Tag Archives: sensors

Fluid Fashion with Lucy McRae

16 Dec

In her new video, Indestructible, Robyn wears a dynamic tube outfit, filled with moving, multi-color liquid.  It’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch and really gives off the impression that it’s an actual living, almost sentient piece of clothing.  In the following video, Lucy McRae, the artist behind the outfit, describes her inspiration behind the tubes and how she orchestrated this complex piece of fluid fashion.

Lucy discussed how she very much wanted to make a dynamic, steam and water powered construction.  For her first prototype, she wrapped a friend in tubing – putting one end of the tube in a water-filled bucket and the other end in her friend’s mouth.  Lucy’s friend powered the outfit by sucking and blowing on the tube.

For Robyn’s video, this process was automated using two pumps, the “beast” and the “baby”.  The beast powered over 1 km of tubing and sourced liquid from six separate buckets of water – all in different colors.  These larger, garden hose-size tubes connected to smaller tube’s on Robyn’s body.  The result was a non-traditional textile with a remarkably ambiently alive property.

In my 3-D design course (which classmates Ali McKenna and Taili Feng are also in), Taili and her partner, Nuha, created a sculpture using similar materials.  They decided to explore the concept of the circulatory system, and in particular, how it delineates an organism’s form, even in the absence of structural materials like bones.  Wrapped around a chicken wire shape, Taili and Nuha pumped green and purple liquid from buckets contained in the sculpture to the various tubes outlining the shape.

Lucy McRae has worked on many other projects – she even served as an advisor for Philip’s Bubelle dress!  This dress, which changes according to the wearer’s emotions, was a huge inspiration for Bubble Pop Electric (it even looks a bit like a bubble, no?).  It’s very exciting to see more work from one of the artists that worked on this project.

Lucy other creations can be seen on her website. Check them out!

Horizontal and Feasibility Prototype

13 Nov

Bubble Pop Electric has officially moved paper-prototyping stage to real-life prototyping!  We’ve completed our first partially functional prototype as of last night and are pleased with the results!

Because music is the focus of our bubble outfit, we decided to focus on creating at least one working music bubble. We wanted the bubble to function as a potentiometer that would control the volume of a certain sound clip.  We also wanted the bubble to contain an LED that would indicate the volume level by its brightness.  Lastly, we wanted to make sure that we could sew our bubble to a piece of fabric, just like we will in our final, wearable version.

I had already constructed a Bluetooth-enabled circuit for my thesis project, so we already had a handy foundation to send our sensor data wirelessly.  I first connected a potentiometer and an LED to my initial circuit and programmed the LogoChip to send a 1-10 value corresponding to the pot’s resistance.  A Python program connected my computer to the Bluetooth chip, received the potentiometer data, and set the volume of a music clip.  In order to constantly manage incoming data while playing music, I had to use a separate thread to control music playing and another to receive the data and call a setVolume function.  We were successfully able to control the volume of of our first sound clip, so we moved on to construction of the bubbles!

We wanted our bubbles to look like actual soap bubbles, so we shopped around until we found a few possibilities.  At the craft store, we picked up a few DIY plastic Christmas ornaments.  One type was a complete sphere and was made of plain, clear plastic, while the other was two hemispheres that could be snapped together and had an opalescent sheen.  We also grabbed some pearl spray paint just in case we needed to amp up the pearly look.

After painting the round bubbles, we weren’t completely satisfied with their look.  Sure, they looked pearly and pretty, but they looked matte and didn’t quite have the oily sheen of a soap bubble.  We also thought a complete sphere might be more awkward to attach to our bubble suit.  For the time being, we decided to work with the hemisphere bubbles.  These already had the bubbly look we wanted, but they still weren’t perfect.  Because they were still almost clear, they didn’t diffuse our LED enough to produce a soft light.  Instead, our bubble looked like it had a blue laser pointing out of the middle.  What to do?!

