Friday, September 30, 2011

Textile Friday: Arduino's Bright Lights

Today we're going to talk about electronics for the rest of us. I am not a computer programmer. I did fairly well in math, but the idea of programming makes me feel as if my eyes were bleeding from pain. This is a common feeling for most people.

A few years ago, the art industry was revolutionized by a small Italian company called Arduino. Arduino was originally developed for interactive museum displays and the key word in everything they do is SIMPLE. It's programming a monkey, or myself can do. It has been adapted by the fashion industry due to it's simplicity. There are several major companies if you came to the Arduino talk last weekend, but the most famous is called the LilyPad. LilyPads are sold on Sparkfun and run between $15-75, average $20. They have a battery, breadboard (controller), conductive thread, and can be wired to a number of sensors and actions. By wired, I mean connected with a simple thread and needle from one piece to the next. Dead easy. The most popular are LED lights, but you can also add buttons, switches, bluetooth, vibration motors, buzzers, and sensors for temperature/motion. I like the simplicity of the outfit and that if you can thread a needle, you can make this system work.

This is one of the new and interesting new developments in the industry. Most people get transfixed by the flashing lights and miss the more important applications in the sensors and bluetooth. Now your purse can recognize you, your workout clothes can help regulate your work-out for a custom regimen, or your curtains can act as motion sensors to protect you from errant burglars. A million and one applications that we have barely started to scratch the surface of. I look forward to seeing this technology develop.

If you would like to come learn this technology yourself, I invite you to our local monthly Arduino Club Meetings either at SplatSpace or Techshop RDU.

Note: Lilypads are available for purchase on Sparkfun which is a great website.

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