This biking jacket has LED turn signals sewn onto its back, controlled by switches at the wrist.
You can sew and program a jacket of your own using a flexible, washable microcontroller called the LilyPad Arduino that Leah Buechley, now of MIT, has developed. Her flexible Arduino boards, seen in the photo at right above, come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
The LilyPad Arduino is a set of sewable electronic components that let you build your own soft, interactive fashion....
What is Arduino? Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer....
Leah is Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Director of the High-Low Tech Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her other projects also have pleasantly soft edges, although the science is obviously very hard.
Scientists have served up working bits: lights, sound, motors, motion sensors, switches, all of it washable (remove the batteries first). You can download free, open-source software for your home computer (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux), and there's plenty of how-to information out there.
How can artists use these elements beautifully, functionally, funkily, fashionably? Everybody's first shirt probably blinks, but that seems to me practice, proof of concept. a capacity still looking for a demand.
This budding technology begs for collaborations between hardware geeks and designers, home sewers and handy do-it-yourselfers. Photos of a workshop Leah led in Austria yielded both a blinking smiley face and a tasteful embroidered (with conductive thread) jacket appliqué, the round controller incorporated cleverly into the design.
The most practical use I've seen is certainly the bike jacket with turn signals. The most accessible (start now for Christmas) is perhaps a red beaded cuff bracelet that flashes, above, powered by flexible Lithium-ion batteries. The goofiest is a hat whose fluffy pompon turns from green to red under the heat of a hair dryer, like a clown's misplaced nose.
There's a movie demonstrating the shirt below and how to program it, as well as some of Leah's other textile projects.
If you want to poke around in here, I've assembled some links -- all have pictures. The last link, from Leah's lab, is the most thorough, and somewhat intimidating to me, as recipes go. I could do it if I broke it down into parts, especially as a family project. (I'm leaning toward making a family heirloom for the top of the Christmas tree.)
turn signal biking jacket tutorial
CRAFT Video: LilyPad Arduino 101. Includes the bit of code you need.
LilyPad E-Sewing Kit, $39.95.
LilyPad Pro Kit, $49.95.
Stitchable modules at Sparkfun.
Guide to the LilyPad Arduino To get started with the LilyPad ... To program the LilyPad Arduino, you need to connect it to your computer. How-to, with photos.
Make your own wearable LED display is a step-by-step guide to making and programming your LED-studded shirt. Soldering is optional.