Skin Bling: Wearable Electronics from Golden Temporary Tattoos

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.

weeding-gold-leaf-temporary-tattooGenerally 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.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Shakelet

A person who is deaf can’t hear sound, but that doesn’t mean they can’t feel vibrations. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Alex Hunt] is developing the Shakelet, a vibrating wristband for that notifies hearing impaired people about telephones, doorbells, and other sound alerts.

To tackle the difficulty of discriminating between the different sounds from different sources, [Alex’s] wants to attach little sound sensors directly to the sound emitting devices. The sensors wirelessly communicate with the wristband. If the wristband receives a trigger signal from one of the sensors, it alerts the wearer by vibrating. It also shows which device triggered the alert by flashing an RGB LED in a certain color. A first breadboard prototype of his idea confirmed the feasibility of the concept.

After solving a few minor problems with the sensitivity of the sensors, [Alex] now has a working prototype. The wristband features a pager motor and is controlled by an ATMEGA168. Two NRF24L01+ 2.4 GHz wireless transceiver modules take care of the communication. The sound sensors run on the smaller ATTiny85 and use a piezo disc as microphone. Check out the video below, where Alex demonstrates his build:

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“I Can Reflow” Merit Badge

[Nick Sayer] can reflow, and he can prove it. He designed a simple blinking-LED circuit that uses SMD parts to, well, blink LEDs. That’s not the point, though. It’s designed to be a test platform for reflow soldering, and to use a minimum number of valuable parts. Plus, it says “I can reflow!” in exposed copper. What else do you want?

OK, as far as “proving it” goes, the badge isn’t 100% reliable — we hand-solder 0805 components all day long. But still, if you want to try your hand at reflowing a circuit board, and you don’t want to ruin a lot of expensive parts if you fail, something like this is a good idea.

The design is open, and it’s really the idea that’s the point here anyway. How about something that would be really onerous to hand-solder, but still cheap? We’re thinking a matrix of tiny LEDs and a shift register or something.

We just ran an article on a hand-soldering challenge board, this seems the perfect complement. Display both proudly on your desk and confound and amaze your coworkers!

Talk to the Glove

Two University of Washington students exercised their creativity in a maker space and created a pair of gloves that won them a $10,000 prize. Obviously, they weren’t just ordinary gloves. These gloves can sense American Sign Language (ASL) and convert it to speech.

The gloves sense hand motion and sends the data via Bluetooth to an external computer. Unlike other sign language translation systems, the gloves are convenient and portable. You can see a video of the gloves in action, below.

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Ski Buddy Jacket Uses Arduino to Teach Youngsters to Ski

Snow skiing looks easy, right? You just stay standing, and gravity does the work. The reality is that skiing is difficult for beginners to learn. [19mkarpawich] loves to ski, but he was frustrated seeing crying kids on skis along with screaming parents trying to coach them. Inspired by wearable electronics, he took an Arduino, an old jacket, some LEDs, and created Ski Buddy.

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Stepping out in Style with Top Hat Navigation

Wearable tech is getting to be a big thing. But how we interface with this gear is still a bit of a work in progress. To explore this space, [Bruce Land]’s microcontroller course students came up with an acoustic interface to assist with navigation while walking. With style, of course.

[Bruce], from the Cornell University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been burning up the Hackaday tips line with his students’ final projects. Here’s the overview page for the Sound Navigation Hat. It uses a PIC32 with GPS and compass. A lot of time was spent figuring out how to properly retrieve and parse the GPS data, but for us the interesting bits on that page are how the directional sound was put together.

Audio tones are fed to earbuds with phase shift and amplitude to make it seem like the sound is coming from the direction you’re supposed to walk. Navigation is all based on pre-programmed routes which are selected using a small LCD screen and buttons. One thing’s for sure, the choice of headwear for the project is beyond reproach from a fashion standpoint – engineering has a long history with the top hat, and we think it’s high time it made a comeback.

Is this a practical solution to land navigation? Of course not. But it could be implemented in smartphone audio players for ambient turn-by-turn navigation. And as a student project, it’s a fun way to demonstrate a novel interface. We recently covered a haptic navigation interface for the visually impaired that uses a similar principle. It’ll be interesting to see if either of these interfaces goes anywhere.

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The Most Drool-Worthy Pip-Boy to Date Can be Yours

Pip-Boy props are nothing new in the maker world, especially since the availability and prices of 3D printers have made the undertaking more straightforward. Something about bringing a piece of the Fallout universe into the real world is just incredibly appealing – so much so that Fallout 4 collector’s editions included a Pip-Boy phone case. However, because of practical limitations these props are usually just plastic shells that house a cell phone. [zapwizard] wasn’t satisfied with a purely aesthetic prop, so he has decided to design his own Pip-Boy 3000 Mk4 from scratch, while retaining as much of the functionality as possible.

For the few of you who are unfamiliar, the Pip-Boy is a wrist-mounted computer from the Fallout series of games. From a gameplay standpoint, it’s used to manage your character’s inventory, stats, quest data, and so on. Because of how often you interact with the Pip-Boy throughout the game, it has become very near and dear to the hearts of Fallout fans, which has driven it’s popularity for prop-making.

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It’s no wonder, then, that we’ve featured a number of builds here on Hackaday in the past. All of these builds have been impressive, but [zapwizard] is taking it to a whole other level. As a product engineer, he certainly has the experience necessary to bring this to life, and he’s not skipping any details. He’s starting by modeling everything up in CAD, using Solid Edge. Every knob, button, dial, and latch has been reproduced in meticulous detail, and will be functional with completely custom electronics. [zipwizard] is still in the design phase, but he should be close to getting started on the actual build. He’s also considering offering a limited run of units for sale, so be sure to get in touch with him if that tickles your fancy!

[thanks Daniel Kennedy]