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