EKG-controlled Game of Life Hoodie

I have finally completed my latest : the ” EKG-controlled Game of Life Hoodie “. That’s a wordy title if there ever was one.

First Wear!

The concept here is a wearable version of Conway’s Game of Life, that is controlled by the current state of your life.  Essentially, a wearable extension of your heart, externalized in the form of Conway’s Life. A custom circuit includes an infrared EKG monitor that resets the Game each time a heartbeat is detected. Heartbeat data is analyzed by a hackduino which resets an ATMega48 chip, part of Adafruit’s kit controlling Life, which is embedded in the chest of a hoodie.  Conductive thread is used to connect the 16 LED matrix to the circuit board which is kept in a pocket towards the bottom of the hoodie.

If you are checking this out and are unfamiliar with John Conway’s Game of Life, please read about it, as it is a seminal piece of work, in my opinion one of the most important intersections of art and science.  For the LED matrix playing Life, I used Adafruit’s kit, which is brilliantly designed – able to be daisy chained for larger boards. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) I only had one kit to work with, which mean a 4×4, 16 LED matrix. I decided to use red LEDs, as they represent life, blood, and the heart much more to me than green. Also makes this an even better Valentine’s Day gift 😉  I decided that since I was embedding this into a hoodie, I would not need her PCB, which is bulky.  I designed my own breakout for her chip, which you can see in the circuit towards the end of the post.

I used conductive thread to connect each LED from the chest of the hoodie to the pocket holding the circuit and battery, which is lined with an anti-static bag, inside the wearer’s left hip area. The LED embedding technique was picked up from Becky Stern, and worked out quite well. It was, however, a challenging amount of sewing for a novice such as myself, however I accepted the challenge.  I would say it came out functionally ‘great’ and aesthetically ‘ok’.

Check out the flickr set that documents the entire build process.

For detecting heartbeats, I recreated a circuit originally saw on Make, and then through further research found Meng Li‘s project, and finally this schematic – many thanks to Justin Downs for posting his work. The technology here is very simple – an infrared LED (emitter) and detector pair can “see” through your finger: each time blood is pulsed through (= a heartbeat) there is a spike in the amount of light detected.  A LOT of fidgeting and troubleshooting went down in building this circuit, and the result in the video only looks so nice because of a lot of smoothing and averaging done in the code.

Here’s a breakdown of the final circuit I designed to run the hoodie:

It most definitely overkill to be using 2 28-pin ATMega chips for a job that could most definitely be done by one. In Adafruit’s glorious open-sourcery, all code is even posted for their Game! Unfortunately, I do not yet own an AVR programmer and their chip is not bootloaded or supported by the Arduino IDE (the code is all in C). Soon enough I will get my hands on a programmer and if a second version of this arises, I will most certainly use just one chip.

This project would not have happened without Ira Goldberg and Becky Stern.

[thesis prototyping] :: techmmmology

So my new concept is geo-locative sensor tracking with a modular pack. Basically you pick and choose what you want to track (ie carbon monoxide, dust, noise pollution, alcohol[?], light pollution, or methane gas), and this data is recorded. Then you transfer it to an online database, and can watch a personal log of your own data collection over time. Last step is to connect individuals to each other via the database, so you can see how your friend in Beijing experiences his/her journey from home to work every day, and relate on a new level.

The other idea is an educational tool for kids with asthma. Child reports, i always get headaches when visiting a certain neighborhood. After wearing the module, the child can make a connection between their immediate environment and it’s affect on their body. More carbon monoxide exposure on this street corner is causing you to have your headache. You were there at 2:15pm last wednesday.

Much much more on this later.

I began to start prototyping the technology. The first piece was GPS, because i am the least familiar with this of everything I will be working with.

I ordered LadyAda‘s (aka Limor Fried) GPS shield kit for the arduino. It took me about 45 minutes / hour (very easy) to put together (see images). The best part about this, was her shield is already designed to write to an SD card ! Which has been my plan all along (i’ve seen several arduino writing to SD card projects, so I thought it will be useful).

Now that I have this working, the next step is figure out how the sensors will be attached. I think for this round of prototyping, I will use USB ports. I actually purchased about 5 of these in China over the summer when I was there with school. I’m going to post pictures of the circuit i made on perfboard, and my first attempt at a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) version.

This weekend i attended a class at NYC Resistor, which was rad, i learned how to use EAGLE to design PCB files, which i would then send to a manufacturer who would print the green boards and send them to me. It’s expensive, and chris hennelly at school convinced me to use the laser cutter and make DIY PCBs. Check out the results, i will have new ones tomorrow…

[thesis prototyping] :: material

i will write more on these when i have more time but i’ve made 2 material prototypes so far…

by this i mean, the cloth strapping mechanism that will hold the module to the user’s body.

design v0.1 is made out of white spandex, and has a flap/pocket mechanism to hold the module (housed currently in a plastic container i bought at the container store for $2.99… more on this soon).  this took me quite sometime and as you’ll see in the photos, would make a great post on failblog.org.

design v0.2 is a black plush material, that Ira helped me put together, i think in just about 30 minutes by hand.  Obviously, i could have done it in like 15 minutes, if i had the right equipment… which is at my parent’s house… so that’s why i asked her to help me. obviously.

thanks ira, clay, and nick for user testing, and the sexy smiles.