As a concept, wearable technology excites many of us, but in practice, it’s been hard to nail down. Up to this point, the most high-tech thing the average person might reasonably wear has been a wrist watch. Devices like Google Glass tried to push the state-of-the-art, but it arguably raised more questions than it answered. It demonstrated in a very public way that developing wearable technology that’s simultaneously visually appealing, useful, and robust enough to handle daily life is exceptionally difficult. If Google couldn’t pull it off, what hope do we lowly hackers have?
But maybe we’ve been going about things the wrong way. Compelling as the end result may seem, the move from wrist watches to head-mounted computers is simply too large of a technical and psychological leap to make. To help develop the skills and techniques necessary to build practical wearable electronics, it might help to take a slightly more fanciful approach.
It seems to be working pretty well for Angela Sheehan, at least. In her talk “Building Whimsical Wearables: Leveling Up Through Playful Prototyping” at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference, she went over some of the things she’s learned while developing her Color Stealing Fairy costume. The product of several years of iterative design, the costume is able to mimic colors seen in the environment through the use of a wireless sensor wand, and features a number of design elements that are critical to any successful wearable project.
Even if a custom RGB Fairy costume isn’t on your short list of projects, there’s information in this talk that will surely be of interest to anyone who’s even contemplated a wearable project. From technical aspects like battery placement to logistical considerations such as making adjustments for multiple wearers, Angela’s make-believe creation has become a testbed for real-world considerations.