While our bodies are pretty amazing, their dynamic nature makes integrating circuits into our clothing a frustrating process. Squaring up against this challenge, a team of researchers from North Carolina State University have hit upon a potential boon for wearable electronics: silver nanowires capable of being printed on flexible, stretchy substrates.
It helps that the properties of silver nanowires lend themselves to the needs of wearable circuits — flexible and springy in their own right — but are not without complications. Silver nanowires tend to clog print nozzles during printing, so the research team enlarged the nozzle and suspended the nanowires in a water-soluble solvent, dramatically cutting the chance of clogging. Normally this would have a negative impact on precision, but the team employed electrostatic force to draw the ink to the desired location and maintain print resolution. Once printed, the solvent is rinsed away and the wearable circuit is ready for use.
By controlling print parameters — such as ink viscosity and concentration — the team are able to print on a wide variety of materials. Successful prototypes thus far include a glove with an integrated heating circuit and an electrocardiograph electrode, but otherwise the size of the printer is the only factor limiting the scale of the print. Until this technique becomes more widely available, interested parties might have to put their stock into more homebrew methods.
[Thanks for the tip, Qes!]
We’ve seen a few near-future sci-fi films recently where computers respond not just to touchscreen gestures but also to broad commands, like swiping a phone to throw its display onto a large flat panel display. It’s a nice metaphor, and if we’re going to see something like it soon, perhaps this wrist-mounted pointing device will be one way to get there.
The video below shows the finished product in action, with the cursor controlled by arm movements. Finger gestures that are very much like handling a real mouse’s buttons are interpreted as clicks. The wearable has a Nano, an MPU6050 IMU, and a nRF24L01 transceiver, all powered by some coin cells and tucked nicely into a 3D-printed case. To be honest, as cool as [Ronan Gaillard]’s wrist mouse is, the real story here is the reverse engineering he and his classmate did to pull this one off.
The road to the finished product was very interesting and more detail is shared in their final presentation (in French and heavy with memes). Our French is sufficient only to decipher “Le dongle Logitech,” but there are enough packet diagrams supporting into get the gist. They sniffed the packets going between a wireless keyboard and its dongle and figured out how to imitate mouse movements using an NRF24 module. Translating wrist and finger movements to cursor position via the 6-axis IMU involved some fairly fancy math, but it all seems to have worked in the end, and it makes for a very impressive project.
Is sniffing wireless packets in your future? Perhaps this guide to Wireshark and the nRF24L01 will prove useful.
Continue reading “Wireless Protocol Reverse Engineered to Create Wrist Wearable Mouse”
When the cabal of electronic design gurus that pull the invisible strings of the hardware world get together, we imagine they have to show this ring to prove their identity. This is the work of [Zach Fredin], and you’re going to be shocked by the construction and execution of what he calls Cyborg Ring.
The most obvious feature of the Cyborg Ring is the collection of addressable LEDs that occupy the area where gems would be found on a ring. What might not be so obvious is that this is constructed completely of electronic components, and doesn’t use any traditional mechanical parts like standoffs. Quite literally, the surface mount devices are structural in this ring.
They are also electrical. Here you can see a detail of how [Zach] pulled this off. We are looking at the underside of the ring, the part that goes below your knuckle. One of the two PCBs that are sized to fit your finger has been placed in a Stick Vise while the QFN processor is soldered on end, and the pairs of SMD resistors are put in place.
The precise measurements of each part make it possible to choose components that will perfectly span the gap between the two boards. In the background of the image you can see SMD resistors on their long ends — a technique he used to allow the LEDs themselves to span between one resistor on each of the two PDBs to complete the circuit. Incredible, right?
But it gets better. [Zach] ended up with a working prototype, but has continued to forge ahead with new design iterations. These updates are a delight to read! Make sure you follow his project and check in regularly; if you’ve already looked at this now’s the time to go back and see the new work. The gold pads for the minuscule coin cells which power the ring are being reselected as the batteries didn’t fit well on the original. Some layout problems are being tweaked. And the new spin of boards should be back from fab in a week or so.
Don’t miss the demo video found below. We really like seeing projects that build within the wearble ring form factor. It’s an impressive constraint which [Zach] seems to have mastered. Another favorite of ours is [Kevin’s] Arduboy ring.
