The video above shows my first e-textile project in the making. The central round thing is basically a computer board (a LilyPad arduino) with a variety of pins that you can use for inputting and outputting data and power. The other small boards are programmable LEDs (LilyPad Pixel Boards and Flora NeoPixels) that you can turn on, off, and set the RGB colour of – making them very versatile for creating patterns with – each one can be programmed individually.
Other outputs can be things like numerical displays, little motors, and things that make sound like an MP3 player or vibration board. Inputs can be in the form of sensors like light, temperature, movement, sound and even colour. You can even connect it to Bluetooth so you could have two things that talk to each other or talk to other devices like your phone or a heart rate monitor. Based on the input you could make the lights do different things, for example, pulse in time with your heartbeat!
You connect the different components together with conductive thread and connect the board to a computer to program it.
The project above is ‘art’ – it’s just to look pretty, but also to practice programming different ‘animations’ and working with some sensors mainly to learn how to do it before embarking on some other project ideas.
This video shows some simple animations where the colours of the animations change depending on the readings of a light sensor (the ‘cylon’ animation) and temperature sensor (the fast outer ring ‘cascade’ animation).
Wheel POV. First test, changing Neopixel colours via colour picker on the phone and BlueFruit BLE component.
Light-painting geek style
A pantograph is used to improve the accuracy of drawing. Attached to this are a variety of electronic components. Firstly an RGB Neopixel provides the light source. This LED produces a very bright light and can be programmed to be any colour you want. This is connected to an Adafruit Flora. This is an Arduino-based programmable electronic device that is designed to be used to create wearable electronics. This is where the program resides that sends signals to the Neopixel. Connected to this is a button that tells the Flora whether to turn the light on or off. Also connected to the Flora is an Adafruit Bluefruit LE module. This module communicates with Bluetooth and enables me to use an App on my phone to control the colour of the LED. I can set up the LED with the colour I want before pressing the shutter, but can also change it mid-shot. So in all it allows me to do what I want – to move a pixel around in a relatively controlled manner, switch it on and off and change the colour to any I desire.
Who doesn’t start with their name. It’s a little shaky – getting used to the pantograph and drawing completely in the dark! Switching on and off works.
Drawing isn’t too bad, and it has a colour change mid-frame.
It’s difficult to match up two ends of a picture accurately. Also the pantograph tends to shift whilst you are using it!
Colour change, and getting a little complicated.
Still a bit wobbly, but you get the idea.
Multiple colour changes and complexity! This one is a composite of a couple of attempts – speed, accuracy and trying to operate a phone app at the same time is very tricky!
Although my hacky light painting tool does what I want it to, there are challenges. The results are not perfect. The wobbly drawings could probably be improved with more practice, but my current feeling is I could draw something better looking in a graphics program and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! More experimentation needed!