Wearable Art/Tech from Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson

While searching the web looking for examples of projects people have made with the Arduino Lilypad (more info, purchase + accessories) I ended up running across the work of Mika Satomi (video) and Hannah Perner-Wilson on the Puppeteer Motion-Capture Costume project.

The idea behind Puppeteer is to create accessible wearable technology solutions for motion-capture, aiming to create as much of the technology from scratch, collecting and sharing this knowledge through DIY instructions. The name Puppeteer comes from the concept of being able to puppeteer or control. In this case, the motion of the body wearing the costume controls whatever data is relevant to the performance or project.
The fabrication of the suit is a handmade procedure, which is not intended for mass-production, but rather for small projects lead by individuals with enthusiasm for making things themselves, sewing, gluing, soldering, programming and bug fixing.

They went on to create “A series of performances that use customized editions of the Puppeteer motion-capture suit to communicate concepts concerning the use of motion, gesture and the spoken word as forms of communication.” called The Language Game.

In the first edition of The Language Game, Mika and Hannah teamed up with Brooklyn’s LEMUR (League of Electronic Musical Robots). The costume was used to allow a dancer to control Lemur’s musical robots using her motion.

The previous videos can also be found on the Language Game YouTube playlist, or download high quality version of edited performance video (57MB)

You can learn all about the project, and how you can think about creating your own puppeteer costume at the Instructables project page.

Much of the project revolves around the construction of bend sensors. Hannah’s current preferred method involves creating a bend sensor using conductive wire, and the method for constructing such a sensor is detailed in another Instructables project.

Mika and Hannah also suggest potential further experimentation involving carbon paint and conductive textiles and rubber.

Once you have a set of sensors for your puppeteer suit, you need a way to connect them to a microprocessor. This is accomplished using washable “soft circuits“. The design of the soft circuits is much of the work that goes into this project. To make the connections, they like to use large strips of conductive fabric along with flexible/stretchable fabric glue, an approach which keeps the fabric stretchy and conductive. In later versions of the costume, they started to make the circuits removable using snaps.

The hard circuit is the part of the costume that is not machine-washable (the power supply, the microprocessor, the wireless module, and various other components). These components are kept in a little removable backpack that will not require washing as a result of normal use.

Wireless communication makes it possible for the costume to communicate with computers in the room, XBee wireless modules were used (purchase).

Another fascinating project from this pair is called “Massage Me“.

Playing Massage me requires two people, one who wears the jacket to receive the massage and one who massages the person wearing the jacket. Soft flexible buttons are embedded in back of the jacket so that wearing it turns your back into a gamepad. All you need to do is to sit or lay down in front of a video game player and you will be able to enjoy a back massage while the game lasts.

Otherwise wasted button-pushing energy is transformed into a massage and the addicted game player becomes an inexhaustible masseur.

The soft flexible buttons are made from layers of conductive fabric and are embedded in the back of the jacket. These buttons register the massage moves and interpret them before passing them on to the console as control signals. This means that Massage me works with existing games, and the best massages come from playing games that require the player to press a lot of buttons and combinations.

Although Massage me currently works with a hacked a Playstation Controller, we believe it wouldn’t be hard to convert it to other consoles by hacking their controllers.

Other interesting projects from Mika and Hannah include a recipe table, a couple of wearable pianos, and electronic textile workshops.

Can’t wait to see what else they come up with!

Published on Dec 29, 2008 at 12:20 pm.
Filled under: Art, Electronics, Fashion, Sewing, Wearable Tags:, , , , , , , , , , | No Comments

fashion + technology

While searching for example uses of shape memory alloy (AKA muscle wire) I ran across the blog of MIT Tangible Media Group PhD Candidate Leonardo Bonnani, “hyperexperience“.

He has a great post, “robo-fabric“:

the shape memory alloy nitinol has the ability to spring back to its original forged shape when heated, allowing soft actuation without motors. italian fashion designers grado zero made a shirt that rolled up its own sleeves when the wire (and the wearer) overheat (above). later joanna berzowska and marcelo coelho made kukkia and vilkas, two garments where the thin metal wires are woven into clothing for different kinetic effects. in kukkia, ornamental felt flowers containing a coil of nitinol wire open and close through a tiny circuit and lithium battery. vilkas, like the shirt, raises and lowers the hem through vertical strands of wire in a gauze section of dress.

