Hair Is Good Electronic Hub Real Estate

When it comes to wearables, there are a few places you can mount rechargeable batteries and largish circuit boards. Certainly, badges hanging from a lanyard are a favorite here on Hackaday. A belt is another option. [deshipu] has come up with a good location on your head, provided you have long hair that is. That’s the hair clasp or barrette. It can support a hefty mass, be relatively large, and doesn’t touch your skin.

Plusing LEDs barretteHis plan gets even better, namely to use it as a hub for other electronics on your head, giving as examples: mechatronic ears and LEDs on eyelashes, earrings, and neck collars. We’d include some sort of heads-up display on glasses too or perhaps some playful glasses windshield wipers.

Being able to solder the clasp to the circuit board was his first success and he’s since made a test barrette with pulsing LEDs which he’s distributed to others for evaluation. We really like his electronic hub idea and look forward to seeing where he takes it. For now, he’s done enough to have become a finalist in the Hackaday Human Computer Interface Challenge.

ETextile Spring Break Tackles Signal Blocking, Audio Generation, And Radio Transmissions

Finding a killer application for e-textiles is the realm of the hacker and within that realm, anything goes. Whether it’s protecting your digital privacy with signal shielding, generating audio with a wearable BeagleBone or 555 timer, or making your favorite garment into an antenna, the eTextile Spring Break is testing out ways to combine electronics and fabric.

You may be asking yourself “What are e-textiles good for?”. Well, that’s an excellent question and likely the most common one facing the industry today. I’m afraid I won’t be able to give a definitive answer. As an e-textile practitioner, I too am constantly posing this question to myself. There’s an inherently personal nature to fabric worn on the body and to our electronic devices that makes this answer elusive. Instead of trying to fabricate some narrow definition, what I offer is a look at topics of interest, material experimentation, and technical exploration through the lens of a week-long event held recently in New York called eTextile Spring Break.

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Bumblebee Breakout, A DIY Wearable Connector

The practice of developing wearable electronics offers a lot of opportunity for new connector designs and techniques for embedding electronics. Questions like these will eventually come up: How will this PCB attach to that conductive fabric circuit reliably? What’s the best way to transition from wire to this woven conductive trim? What’s the best way to integrate this light element into this garment while still maintaining flexibility?

Mika Satomi and Hannah-Perner Wilson of Kobakant are innovators in this arena and inspire many with their prolific documentation while they ask themselves questions similar to these. Their work is always geared towards accessibility and the ability to recreate what they have designed. Their most recent documented connector is one they call the Bumblebee Breakout. It connects an SMD addressable RGB LED, such as Adafruit’s Neopixel, to a piece of side glow fiber optic 1.5mm in diameter. On a short piece of tubing, the four pads of the SMD LED are broken out into four copper rings giving it the look of a striped bumblebee. To keep from shorts occurring while wrapping the copper tape contacts around the tube, they use Kapton tape to isolate each layer as they go.

This connector was originally created to be used in a commission they did out of Koba, their e-textile tailor shop located in Berlin. Fiber optics were applied to jackets for a performance called “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” produced by the Puppetry Department of the Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch.

Peruse more e-textiles techniques and learn how to build a connector transitioning from an embroidered thread bus to a wire and how to knit solderable circuit boards. And make sure to click around Kobakant’s website, it’s full of e-textile DIY tutorials!