Continue reading “Membership Ring of the Electronic Illuminati”
It’s one thing to see science-fiction slowly become reality, but quite another to take that process into your own hands. Inspired by a movie prop, [Eric Strebel] decided to build himself a 21st science-fiction artifact: a pulsing, life-force amulet.
At the — aheam — heart of this amulet is a blinking LED circuit which [Strebel] modified into a slow pulse with the help of his friends. To add to the surreal quality of the amulet, he sourced a stone from a local gem show, bringing his circuit along to get an idea of what the final product would look like. Once [Strebel] had shaped the stone to a more manageable size, he took a polyester filler mold of its rear face to use as a base from which to cast a durable resin housing for the circuit.
[Strebel] is using a pair of coin cell batteries which fit snugly behind the glowing LED, and in case he ever needs to get inside the amulet, he’s attached the stone to the rear with sew-on straps — super-gluing them to each piece. He went for a bit of an industrial look for the necklace — a braided oil line with a modified quick-release clasp that works like a charm.
How does this amulet stack up to one from the 23rd century? You be the judge!
If you want to work with wearables, you have to pay a little more attention to color. It is one thing to have a 3D printer board colored green or purple with lots of different color components onboard. But if it is something people will wear, they are going to be more choosy. [Sdekon] shows us his technique of using Leuco dye to create items that change color electrically. Well, technically, the dye is heat-sensitive, but it is easy to convert electricity to heat. You can see the final result in the video, below.
The electronics here isn’t a big deal — just some nichrome wire. But the textile art processes are well worth a read. Using a piece of pantyhose as a silk screen, he uses ModPodge to mask the screen. Then he weaves nichrome wire with regular yarn to create a heatable fabric. Don’t have a loom for weaving? No problem. Just make one out of cardboard. There’s even a technique called couching, so there’s lots of variety in the textile arts used to create the project.
Continue reading “Be the Electronic Chameleon”
If you think of wearable electronic projects, in many cases what may come to mind are the use of addressable LEDs, perhaps on strips or on sewable PCBs like the Neopixel and similar products. They make an attractive twinkling fashion show, but there remains a feeling that in many cases once you have seen one project, you have seen them all.
So if you are tiring of static sewable LED projects and would like to look forward to something altogether more exciting, take a look at some bleeding-edge research from a team at KAIST, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science & Technology. They have created OLED fibres and woven them into fabric in a way that appears such that they can be lit at individual points to create addressable pixels. In this way there is potential for fabrics that incorporate entire LED displays within their construction rather than in which they serve as a substrate.
The especially interesting feature of the OLED fibres from the KAIST team is that their process does not require any high temperatures, meaning that a whole range of everyday textile fibres can be used as substrates for OLEDs. The results are durable and do not lose OLED performance under tension, meaning that there is the possibility of their becoming practical fabrics for use in garments.
While this technology is a little way away from a piece of clothing you might buy from a store, the fact that it does not rely on special processes during weaving means that when the fibres become commercially available we are likely to see their speedy adoption. Meanwhile you can buy conductive fabric, but you might have to take a multimeter to the store to find it.
Via EENewsLED, and thank you [Carl] for the tip.
There is a huge amount of interest among our community in wearable electronics, but it is fair to say that it is a technology that has a way to go at our level in terms of its application. Some twinkly LEDs are all very well, but unless you have the arrived-on-a-spaceship-from-the-future aesthetic of someone like [Naomi Wu] to carry them off they get old rather quickly.
What the sew-on LED sector of wearable electronics is waiting for are some applications, wearable lights that do something rather than just look pretty. And [Moko] has a project that takes them in that direction, with her color organ dress, a garment whose LEDs react to ambient sound with the aid of a MEMS microphone and an Adafruit Gemma M0 microcontroller board. The LEDs form a color wheel which rotates, and stops at a point proportional to the sound level at the time.
The write-up is an interesting one, going into a little detail as it does in the images on the construction of an electronically-enhanced piece of clothing. Wiring everything up is one thing, but there are other considerations such as the incorporation of extra panels to protect them from mechanical stress, and from sweat. From a dressmaker’s perspective it’s a well constructed garment in its own right with an attractive PCB-style pattern (Where did she get that fabric? Or did she print it herself?) and it appears that she’s the fortunate owner of a serger (overlocker).
Well-assembled clothing has made it here before, for example an impressive jellyfish skirt or this laser-cut arcsin dress. And should you wish to make a garment for your next wearable project, you’ll be sure to need a well-stocked textile bench.