joking about the last part, but I bet with a little coding they could do it.

According to article about wearable media, The Rise of Wearable Media, more than 8 million Brits wear some form of wearable tech.  Apparently, the more media we wear, not consume mind you, the more intelligent we feel we are.  If I am looking down on you with a pair of Google glasses you are in for it – it’s smarty pants time.  Since I have the glasses on you’ve automatically lost. Game over.

This article and chart cover so many wearable fashions such as: 3D printed shows, Apple iWatch, Intamacy 2.0 Dress (you look that one up yourself) and numerous other devices.

My concern is not that we’re all wearing body enhancement devices, but what are they saying about us as consumers.  Do I need a twitter dress that shows users’ tweets?  Maybe?  Are we building art?

But in my lowly life as a graduate student I KNOW I want the Anti-Paparazzi Clutch Bag.  It reflects light from camera flashes to obscure users from paparazzi.  I want to obscure the fact that  I’m Sasquatch since I come out of my house every few months and I’m blind people by my lack of tan.

Here’s the so what.  As the wearable technology fashion starts to gain in popularity it is time for us to look at what good this technology will do.  Can we use the Fuelband to help track people with diabetes (if they choose) to make sure they are taking in the right amount of glucose and producing the right amount of insulin.

Can we use Google Glass for the soldiers and SWAT members who’s job it is to take apart bombs.  These glasses would give the soldiers a chance to give real time pictures to support tactical units to help out.

Or what if the twitter dress existed for the Arab Spring.  One person could protest by sending out messages to people all over the world wearing a twitter dress or pants or scarf.

And the paparazzi clutch?  Well, use it as a paparazzi clutch.

Purse that flashes a bright light that interferes with anyone trying to take a picture of the person with the clutch

Purse that flashes a bright light

Woman wearing a hood and Google Glass

Woman wearing a hood and Google Glass

Young woman wearing a dress that receives tweets

Young woman wearing a dress that receives tweets

Nike Fuelband

Nike Fuelband

Dec 192013
 

jacketThroughout my first semester as an EMAC major, the topic of “value judgments” has somehow managed to come up in discussion at least once (often multiple times) within every course that I’ve enrolled in. A value judgment, in the context that I am referring, can be defined as “an estimate, usually subjective, of the worth, quality, goodness, evil, etc., of something or someone..” In other words, it is placing judgment upon something (or someone) that you really don’t know anything about, without regard for the point of view of others. This topic is one that I’ve always felt strongly about, and I’ve learned through multiple discussions at UTD that many other students feel the same way. But somehow, regardless of the fact that no one seems to agree with placing value judgments upon one another, people continue to do it anyway.  It is almost as if it is an instinctual reaction.

So I decided to make a wearable media project that could somehow demonstrate how wrong these value judgments can be. The topic that I chose for these value judgments is music. Music is something that almost everyone can relate to on some level. Age, race, gender, culture, or geographic location does not affect whether or not someone listens to music or not. I personally have never met anyone in my lifetime that did not enjoy some form of music. My 82 year old Czechoslovakian grandmother sure does love her polka albums! But she also won’t hesitate to tell me that the music I listen to is just worthless noise. Value judgment alert!

Music stirs our emotions. That’s why we listen to it. But we’re all individuals who have led different lives and had different experiences. So it only makes sense that it will take different types of music to stir each unique individual’s emotions.  This sounds simple and logical enough when you read it, right? But I’d be willing to bet that it wouldn’t take you more than a few moments to recall a time when someone you know (or maybe even you) has placed judgment on the music that someone else listens to, because it just sounds like “noise”, and for whatever reason, some people automatically deem anything that they do not like as worthless, without regard for the fact that it could be worth so much more to someone else.

You can read more about music and emotion here: http://www.psychologyofmusic.co.uk/mechanisms.html

So I’ve designed a jacket that visually displays the emotional value of music that is played in its vicinity. Deciding exactly how to gauge this value was difficult. My lack of medical training prevents me from plugging anything into the wearer’s brain for a completely accurate reading. And my financial restrictions kept me from being able to implement something simpler, like a heart monitor, to read emotional response. So I was limited to only implementing a microphone to “hear” the music, and I depended on information gathered by others  about how the rhythm or beats of music affect the brain and how brain activity increases when musical stimuli becomes more intense (or loud). I then used symbolism to visually link these rhythmic brain responses to emotion with a sequence of electroluminescent wires that light up with the rhythm and intensity of music the microphone hears. This method worked well for me. I’m a writer, and somewhat of a literature buff, so I think the whole world revolves around symbolism anyway.

Inverter

EL Secquencer

The most difficult challenge for me during construction was the interference from the inverter to the microphone. Electroluminescent wire only responds to an alternating current. But the microcontroller, an EL Sequencer, runs on a direct current. This requires a DC to AC inverter to provide power to the EL wires. This type of inverter generates a high pitched squealing noise. It is barely audible to the ear, but the microphone seemed to always pick it up. I even tried moving the inverter as far away from the mic as possible, but the amount of interference didn’t seem to change at all. So I believe that the interference is actually coming through the wiring in the circuit. I tried using different types of wire, as well, but this also did not help.

My last resort was to set a threshold in my code that told the EL wire not to light up unless it picks up sounds louder than the interference. This led to another problem, because the level of interference is spikey and irregular, and seems to be slightly different each time the inverter is turned on. If I set the threshold too high, the microphone and EL wires aren’t responsive enough to music. But if I set it too low, they seem to randomly respond and flicker for no reason. So I have to find the “sweet spot” to set the threshold to. And that sweet spot is likely to change the next time I turn the inverter on. So I end up having to change up my code a little bit with each use. After days upon days of troubleshooting, I never could find a way around that. I did, however, find a helpful fix for the minor spiking during use. I coded a counter that gathers several microphone readings per second, and the EL wires respond to the average output of those readings. This is helpful for averaging out the random interference spikes. (Credit: Harrison is the best TA ever!)

RainbowAs for the overall design of the jacket, I made several choices based on symbolism and aesthetics. I chose a rainbow (ROYGBV) sequence for the EL wires. Rainbow is typically associated with happiness, and while not all music is happy, it does emotionally fulfill us in some way, and that makes us happy. I wrapped the wires around the chest because the heart is the part of the body that we generally link our emotions to. I decided having the wires on the outside of the jacket was too harsh on the eyes and not very visually appealing. So instead I decided to place them on the inside of the jacket, and chose white as the jacket’s color so that the light could shine through more easily. This also gives the appearance of a diffused internal glow, instead of a harsh outer one, which I thought to be more fitting for a symbolic representation of emotion.

In conclusion, my project was ultimately a success. I’d definitely be much happier with it if it didn’t need to be reconfigured before each use. But it works, and as someone who had literally zero coding OR sewing experience before Fashioning Circuits, that’s all I could possibly hope for.

dark

Dec 192013
 

Pia Myrvold is a Techno-Fashion Designer who we’ve touched on a few times this semester, and I think creations similar to hers were the inspiration behind my most recent project. Something about fashion and high-tech devices is simply too interesting to resist! Quite soon I am convinced that we will see garments and accessories that can access WiFi, communicate via the internet, and even some with computing capacity. The future of fashion exists exactly as Pia has envisioned it and I simply couldn’t wait, so I built my own tech-fashion.

The idea I came up with was tied into a piece of wearable fashion, but also serves to experiment with a social anomaly.

As our society comes closer and closer to “absolute information awareness”, I’ve noticed that information security is becoming more and more important to our everyday lives. In the news, on the internet, literally everywhere around us people are trying to figure out what they can do to protect information that they see as personal. But what if we were forced to relinquish control over information? What if information was so readily accessible that someone passing you on the street could access it just by simply glancing in your direction?

VuMe – Digital Fashion Display

This is where VuMe comes in.

The project is an arduino based device, built into a wearable hat, that displays tweets for the world to read. Anyone can tweet information to be displayed on it, and when displayed ‘it’ will be on my head.

The only control I have is an ON/OFF switch. Kind of exciting if you ask me…

The details of the device’s design are quite deliberate too:

  • White LEDs on a jet-black hat accentuates the LEDs and ensures that the text being displayed is of central focus
  • LEDs also allow for visibility from far away
  • A hat was chosen specifically because it’s in a central line of sight
  • The fact that it’s a hat also lends to the idea that it cannot easily be viewed while it’s being worn (one must surrender to the thought that what is being displayed could be anything from inappropriate, to playful, or even offensive)

So far the project has turned out amazing, and I’m hoping to add a smartphone app to go along with the design sometime in the future. The physical construction process was probably my favorite, and I’ve been fortunate enough to take a few interesting pieces of knowledge away as well. the largest of these was, ‘don’t think that you’re immune to mistakes’. As I was doing most of my sewing with conductive thread, forums that I came across online mentioned that the thread tends to fray easily. This causes a problem, because if some of the thread frays and touches another electrical components, then short circuits can and will happen. My response was, “I’ll be fine. I’ll just take my time sewing and I’m sure nothing will touch and short out…” Boy was I wrong. Creating a 5 x 8 LAD display by hand is fun, but will most likely end in multiple short circuits. Just because you’re careful, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid it. But a neat trick to try: once you have the circuit properly in place, paint over the threaded parts, and the connectors in order to create a faux-seal. The paint drys, and acts as an insulator! (I used acrylic paint, please be careful to not use something flammable, or else your head might spontaneously burst into flames, consider yourself warned!).

If you’re interested in making something similar to this, check out http://weekendhobbyist.blogspot.com/2011/01/arduino-lilypad-5×8-led-jacket-design.html for an example design sketch.

Enjoy and keep fashioning!