RFID Jacket Flashes The Crowd At Make Fashion 2014


The [RADLab team] has created an eye-opening RFID jacket for Make Fashion 2014. For this project, [Dan Damron, Chris Zaal, and Ben Reed] of RADLab teamed up with designer [Laura Dempsey] to create a jacket which responded both to a dancer on the runway and the audience itself. RADLab stands for Radio Frequency Identification Application Development Lab, so you can probably guess that RFID was their weapon of choice for interaction. We’ve got a bit of RFID experience here at Hackaday, having recently used it at The Gathering in LA. The [RADLab team] didn’t skimp on processing power for this jacket. A BeagleBone Black running Debian controls the show. The BeagleBone receives data from a Thingmagic M6e 4 port UHF RFID Reader. The M6e is connected to 4 directional antennas. The BeagleBone responds differently depending on which RFID card is read, and which antenna reads it. With the data processed, the BeagleBone then issues commands to a teensy 3.0, which controls  WS2811 “Neopixel” addressable RGB LEDs sewn into the jacket.

During the fashion show, the jacket wearer danced with a second model who had RFID tags sewn into his t-shirt. The LED clusters on the front, back and sleeves of the jacket would light up, and change color and flash frequency based upon which tag and antenna got a read. Once the performance was over, the audience was encouraged to pick up tags and interact with the jacket themselves. The software was still very much beta, so the [RADLab team] monitored everything via WiFi and restarted the software when necessary.

5 thoughts on “RFID Jacket Flashes The Crowd At Make Fashion 2014

  1. I used to work on these devices. ThingMagic is a really good manufacturer. Too bad, UHF RFID is too expensive to be on everyone’s maker-room.

    By the way, good use of (unkilled) RFID tags we can found on our clothes. When you have a good UHF RFID reader in you hands, it’s really fun to find RFID tags. They are everywhere ! With 1W of power and a ThingMagic m5 micro, you can make a portable device that can find tags and read them in an area of 20 meters. At more than 20 meters, it became difficult to find tags.

    1. I work for the company that produces the RFID chip ThingMagic uses in their readers. Take it from me: the cost to entry is slowly but surely coming down. In the VERY near future, expect to see chips and solutions that are much more ‘maker friendly’ both in terms of price, and from a software perspective.

  2. This is the most overcomplicated solution to “leds sensing RFID stuff” that I’ve ever seen! A beaglebone running debian with a phat Wifi module, 3C, 4400mAh of power and 3 antenna’s to do all that? man! It would be cool if it could pick up tags in people’s clothes in the crowd. The video makes it look like it only works at close range…

  3. This dress was not over complicated at all, every component had a specific job. The tags could be sensed as far as 9 feet away, but in the video, you see the public “up close” as they are actively interacting, and fighting for “stronger” RSSI. That is why the dress looks like it only works up close.

    Oh, and by the way, there are 4 antenna’s on the dress. Front, Back, Left, and Right.

    What wasn’t explained in the video was the LED’s – every single LED was addressable and accessible to the teensy 3.0. .150 LED’s in total, each requiring 6 solder joints, with wiring custom cut to match the pattern of the dress. The Teensy’s job was to marshal all the data to the LED’s so the BBB could concentrate on the processing of tags.

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