Make.Hack.Do Festival @ Museum of Science London


We did 5 days of workshops at the Museum of Science London sewing a soft circuit quilt

Bluetooth Stretch (Breath) Sensor

For quite a long while I have been working on making the stretch sensor wireless. During my residency period in New York I was able to complete this task.

Some of the issues throughout this project were around what technology to use. I started with a Flora and then switched over to Lilypad because there are more supported options for being wireless (however when I briefly met Becky Stern she said bluetooth support for the Flora would be out this year as Adafruit was able to get radio permissions or something like that had been holding them back). Then I tried Xbee but through hours of attempts could never get them to pair properly. This is probably because of trying to set them up on a single Mac, rather than two PCs which seems to be the way forward. Then I fried a bluetooth module. Then I had real problems finding a battery that would power the Lilypad and bluetooth module  (AAA worked in the end). And then it worked. Like really well and really consistently! And here it is in all its glory!

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The idea is that the sensor is worn around the ribs so it stretches when you breath. This actually works quite well as a way to stretch the sensor but is not an accurate way to measure breath.

Energy on the Body @ Eyebeam

**This post is from Kate’s blog – **

On December 11th Eyebeam had an other panel in their Computational Fashion series. This one focused on ‘Energy on the Body’ and featured three speakers: Dan Steingart, John Kymissis and Amanda Parkes. This panel was much more focused on technology than the previous one which was ‘high fashion’ and was much more thought-provoking in that it shared researched rather than people’s opinions on commercial endeavours.

One of the themes that was throughout the three presentations was the idea of energy harvesting. The success of this was somewhat debated. While Steingart was adamant that harvesting is too difficult to implement in meaningful ways, Kymissis and Parkes were more open to the idea and both had projects that successfully used energy harvesting, particularly in the forms of photovoltaics and people powered devices (i.e. wind-up flashlight). Kymissis has worked on a show power project and Parkes worked with choreographer Prue Lang to create a completely sustainable dance piece, Un réseau translucide. Another project of Prue Lang also features energy harvesting shoes (1 hours of dancing = 1 minute of light).

Other highlights of the panel included discussions around batteries and other materials that are becoming flexible and printable. Steingart’s research lab has been creating flexible batteries that can be produced in any shape or size, using similar principles to that of spandex materials and mesh reinforcements (like concrete). This battery can also be used as a flex sensor. It won’t blow up and won’t catch fire. Kymissis’s lab CLUE has been printed electronics with DIY techniques such as screen printing to produce thin film electronics and even printing electronics onto fabric.

Overall this panel was informative on what others are doing with energy and what seems to be working in energy harvesting.

More interesting resources/links

First tests – Fabrics and Servo

Today I started working on using fabric in conjunction with a servo motor and arduino uno to create interesting actuation that may be placed on the body. I am totally inspired by Meg Grant and her experiments in this area. This is something I am hoping will inform hack #2 of our research, bringing the outside to the inside and embodying sensations.

I started with five different types of fabric to see how they would move and possibly feel went set in motion by a servo. I used silk chiffon, silk charmeuse, lycra, wool blend and denim and cut them into 12 inch squares. To attach them to the servo I used no stretch nylon bead string to two corners of the squares. The last two were very hard to use and one string broke each time I tried to move them with the servo. The first three fabrics however were light, flexible and moved constantly in swirling motions one way and then the other.



The silk charmeuse was interesting because it was not quite as floppy as the chiffon. I decided to continue to work with this and added two more strings. The dance that resulted reminded me of so many things: waves in the ocean, puppets being manipulated, and definitely choreography. The other exciting observation was when I put my hand on the fabric and could feel the movement. There was definite pulling and releasing from various angles that could be sensed by the body. This is very promising as a start to Hack Two.

Wearable Tech Demo/Panel @ Eyebeam

**This post is from Kate’s blog –**

Last night was the Wearable Tech Panel and Demo night at Eyebeam. It’s part of their computational fashion initiative. While I enjoyed some of the demos very much and thought they connected to the Hacking the Body project, the panel was very different and reminded me about why hacking is an important aspect of how I think about this work.

The Demos

There were a small group of people showing their work as ‘demos’ (although in the call for this I noticed Eyebeam seemed to not want proof of concepts but prototypes ready to be pitched to investors and I think this greatly limited who participated). Projects really ranged from Heisel, a fashion line using interesting textiles to create clothing, to the Mind Rider Helmet, which tracks EEGs while cycling.

Becky Stern was there from Adafruit with a lot of clothing covered in LEDs. I was wearing my accelerometer necklace and had a total fan girl moment when Becky wanted a picture. I was also able to ask her about when the bluetooth module for Flora would be coming – apparently it is still a few months down the line but Adafruit is about to release its first bluetooth module in general.

The two projects that interested me the most were The Laser Girls and their 3D printed nails (want) and the Hanky Pancreas by Jessica Floeh. The Hanky Pancreas probably relates most to Hacking the Body as it fashion designed to work with wearable diabetes devices. The scarves and wraps conceal already existing technologies that monitor blood glucose levels. I spoke to her briefly about stretch and breath sensors and she told me about a student project she did called exChange: networked breathing devices. The idea was that one person’s breath would be sent to another and inflate a device they were wearing.

The Panel

The panel literally seemed like it was a different world from the demos. It was trying very hard to be Fashion with a capitol F. The moderator was Sabine Seymour, who asked many good questions and also threw out the questions to the audience. But the panelists were fashion designers and curators and their use of technology was not as apparent as in the demo projects. They also dressed the part with Karen Oxman wearing sunglasses inside to go with her red lipstick and Titania Inglis wearing all black leather. They seemed to speak a lot about commercial fashion and high fashion branding. They considered technology to be more about manufacturing and development of textiles, rather than functionality, like what was presented in the demos. One point they made about tech was that it is geeky and geek had only become chic recently.

However, when the question of what is fashion for and what functionality in clothing would people buy, the audience responded with GPS navigation, well being, biofeedback, temperature regulation, and defence. The audience wanted function.

Some of the more interesting comments they made were about materials. For technology to be integrated into fashion the materials need to be softer and more flexible. The integration for them needed to be aesthetically pleasing in order to be acceptable. They said aesthetics first, technology second as a selling point. They believed this is one of the reasons for Google glass not being very popular. On this point they also said that tech companies rarely integrate with fashion houses in a way that could create a meaningful and long collaboration that would produce something that is beautiful and functional.

Hacking and the Panel

The panel and their approach to Fashion made me really glad that we chose to use the term ‘hacking’ within our project. Hacks are DIY and low level technologies, so we did not have to think about the mass consumer or high fashion aesthetics. It made a lot of sense that our approach is hacking, rather than Fashion and tech. Out goal is not to make a new product but to make art. And this is another reason why hacking is such an interesting methodology for arts research. The outcomes are about knowledge and culture and not money.