Many can agree that hugging our loved ones is a universally comforting experiencing, but how many can say that they hug their loved ones regularly? World-renowned family therapist Virginia Satir famously once said that we need four hugs per day to survive, 8 hugs for maintenance, and 12 hugs for growth. For my project, I want to create a sweater that visually shows you how many hugs you’ve gotten from your loved ones and yourself. The sweater looks like a normal sweater, with the only visible difference being that each time you are hugged, a neo pixel from the CPX in your front pocket will light up. For every fourth hug, a little jingle also plays in celebrate. When you get your twelfth hug an animation plays on your CPX, along with a tune, before the counter resets to zero.
I chose to do this concept for this assignment because I hug my mom a lot and thought it would be cool if I could keep track of how many hugs I got on a regular basis. I also wanted to try experimenting with capacitive touch more and get more familiar with MakeCode. Having to figure out how to detect and keep track of how many the capacitive touch sensor went off sounded like a good challenge to try to make in MakeCode.
The 4 Points of Wearability
One of the major things I kept in mind while working on this project was making this as comfortable as possible – which to me meant limiting the number of wires and other elements as much as possible. It’s why I choose to use capacitive touch as an input and the neo pixels and sound from the CPX as outputs. It greatly reduces the number of components on the body (as opposed to having say, 12 LEDs), making the sweater much lighter and less likely to hinder movement.
I placed the CPX in the front pocket of the sweater because it was the heaviest part of the project and I wanted it to be properly secured near the core of the body. It would also be much less distracting to the wearer as opposed to having it on the chest or shoulder.
The sweater itself is relatively thick and soft so the electronic components can’t be easily damaged. The CPX was also purposely placed in the front pocket so it has a layer of protection and can avoid getting hit by accident from wild motion. The circuit is also only comprised of conductive thread which is adaptable and relatively durable. For the insultation I used a towel to cover the inside of the sweater, so the wearer doesn’t need to worry about the conductive thread touching their skin directly.
The interaction between person and the wearable is very simple and straightforward – if the person touches the back of the sweater, a neo pixel will light up and sometimes a jingle will play as well. The capacitive touch sensor is placed on the back specifically to encourage hugging, as another person would naturally be within reach and touch someone’s back while hugging. While the ideal interaction is hugging, the person themselves can still activate the interaction by touching their own back or having someone else just pat their back. The visual feedback may also not be as strong as it’s placed lower than the average eye level and is a bit diffused by the pocket covering over them. But it is still relatively effective since the colorful rainbow lights stand out from the rest of the regular grey sweater. The only other thing that hinders the usability of this wearable is that it requires to be plugged in because it doesn’t have a battery built into the wearable.
I wanted my wearable to look like an average piece of clothing most people would wear so I choose an old grey sweater and tried to make the electronic components as discreet as possible. The conductive thread also being grey particularly helps make it less noticeable on the sweater. The only major change I made in terms of aesthetics for the sweater was that I added a simple design on the back. This was because I needed to cover the back with conductive thread to detect touch but I also didn’t want to make random stitches. I decided to stitch a simple design on the back with conductive thread and different shades of blue regular thread to make it more visually interesting but also still subtle.
Process, Final Images, and Circuit Diagrams
For some reason I can’t upload my images onto the blog itself because they’re too big so I attached a google doc here for viewing:
- Circuit Playground Express
- Conductive Thread (A LOT)
- Regular Thread
- Battery Pack (Optional)
- Extra Fabric
Reflection & Next Steps
Overall this project was interesting and fun to explore! I particularly liked the coding but I found the sewing to be pretty difficult since the capacitive touch sensor would stop working sometimes and I would have to back track. If I had more time I would’ve gotten more conductive thread to finish the design I had planned for the back and I would’ve incorporated the battery into the pocket so I wouldn’t have to connect the CPX to the laptop. If I were to make future iterations, I think exploring some of the ideas people came up with in class would be fun to do! I particularly liked the idea of neo pixels changing colors depending on how long you stay in a hug and having an app that keeps track of your total hugs, hug count goals, etc.
Barela, A. (2018, July 26). MakeCode. Adafruit Learning System. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://learn.adafruit.com/make-it-sense/makecode-6
Cirino, E. (2018, April 11). Why you should get (and give) more hugs. Healthline. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/hugging-benefits#:~:text=Family%20therapist%20Virginia%20Satir%20once,are%20better%20than%20not%20enough.