Conversational Collar


Project description

The Conversational Collar is an expressive wearable that responds to conversations around it. Using the sound sensor on the Adafruit CPX, it listening to the surrounding sounds and using a servo motor moves in small waves when someone is talking, like it is calm and is listening and when there is silence it switches into a more excited mode like its speaking or participating by filing in the silences.
It was inspired by the concept of a wearable behaving like a ventriloquist with inspiration form origami apparel and motion based geometric form, inspired from kinetic origami structures, making it geometric but still showing organic movements.

Project Context

During the first exploration I experimented with paper to make a quick prototype and being an origami hobbyist I built a small tessellation structure and hooked it on a servo motor. The simple movement of the folds contracting and relaxing seemed a lot like the breathing of an organism and the opening and closing of the folds looked like it was miming words. Taking feedback from classmates around many came to relate the movement to like the one of the ‘Sorting Hat‘ in Harry Potter and I was inspired to create a wearable that either spoke or responded to sound to be worn in a conversational scenario.


The next few steps involved testing different tessellation folds and through the iterations I came across the Herring Bone tessellation in the book Folding Techniques for Designers by Paul Jackson. Several kinetic-arduino projects also served as the basis for designing how the movements would look; some of these are Reverse Folding Kinetic Origami and Kinetic Origami Sculpture explorations.

An interesting project I discovered in the space of origami based wearables was VEASYBLE, a set of wearable accessories that can be converted at a touch into a means of isolation. The project is based on three keywords: isolation, intimacy and ornament. It consists of a set of wearable objects that can be converted into means of isolation, to create a personal intimacy in any environment. The idea derives from a reflection on the change in our relationship with the domestic environment, due to the effects of our increasing mobility, and how this has affected our concept of intimacy, creating new demands. It is an ornament that can be worn, a gesture to transform it, a secret place for personal intimacy and a reminder of our exterior aspect.
VEASYBLE is made of paper bonded to polyethylene and fabric, this combination of materials would be most suitable for the next more refined version of the Conversational Collar.


In the paper, Design Framework for Social Wearables, the authors describe an expressive Wearable as a hat with small fans that fold and unfold when the wearer is experiencing a loud noise, a bright light or a body coming too close. The hat’s movements resemble the bodily gestures of people (Dagan et al. 2019) giving it an expression. Similarly, for the project I chose to use two expressions to represent two states of the wearable: patient and chatty.
Each adjective was used to assign movements to each state such that the structural movement of the paper folds and the speed of the movements display those adjectives. The wearable exhibits two states activated by the voice (sound) made by the wearer. The wearable is designed to be worn close to the mouth and the sound sensor is also fined tuned to respond to decibel volume of a closer range, such that when the wearer talks the sound is picked up by the on-board sound sensor making the collar show patience, like it is listening. When the wearer or a nearby person involved in a conversation, stop talking or are quiet the wearable transitions into the other state that of excited chatter like it actively participating in the conversation.
The activated state achieved in noisy settings and is expressed through the use of a single actuator(micro servo motor) that is used in multiple modes to then transition into a more excitedly pulsating motion when the setting is silent. When in either of these states, the wearable still exhibits some dynamic behaviour through the actuator movements causing the paper folds to contract and relax and simultaneous appear to pulsate.


The Process of making

Choice of Aesthetics
Because I wanted the wearable to respond to the voice of the wearer or the person having a conversation with the wearer, I decided to build it like collar around the neck, close to the mouth to catch the subtle sounds made by the wearer.  I chose paper as the material to obtain the folded structure in the short duration of the project. White paper was chosen again for logistic reason for ease of access and making and through making it served as a good material to highlight the folds with the shadow and light play on the mountain and valley folds.





The paper structure was folded in geometric tessellations folds to give it structure that could easily move with the servo motor and mounted on a fabric. The electronics were attached to the fabric with was cut to be easily snapped around the neck like a bow or tie or neckpiece. The paper structure was made up of three A4 sheets folded and joined together to have dense folds as one wears it and the density of the structure helps to show the movement with the motor. On pull the folds are pulled apart and then regain their original positions creating an accordion like movement. The poetic symbolism of the accordion movement also fit well with the position of the wearable being on the neck near the vocal chords- when one is tired or not talking, the collar takes over and creates sounds and movements to appear chatty.




Parts list

  • Adafruit Circuit Playground Express
  • On-board sound sensor
  • Servo motor (full rotation micro servo)
  • Alligator clips
  • Connector Wires
  • Paper
  • Clear string
  • Fabric
  • Snap buttons
  • Thread
  • Safety pins

The Circuit Diagram






Clear string attached along the spine of the fold.

Project code is available on Github here.


Dagan, Ella, et al. “Design Framework for Social Wearables.” Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference  – DIS ’19, ACM Press, 2019, pp. 1001–15. (Crossref), doi:10.1145/3322276.3322291.

Hartman, Kate, Make: Wearable Electronics, Maker Media, 2014.

Jackson, Paul, and an O’Reilly Media Company Safari. Folding Techniques for Designers. 2011. Open WorldCat,

Origami Herringbone Tessellation | Tutorial. YouTube, Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.
VEASYBLE. Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.
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