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The Wild Wearable: Big Boys Jewellery!

Cliff's first thoughts (and some from Constance and Annie too)

This page is a working document which may develop into a paper - thoughts and observations from others are welcome. The paper would attempt to draw on the interest in wearable computing from the fashion community; reflect on the inherent exhibitionism of current wearable computer users or 'cyborgs'; and describe the development of an unashamedly extrovert 'Wild Wearable'.

The Wild Wearable:-

So - how about a range of diamond shaped devices which can be connected together in ANY configuration. There would be two fundamental types - input and output.

Each diamond would be approx 5cm x 5cm with +ve, ground, input and output connections (four corners). It would be made of either clear plastic or milky white - perhaps with a similar design ethic to the Apple computer range (think iPod). Gold plated connectors at each corner would provide interconnectivity - a hook and loop arrangement. Flexible, perhaps fabric, diamonds could also be introduced to make the wearable more comfortable, and to aid in it's construction. These would require wiring but would have no other function.

What would it do? The outputs - colours & sounds, could be directly associated with sensed contexts such as proximity to other objects, heading, ambient noise, heart rate etc.

Sketch Plan:

Some artistic observations ....

- looks like a good basis for interchanging components- not sure about the aesthetics(!!) - Mary Quant op-art / chainmail - armour!!

- potential for configurations of leds like beadwork/vector designs or if its possible to embroider/lacework fibre optic thread.... to create an exquisite and ornate interplay of decorative working elements;

- it provides an underlying grid that could be formulated in different ways, but that could be more abstract / ornate on the surface?

Engineering - the One Wire Bus

The data handled by the 'diamonds' should be minimal e.g. bytes. A simple protocol could use a 'control' diamond to generate, say, an eight byte 'state' string every 200mS. The string would contain the state of the input devices e.g.'$123456;' would represent a header byte '$', six input sensor values, and an end byte ';'. Each input sensor could be allocated a time slot to respond to the control sentence on the same wire - the sensors would send '#d' where '#' would be a unique identifier for each input diamond and 'd' the data value for the sensor. The data values would then be updated in the state string.

The output diamonds would be initialised on power up by a different control string e.g. '%123456;' and respond to the state strings in different ways - different coloured leds could be lit/flashed; different sounds could be initialised (wind effects/steam trains from filtered white noise; theremin-like tones; perhaps best to avoid melodies and mobile phone ring tones!); there may even be potential to experiment with the release of perfumed sprays. Aside:The evident value to users of being able to select personalised mobile phone tones may be an indication of exhibitionist desires which the wild wearable would support further (there may be an interesting user study here).

Audio - a wearable Moog Synthesiser

The Moog Synthesiser which was developed during the 1960s consisted of a number of analogue audio modules which could be connected together in different configurations by the operator/musician. The key concept which enabled the Moog Synthesiser was the use of voltage control. Moog specified voltage ranges which could be used to control different parameters of the modules. For example, one volt represented one octave and hence an analogue voltage could be used to generate a frequency (of predetermined waveshape), or alternatively to define the characteristics of an audio filter. A slowly rising voltage could be used to generate a rising tone, filter white noise to create a wind effect or change the harmonic content or level of a complex waveform - or, if the musician desired, do all of these things simultaneously. The wild wearable would employ similar techniques with analogue voltages replaced by the digital outputs of the sensor diamonds. The designer, or even the user, of the wearable would then determine the audio responses of the garment e.g. the output from an accelerometer module could be used to generate swishing white noise when the user was still, and then mix to a siren effect as the user became more agitated.

Relevant Quotes

"Far beyond the definition of clothing as a necessary protective covering, fashion axists as a way for people to express themselves to others, to reflect portions of their personality in their outward appearance, and to distinguish themselves as individuals. How can technology enhance these expressive aspects of what we wear?"

Elise Co

"Wearable computing has two large impacts - one on the self, and one on society.....It is impossible to focus only on the wearable as a personal object - because it is also a social object, even if its only direct impact is on the person wearing it. Everyone who experiments with wearable computing must confront that issue, and if they wish to be constructive, should work to help clarify how society may evolve to encompass this new technology."

David P. Read

more to follow .....

This page last updated December 17, 2002
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