Tag Archives: sewable circuits

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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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!

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.