MIT Media Lab and Microsoft have teamed up to take wearable devices one step further — they’ve glued the devices directly to the user’s skin. DuoSkin is a temporary tattoo created with gold leaf. Metallic “Flash” temporary fashion tattoos have become quite popular recently, so this builds on the trend. What the team has done is to use them to create user interfaces for wearable electronic devices.
Generally speaking, gold leaf is incredibly fragile. In this process to yield the cleanest looking leaf the gold is not actually cut. Instead, the temporary tattoo film and backer are cut on a standard desktop vinyl cutter. The gold leaf is then applied to the entire film surface. The cut film/leaf can then be “weeded” — removing the unwanted portions of film which were isolated from the rest by the cutting process — to complete the temporary tattoo. The team tested this method and found that traces 4.5 mm or more thick were resilient enough to last the entire day on your skin.
The gold leaf tattoos make excellent capacitive touch sensors. The team was able to create sliders, buttons, and even 2 dimensional diamond grids. These controls were used to move a cursor on a computer or phone screen. They were even able to create a wearable NFC tag. The gold leaf is the antenna, and the NFC chip itself is mounted on the temporary tattoo backer.
These devices all look great, but with the exception of the NFC chip, we’re not seeing the electronics driving them. Capacitive touch sensors used as a UI for a phone will have to have a Bluetooth radio and a battery somewhere. We’re that’s all hidden under the arm of the user. You can see what we’re taking about in the video after the break. That said, the tools and materials are ubiquitous and easy to work with. Take a quick read through the white paper (PDF) and you can be making your own version of this today.
Even in this age of wearable technology, the actual fabric in our t-shirts and clothes may still be the most high-tech product we wear. From the genetically engineered cotton seed, though an autonomous machine world, this product is manufactured in one of the world’s largest automation bubbles. Self-driving cotton pickers harvest and preprocess the cotton. More machines blend the raw material, comb it, twist and spin it into yarn, and finally, a weaving machine outputs sheets of spotless cotton jersey. The degree of automation could not be higher. Except for the laboratories, where seeds, cotton fibers, and yarns are tested to meet tight specifications, woven fabrics originate from a mostly human-free zone that is governed by technology and economics.
Building your own smartwatch is a fun challenge for the DIY hobbyist. You need to downsize your electronics, work with SMD components, etch your own PCBs and eventually squeeze it all into a cool enclosure. [Igor] has built his own ESP8266-based smartwatch, and even though he calls it a wrist display – we think the result totally sells as a smartwatch.
His design is based on a PCB for a wireless display notifier he designed earlier this year. The design uses the ESP-12E module and features an OLED display, LEDs, tactile switches and an FT232R USB/UART interface. Our beloved TP4056 charging regulator takes care of the Lithium-ion cell and a voltage divider lets the ESP8266’s ADC read back the battery voltage. [Igor] makes his own PCBs using the toner transfer method, and he’s getting impressive results from his hacked laminator.
Together with a hand-made plastic front, everything fits perfectly into the rubber enclosure from a Jelly Watch. A few bits of Lua later, the watch happily connects to a WiFi network and displays its IP configuration. Why wouldn’t this be a watch? Well, it lacks the mandatory RTC, although that’s easy to make up for by polling an NTP time server once in a while. How would our readers classify this well-done DIY build? Let us know in the comments!
While most of us stick to electronics around here, the few and the proud can also manage to stick to walls and ceilings. [Jen] is among these folk with the beginnings of a pair of magnetic boots that will easily keep her hoisted up in the iron rafters à la Dracula. And all this is just to get folks excited about STEAM education at her local science center.
To engineer this pair, [Jen] started by giving each boot just over 130 pounds of pull such that each boot could independently hold her weight. She then shaved down a few mils off the boot with the nearby Science Center’s CNC router. A few drilling operations later and [Jen] is ready to show the world how to collect those hard-to-reach rupees on the ceiling.
It’s one thing to dream about these shoes; it’s a whole different world to make this pair come to life. In case you’re looking to add a few other nifty pairs of footware to your closet, have a look at this springloaded pair that improves your walking efficiency.
The Scottish Consulate has stamped its last passport, the Dutch fire tower has belched its final flame, and the Gold Members Lounge has followed the Hacienda and the Marquee into clubland oblivion. EMF Camp 2016 is over, so all the 1500 or so attendees have left are the memories, photographs, and festival diarrhoea to remind them of their three days in the Surrey countryside.
Well, not quite all, there is the small matter of the badge.
In the case of EMF 2016 it was called TiLDA MKπ, and since there was a point earlier in the year when it seemed the badge might never see the light of day it represents a significant achievement from the EMF badge team.
The badge features an STM32L486VGT6 ARM Cortex M4 running at 80MHz, a 320×240 pixel colour LCD, magnetometer and accelerometer, and a CC3100 WiFi processor. The firmware provides a simple interface to an app store containing an expanding array of micropython apps from both the EMF Camp team and submitted by event attendees. As shipped the badge connects to one of the site networks, but this can be adjusted to your own network after the event. It’s been designed for ease of hacking, requiring only a USB connection and mounting as a disk drive without need for special software or IDE. A comprehensive array of I/O lines are brought out to both 0.1″ pitch pins and 4mm edge-mounted holes. At the EMF Camp closing speeches there was an announcement of a competition with a range of prizes for the best hardware and software uses for the badge.
As is so often the case the badge was not without its teething troubles, as the network coped with so many devices connecting at once and the on-board Neopixel turned out to have been mounted upside down. Our badge seemed to have a bit of trouble maintaining a steady network connection and apps frequently crashed with miscellaneous Python errors, though a succession of firmware updates have resulted in a more stable experience. But these moments are part of the badge experience; this is after all an event whose attendees are likely to have the means to cope with such problems.
All the relevant files and software for the badge are fully open-source, and can be found in the EMF Camp GitHub repositories. We’ve put a set of images of the board in a gallery below if you are curious. The pinout images are courtesy of the EMF badge wiki.
We’ve featured EMF badges before, here’s our look at the EMF 2014 device.
It’s incredibly likely that, unless you own one of the original movie props, your Stargate Horus helmet is not as cool as [jeromekelty]’s. We say this with some confidence because [jerome] got access to the original molds and put in an incredible amount of time on the animatronics. (See his latest video embedded below.)
Surprisingly, a number of the parts for this amazing piece were bought off the shelf. The irises that open and close they eyes, for instance, were bought on eBay. This is not to downplay the amount of custom design, though. The mechanism that moves the feathers is a sight to see, and there’s a lot of hand-machined metal holding it all together. But the payoff is watching the thing move under remote control. The eye dimming and closing, combined with the head movements, make it look almost alive.