Last Thoughts on Bubble Pop Electric

17 Dec

Bubble Pop Electric is done for the semester (at least for class!).  After prototyping our suit with a Picoboard, we made the decision to re-implement our design using a Lilypad Arduino and conductive thread.  This was a major decision (and risk) for our group, but in the end we felt it was the most appropriate course for our design.  Because we wanted to make a wearable musical suit, it seemed only natural that we use sewable hardware!

Below is an information flow diagram of our system.  Sensor data from potentiometers and force sensors (in the bubbles) is processed by the Lilypad Arduino.  The Arduino’s program then passes along the sensor data to our Python program via Bluetooth and lights up our LEDs appropriately.  The Python program processes the sensor data and sets our music channels to the correct volumes.

We use the Arduino programming environment to program our Lilypad, and Python to write our music processing code. We’re also using the Python module PyMedia, which allows us to play multiple wav files at once all while controlling the volume (and even rate) of the various sound channels.

Much progress has been made for Bubble Pop Electric, but there is still much more work to do!  Perhaps our biggest accomplishment has been completing our sewn circuit.  Our suit currently has a LilyPad arduino connected to 3 AAs batteries for power (which can be disconnected), one potentiometer, and our entire LED matrix.  We have successfully illuminated our matrix, though some LED connections need to be reinforced with more conductive thread.  We’ve also successfully viewed our potentiometer data via the Arduino’s serial window.

We still need to do several things in order to have a completely working prototype.  First of all, we need to make sure our LEDs and potentiometers are working exactly as intended.  Secondly, we need to sew in our Bluetooth chip, which must be unpluggable so that we can continue to reprogram our Lilypad when needed.  We have tested sending data via Bluetooth using a separate Lilypad and alligator clips, but we need to test the Bluetooth chip with our actual suit.  After we’re able to control music with one bubble, the other two bubbles will be sewn in.

After we’ve successfully tested and debugged our complete suit, we’d love to add a surface mount LED mask, inspired by Soomi Park’s LED false eyelashes.

Here is a video of our Arduino-controlled LEDs:

And here’s Ali wearing the suit for the first time:

Your personal blog should be updated with details about the design and implementation of your project. You should elaborate on your part in the design and implementation of your project. You are also encourage to reflect back on the ideas and concepts we discussed in this course.

Bubble Pop Electric was a very collaborative effort – Lorraine, Ali, and I all contributed unique backgrounds and ideas to our project’s design.  My love of sensors and actuators had some influence in our design, while Ali’s knowledge of user interaction made our suit easy-to-use.  Lorraine’s art and music background helped make BPE beautiful and provided a performer’s perspective.  Even though we all had our areas of expertise, we managed to synthesize our ideas into one cohesive creation!

Because I had the most experience with electronics, I did a lot of research and programming with our microcontrollers, as well as with our Bluetooth chip.  I implemented our initial design with the LogoChip – allowing it to communicate wirelessly with a Python program that used PyMedia to play sound clips.   After we made the decision to port our design to the Lilypad Arduino, I did research and experiments to learn how to program the new chip, as well as how to layout our circuit.  I read a lot of Leah Buechley’s documentation for using the Lilypad and for making wearable electronics.  This research taught us how to make sewable LED beads and gave a lot of advice on sewing circuits in general.  Because we wanted to sew so many LEDs onto our suit, I had to ensure that we would be able to supply enough current, leading us to use 3 AAA batteries as our power supply.  I also helped make the decision to create an LED matrix so that we could have more LEDs with fewer Arduino pins!

Overall, I had a great time working with Ali and Lorraine on our project.  I learned how to dream big, but simplify when needed.  I learned how to prototype and ask for outside feedback in order to find flaws that may not be obvious to me as a designer of our system.  I’m happy with how things turned out, and hope we can improve the suit even more!

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