Grabbing our trusty pearl spray paint, we painted the inside of our hemisphere bubble.  This seemed to diffuse the LED light quite a bit, but also made our bubble look more like a pearl.  We tried shoving the LED in a circular piece of Styrofoam – this preserved the clearness of our bubble, but made the edges of the bubble look a lot messier.  Painting the inside seemed like the best option for the time being.  We laser cut a plastic base to fit around a potentiometer (and to allow an LED to fit through), soldered some wires onto our leads, and attached the bubble and base with hot glue.  Voila!  A finished music bubble.


Check it out!  The bubble glows in the daaaaark!

We were happy that we got one of our bubbles to control the volume of music, but we weren’t completely satisfied.  What about modifying the music in more complex ways?  We originally planned to have a “whammy bar” effect that could be deployed by stretching to the right or left.  For this prototype, we wondered if we could give a hint of distortion with a slider sensor.  In the PyMedia library that we were using to control the music, we were able to set the initial play rate of our song – we could either speed the song up or slow the song down.  We couldn’t, however, randomly set the rate while the song was playing.  Thinking I could simply add a setter function, I looked inside the PyMedia library.  To my disappointment, PyMedia happens to be written in C++.  I was able to work around the fact I didn’t have a setter method by re-initializing the song each time the rate changed.  It seemed to work fairly well for our purposes.

Now that we were working with 2 sensor values, we likewise had to transmit 2 sensor values.  I had a lot of trouble getting this to work.  Although I programmed the LogoChip to send the data sequentially (the slider data right after the pot data), it seemed to send multiple values of one sensor before the other.  I hackily fixed this by offsetting one sensor value by 20 – that way, I would be able to tell if I was working with the pot’s sensor value or the slider’s sensor value.  This finally did the trick!

While I was working on the bubble’s programming, Ali and Lorraine were constructing our suit.  We traced Ali’s body to get a rough swimsuit-like pattern – then she cut silver satin in that exact shape and stitched it together with Liquid Stitch.  Ali and Lorraine then sewed our bubble onto a felt backing and our satin.  They also constructed a lovely bubble headband accessory!


After this prototype, we plan to use a Lilypad Arduino instead of a LogoChip.  Using the Lilypad will make our design a lot more stylish – instead of attaching a bulky breadboard to our suit, we’ll have a microcontroller made for sewing on fabric.  The Lilypad will also have a lot more flexibility in terms of data – the LogoChip runs a virtual machine and is generally less powerful because of it (though it’s super easy to program).  In the next week or so, we’ll be working on adding two more bubbles to our suit, creating an LED display, and finding a real dance leotard to use!

Lights to music

11 Oct

Woohooo!  So at our last meeting, BPE made a few changes to our costume design.  One major change is the function of the hat.  Since we’re already storing bubbles elsewhere on the body, it seemed redundant to have a special bubble hat to hold bubbles in.  Truthfully, I just wanted to work in some kind of headpiece.  We’ve now decided to transform the hat into a “crowd enthusiasm” detector.  We’d have a sound sensor somewhere in the audience.  When the crowd gets louder, the hat will light up a new ring of LEDs.  The hat would have a spectrum of colors (kind of like the terror alert level, but not as freaky), so when the crowd’s at excitement level 0, only a blue ring of light would illuminate, etc., until all rings of LEDs are lit up.  When the crowd reaches its max excitement level, the rings of light could all flash.  I really wanted the “max excitement level” to trigger a bubble blower, but not sure if the team members are up on that.

Another LED-actuator we’ve been thinking about is associating the “intensity” of different music bubbles with the light intensity of their LED.  The user could place active bubbles on their sash, twist the bubble to turn up or turn down it’s intensity…then the LED inside of the bubble would automatically change brightness according to the level.  This could be done with a potentiometer or something…

Here’s an example of LEDs flashing to music.  These LEDs are wired directly to speakers with speaker wire.  Check it out, dance party!

Soft Rock

8 Oct

Part of Bubble Pop Electric’s goal is to create an organic, “soft” way to create music.  Although we are using tokens to mix and max music samples, we are also using our musical outfit to control music via body movement.  Whether the user is stomping with their shoes or changing the intensity of a musical element by stretching a Lycra suit, we’re providing a way for the user to control music intuitively.

The Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab has been exploring “soft” musical creation for some time now.  Their Toy Symphony project from ~2002 focuses on allowing children to make their own sounds using non-traditional instruments.

Here’s an example of a “shaper”, an instrument children can squeeze and manipulate with their hands to manipulate music.  This particular type of shaper is an “embroidered musical ball”.    In this case,  music can be generated by squishing a pillow-like object.  Eight pressure sensors made from conductive thread are embroidered onto the ball.  The conductive sensor data is processed by a microcontroller and sent to a computer where music is produced by generating midi tones.  This musical ball is a nice example of an instrument that doesn’t use slider sensors, buttons, or other hard, bulky sensors.  All sensors can be used at once, without a second thought.

More on embroidered musical balls can be found here: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~gilwein/images/ballchifinal.pdf

Bubble Pop Electric

30 Sep

Bubble Pop Electric is Ali J. McKenna, Lorraine Shim, and Alex Olivier.  Bubble Pop Electric is a bubble-covered electronic pop mixing station.  Bubble Pop Electric is the future of performance.  (And yes, Bubble Pop Electric is a Gwen Stefani song, please don’t sue us, Gwen).

Bubble Pop Electric combines musical performance, lighting design, and fashion into one wearable, portable package.  Instead of delegating aspects of an artist’s performance to costume designers, light and sound technicians, and the editing studio, Bubble Pop Electric returns all control to the artist.

Using bubble tokens stored in a beautiful headpiece, the artist can decorate her outfit and mix music.  As each token is attached to her bodysuit, it lights up and is automatically assigned a selection of sound clips that the artist can choose to play.  At this point, we are still considering different options for how to play each clip.  The artist may tap the bubble to play part of a clip, or the bubble may cause the clip to continuously play while it is connected.  In order to differentiate the musical bubbles from the decorative ones, each type of bubble will have a separate color of LED.

Bubble Pop Electric will use conductive strips of a Lycra-like fabric to transform the artist’s body into a variable resistor.  As the artist moves and dances to her musical creation, the conductive pseudo-Lycra will subtly modify portions of her music, and potentially the lights in her bubbles.

Here’s a picture of a silver conductive stretch fabric from http://www.lessemf.com:

The last portion of our project is a pair of drum shoes.  As the artist walks on the stage, she can walk, stomp her feet, or dance, causing vibration sensors in her shoes to produce percussion sounds.  We hope that by dancing to the beats she is playing, the artist can create a sense of unity between the various sound clips in the bubbles.

Concerns:

Keeping in mind that this is just a conceptual design, we want to address the following potential issues:

1) Not overwhelming the user with an excess of options.  Interaction should feel natural, yet expressive.

2) How can we allow the artist to play different sound clips without producing a cacophony of horrible music?

3) What other controls can we add to the suit?  How will we control how the bubble’s music is played?

4) What functionality can the hat serve besides a “holder”?

Technical Details:

We’d like to use a Bluetooth chip to send sensor information to a controller computer.  This computer will then send musical data back to Bluetooth speakers located in the outfit’s shoulderpads.  This will allow us to process and store musical data without taping a computer to our outfit.

Bubbles will be connected to the suit via conductive Velcro.  This will allow bubbles to turn on only when connected to the suit.  We’re thinking of embedding a magnet and using a magnetic sensor to detect when a bubble is present.  We’ll then use event-based programming to manage when songs are playing and not.

heavily take advantage of a user’s sense of naive physics (NP) – a user will be able to sense when a landscape structure is precarious or unstable rather than relying on a computer’s computation.  Much more intuitive than a CAD program, the user is able to mold, build up, and depress the material instinctively instead of searching through a library of complex extruding, sweeping, or filleting options.

Dance, Stretch, Distort

29 Sep

A potential inspiration for a stretchy bodysuit that controls music and lights?