My expressive wearable is a belt that detects the wearer’s dancing. Reinforcing the benefits of dancing for the human body, the belt measures continuous movements to determine that the wearer is dancing, and rewards them with positive sounds and neopixel lights. When the wearer is still, it encourages them to move with pressing sounds and lights.
- Circuit Playground Express
- Linen pillowcase (any thick, white fabric would do)
- Conductive thread
- Non-conductive thread
- 2 pieces of conductive fabric
- Long piece of fabric (I used a pre-existing fabric belt)
Concept & Objective
Happiness + Motion = Dancing. My concept for this wearable was inspired by the experience of dancing with my friends pre-COVID. When we’re out together (as an introvert and someone who’s quite shy), I sometimes forget to just enjoy the moment, have fun, and dance with my friends. This led me to imagining a wearable that would encourage me to, essentially, be happy and have fun!
Therefore, my final concept is a belt that detects the wearer’s ‘dancing’ and encourages continous movement when they are still. With this concept, I aim to promote happiness, movement, and fun for the wearer and to suggest the mental and physical benefits of dance.
1. Brainstorming: I kicked off my brainstorming with a similar exercise to what we did for our Speculative Wearable assignment: by listing various emotions, then the everyday items that we wear. After this, I (initially) decided to create a dance-detecting skirt. (More on this later)
2. Research: Next, I conducted some online research about dancing as a healthy form of movement!
According to Danceworks, it’s pretty ‘impossible’ to dance and stay in a bad mood, because the act of dancing itself is an exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, which reduces the perception of pain and increases positive self-image in our brains. Therefore, dancing makes us happy. According to Greatist, these are some other benefits of dance:
- Improves agility and flexibility
- Improves balance and coordination
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Improves muscle tone and strength
- Maintains and builds bone strength
- Aids in weight loss or maintenance
- Improves memory and cognition
- Improves mood
- Reduces stress levels
- Provides an opportunity to socialize
- Boosts self-esteem
- Is easily adaptable to meet your needs
3. Initial Interaction Flow: After deciding on my idea, I created a flow map that helped me understand the inputs, outputs, and the overall function of my wearable better.
4. Initial Sketches: Then I made some quick sketches! Here are the initial drawings I created based on my original skirt idea. I intended it to have LEDs sewed along the top that would light up with movement.
5. Idea Shift: After some initial reflection and planning, I decided to change the direction of my project to be a belt instead of a skirt. This would allow for more ease of wearing (rather than having to put on the same skirt each time they go out dancing, the user can wear a belt with anything, anytime) and more inclusivity (it can be worn by anyone who wears pants, skirts, trousers, and more).
6. Inspiration Photos & Initial Sketches: After deciding on a belt, I gathered some inspiration photos to decide how/where to place my CPX. In the end, I decided to place it in the center as it would allow for the most secure hold – and the wearer would be able to see the neopixels easily.
7. New Sketches & Flow: As outlined in my sketches below, the switch of the belt is activated by putting the belt on. Looping the end of the belt through the belt buckle would make the conductive fabric on opposite sides of the belt touch, activating the switch. (Please zoom in to see the detailed steps regarding input / output and what happens while the wearer is using the wearable.)
8. Circuit Diagram: I created a circuit diagram of how I’ll be sewing the conductive thread (the dotted lines) to connect A1 and GND to the conductive fabric pieces.
9. Putting everything together: I’m terrible at executing hands-on projects, so I spent a lot of time testing out how exactly I should make my wearable. This is the pre-existing fabric belt I used for this project — it was too long for my waist as it was originally a coat belt, so I cut the end of it to fit.
I fastened the belt around my pants and held the CPX at the center, trying to figure out how to sew everything together. Then, I tried placing different types of white fabric on top to see how the neopixels would be diffused. I also determined that the cord of the CPX would loop around the side of my waist (see below).
With the belt around my waist, drawing black lines with a pen helped me determine where to place the conductive fabric so that they align perfectly when I buckle the belt.
Before sewing the conductive fabric on, I tested the alignment of the pen lines by taping on some pieces of non-conductive fabric.
Once I was happy with the placement, I cut out the conductive fabric to fit on the belt, and sewed them on.
Then I placed my CPX in the center, and cut out a small slit on the side to pull my cord through. This would hide the cord underneath my belt, but leave a gap to have it ‘poke out’ to connect to my CPX.
Next, I sewed conductive thread through both A1 and GND, and continued it down each sides of the belt. One sewing ‘path’ connected A1 to one piece of conductive fabric, and the other connected GND to the other piece of conductive fabric. It’s not pictured here, but to stabilize the CPX a bit more, I also looped non-conductive, regular thread through another hole in the CPX and sewed it through the belt. Here is how I tested whether the switch was working: Alligator Clip Test
Lastly, to cover up my conductive thread and CPX (and to make the belt a bit less flimsy), I wrapped a cut-out piece of linen pillowcase around the fabric and secured it, leaving only the belt buckle and conductive fabric exposed. The pillowcase was thick enough to make the belt more secure, but transparent enough to let the neopixels show through.
10. Makecode: Of course, I was simultaenously working on the code for my wearable. After many iterations, this is my final code.
- The wearable’s switch is activated by A1. If the switch is turned on, the neopixels are set at red. At start, it plays the sound ‘power up’.
- If the wearer is still for 1000 ms, the wearable plays the sound ‘wawawaa’, telling them to move.
- On each shake, the neopixels on one side turn green one by one, playing the sound ‘ba ding’ until it reaches 5 shakes. This indicates a series of movements that add up to ‘dancing’. At this point, the wearable plays the rainbow animation with the sound ‘magic wand’.
- In each of these steps, if the wearer stops moving, the ‘wawawaa’ sound will play.
Final Images & Videos
Here is a video of how the switch of the belt is activated. (P.S while I was fastening my belt, the conductive fabrics started touching and the wearable detected that I wasn’t moving — hence the ‘wawawaa’ sound playing while I’m still adjusting) Video 1
Here is a video of how the belt tells me to start moving, and how each shake leads up to the ‘continuous dance’ indication. Video 2
Reflections & Next Steps
If I had more time and resources, I would have wanted to use a different material for my wearable. The fabric of the belt was quite flimsy as mentioned before, and I suspect that it might have contributed to some slight glitches that appeared in my switch once in a while. Maybe the conductive thread wasn’t sewed tightly enough, or it got loosened because of the soft material! I would also like to program a way of detecting music as well, if I had the chance to revisit this project.
Resources & Related Works
Eckelkamp, S. (2020, November 20). Why Dancing Is Amazing for You Even If You Suck. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/health/benefits-of-dance
Kohler, C. (2019, September 11). 7 reasons why dance makes you feel so good! Retrieved from https://www.danceworksdenville.com/single-post/2019/09/11/6-reasons-why-dance-makes-you-feel-so-good
UserGuest. (2019, February 17). Introducing WELT belt: A Smart Wearable for Health-care. Retrieved from https://www.techbeamers.com/introducing-welt-belt-a-smart-wearable-for-health-care/