He also has several posts on the subject of “open source threads”. Here he introduces Burdastyle:

Burdastyle is an open-source sewing resource where members upload patterns and visitors can consult instructional references (below) or download pdf patterns (above). By providing instructions for how to sew at the same time as open source ‘code’ for what to sew the site is a real open source free fashion resource. As with free software, it would be interesting to see how clothing for specialized applications (work clothes, uniforms) could be generated by ‘users’ who are more familiar with the needs of unique populations that traditional ‘designers.’

Burdastyle has this to say for themselves:

We are a friendly, helpful and active bunch who want to use the web to bring traditional sewing craft to a new generation of fashion designers, sewing hobbyists, DIY’ers and anyone looking to sew something.

Use BurdaStyle to download copyright-free sewing patterns, learn with step-by-step sewing tutorials, share your sewing creations and skills, find inspiration and sewing project ideas and connect with people just like you.

Leo also led me to Hacking Couture, which is a series of workshops that have resulted in the beginnings of a collection of open source couture codes. By documenting the “hidden” structure that gives a couture brand its identity, they release the form into the public domain.

From the codes page:

Hacking Couture focuses on the documentation of established fashion identities in order to create a shared library that allows democratic access to its findings and contributions. The open source movement took its peak during the 1990’s and ever since, the software revolution has allowed for the exploration resulting on endless advancement in diverse fields, giving an improvement of the industry.

This advancement has been the result of opening the dialogue among computer programmers and by allowing public access and contribution, by the sharing of existing computer code and allowing its use for other applications. In addition to the sharing aspect, documention of these computer code is an importnat part of the open source cullture. More recently, the open source movement has been applied to hardware [physical aspect of computers, the circuit and all the other physical components that make a computer]. People have started to document how they hack into electronic devices [brake into a system and modify it in order for it to execute the desired task].

Hacking Couture’s ongoing research and documentation focuses on the documentation of the design code of established identities in order to derive new and evolving fashion aesthetics, serving also as a platform for
self-expression and nest for new ideas.

Once the code has been documented Hacking Couture publishes an example of a design hack based on the identity studied, in order to share and enhance the fashion dialogue between remote users, and participants of the Hacking Couture workshops.

And last but not least I learned about Studio 5050, who say:

In the summer of 2006 Despina built a modular, reconfigurable dress made of 400 identical white circuit boards. The idea was to experiment with modular structures and be able to assemble and re-assemble circuits to come up with new iterations of garments and accessories.

That work eventually led to the modules collection as it stands today. Despina started working with Zach on the collection in March 2007 as part of an ongoing experimentation with materials, rapid prototyping and concept iteration.

So far we have developed a collection of 5 modules and a flexible, removable and rechargeable battery system. We have also developed a series of garments both in order to demonstrate how the modules can be used but also in order to learn from the process and find ways to improve them. We strongly believe that it is in the doing, and in the space between engineering, interaction design and the history of clothing that the most interesting ideas emerge.

So far we have developed modules for sound input and output, LEDs, and temperature sensing and display.

We have also designed a unique, rechargeable battery system that is easy to remove and reattach to garments or in other applications where washability is important.

All modules share a common interface; with one wire each for power, ground, and communication, they can be easily connected to one another or to an Arduino-based circuit. Multiple modules can communicate with each other over a single ommunication line. Each module has a unique ID, and the infrastructure is already in place to allow them to communicate with eah other.

All modules offer connection points that accomodate a conductive ribbon or thread. Wires, conductive velcro, metal rings, or snaps can also be used to wire the modules into a circuit.

Each module features a programming header; new programs can be loaded with an inexpensive AVR programmer or by a custom made programmer. Programs can be written in Arduino (version 010 or later).

More about Studio 5050’s modules here.

While on the subject of modular wearable electronics, I should mention the LilyPad Arduino. I would not be surprised to discover that LilyPad and Studio 5050 modules could be used together. LilyPad modules are sold by Sparkfun.

Published on Dec 25, 2008 at 12:32 pm.
Filled under: Art, Electronics, Fashion, Sewing Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments