Sound and Motion Reactivity for Wearables

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A Dance of Sound, Light and Motion

At SparkFun, I wanted a smarter jacket: a color changing jacket that would react to my surroundings. The concept seemed simple enough. Using sound and motion sensing as an interface I’m able to change colors to merge with the environment. This elevates the need for buttons or switches that might otherwise take our user out of the present moment.

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The finished product. (photo by evan miller)

There are a number of challenges, mainly comfort and control. I find one of the keys to comfort in wearing a lit up garment is having symbiosis with the surrounding environment. However, I needed to distinguish between the high energy atmosphere of a frenetic art opening and otherwise subdued activities like sharing a meal or waiting in line. We often don’t take into account how bright our garments may be to in the eyes of others, and the aim of this project was to tackle this problem. One way to accomplish this synergy with one’s environment is to listen before emoting, or, this this case, sense before lighting too brightly or deploying patterns too quickly.

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A long exposure photo displaying how sounds can be viewed across various frequencies.

I used an accelerometer and microphone to sense the environment and wearers energy level. Rapid changes in acceleration and specifically rotations of the wearer are interpreted as being in an environment where lighting may be a bit brighter and patterns cycle faster.

I used a microphone to sense the ranges and volume of various frequencies. Fairly normal frequencies of human voices and minimal volumes would be interpreted to give a fairly consistent color without much movement. If there were low frequencies and louder volumes, the design assumes music is being played and introduces more colors.

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With little motion or sound, the colored spine appears to reflect the given color rather than emit. (photo by @risknc)

A specific color pallet was chosen to also merge the wearer into their surrounding. A pinkish mid range is in harmony with the rest of the design to blend in during times of inactivity while blues and turquoises become present during repeated audio with more low end. These blues are in direct contrast to the rest of the design and thereby become quite apparent.

Building it Out

GOTO : LEARN.SPARKFUN.COM for the full tutorial on the electronics used and why

Many, many special thanks to my SparkFun family for the amazing learning opportunity and hosting me for the all too short residency.

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