Visualizing Sensor Data: I-See & BreathMask

The following two wearable technology projects, I-See and BreathMask, are explorations of practical and artistic uses for sensors in wearable garments. In the making of both garments, I explore the relationship between the body and technology.

The BreathMask

The BreathMask is a surgical mask that can be used for everyday wear to protect the user from breathing pollutants and viruses. My goal for this project was to embed a gas sensor into the mask to measure the users breathing patterns (through rising and falling CO2 data) and visualize them through the neopixels sewn into the forward-facing section of the mask. The objective of this project is to create a useful product that utilizes technology for the purpose of self-expression through fashion.


Relevant Projects

  • When conceptualizing the idea for BreathMask I was inspired by this Wearable Gas Sensor Mask made using Adafruits CCS811 gas sensor and the Circuit Playground Express. What I found interesting in this project was the creator’s use of light to visualize body-centric data.
  • I found aesthetic inspiration from the artist Wang Zhijun and his Yeezy Boost 350 pollution mask design.
  • When finalizing material design choices I looked to industrial designers Wenzhi Li’s Smart Mask as a source of inspiration for choosing rapid prototyping methods. This product design of the Smart Mask is what got me thinking about using high fidelity materials and combining fabric materials with 3D printed pieces.

Breath Mask Part List 

  1. Adafruit CCS811 Air Quality Sensor Breakout – VOC and eCO2
  2. NeoPixel Ring – 16 x WS2812 5050 RGB LED
  3. Arduino Uno
  4. 1″ by 1″ piece of Neoprene
  5. Cardboard
  6. Canvas Strap
  7. Jumper Wire

Wearability Assessment

For the Breath Mask, I think the wearability of the design is comfortable and secure enough for short term use, however, the structure of the mask could be improved for long term use by using a less rigid material. Due to a lack of resources (because of COVID-19) I had to use cardboard for the final prototype instead of the sneaker fabric and 3D printed pieces I wanted to use. Overall, I think the product is effectively wearable for its intended purpose.

Challenges & Successes

The biggest challenge I had developing the BreathMask was getting the gas sensor to effectively visualize the user’s beath. Because the design positions the sensor in a place that is close to the mouth the CO2 values are registered as High even when the user is inhaling. This is because the sensor is still picking up remaining CO2 levels in its atmosphere from when the user exhaled. My approach to this problem was to create the inhale/exhale pattern using a light fading loop and use the sensor data to change the pixel colors.

Another major challenge with this project was my lack of access to a soldering machine. Most of the components I had needed to be soldered rather than using weak temporary connectors like alligator clips. This caused me to have insufficient or overflowing sources of power in my circuit, eventually blowing out the sensor completely. That is when I pivoted my project to focus on the I-See.

Video of Working Code

Link to Commented Code 


The second project, I – See, is a fingerless glove that serves as a wearable guidance system for the visually impaired. My goal for this project is to create a hand-operated wearable embedded with a proximity sensor. When the user approaches a wall or an object the sensor will activate an alarm sound (for the user) and flash a red warning light (for people around them) to alert the user when they are approaching a potential danger.


Relevant Projects

  • When developing I-See I researched some existing guidance tools, The one I found most interesting was the WayBand. This is because it seemed to me like one of the few useful and effective guidance tools that allowed the user a greater sense of independence and awareness of their environment

I-See Part List 

  1. NeoPixel Ring – 16 x WS2812 5050 RGB LED
  2. Arduino Uno
  3. Speaker – 3″ Diameter – 4 Ohm 3 Watt
  4. Jumper Wire
  5. A Sock or Glove.

Wearability Assessment

As for the I-See glove, I think the wearability of this product needs to be thoroughly improved. The weight of the Arduino on the top of the hand is slightly uncomfortable so perhaps switching to a smaller microcontroller would be best (something like the Arduino Micro).  Additionally, all of the wires and components were especially hard to hide (again due to a lack of resources caused by COVID-19).

Challenges & Successes

In developing the I-See my biggest challenge was getting the Arduino to play the alarm sound through a speaker. By this point, I was feeling pretty successful having got the light and sensor working together fairly easily. I was surprised to find out how difficult it was to do something that I thought to be the simplest – playing a sound file. To be able to play the sound file through the attached speaker I had to change the stereo bit rate to fit the 8kHz sample rate and 16kpbs stereo bit rate supported by the Arduino. Then I had to use an audio encoder to convert my sound into the binary format used by the Arduino. Next, I had to change my import setting so that I could convert the new file to mp3. After all that I had to deleted pages and pages of binary code from the encoded sound file because it was causing the byte size of the sketch to exceed the program storage space.

Video of Working Product

Link to Commented Code

Next Steps

Given the resources, I would refine the I-See product further by 3D printing a casing for the light and speaker that could be sewn into the front of the glove, and I would use conductive fabric rather than wires to make the circuit connections.

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