Voice in Nature

Wearable 3 Documentation
The Documentation
Project Title:
Voice in nature

Voice in nature is an expressive wearable that demonstrates the connectivity between humans and nature. While white symbolizes purity and blue resembles the color of sky and sea, the lights embedded in the flowers on the dress will react to the voice of the wearer when they talk by using the sound volume as an input and light behaviors as output. Intending to unite humans and nature as a whole, Voice in nature is more than just an aesthetic piece and sends a poetic message that humans not only play an important part by coexisting with nature, but also they can make a difference and save nature by raising their voice to speak up for the environment.
With 2020 being a disastrous year, many people are stuck at home under the quarantine situation. More than anything and anytime, people desire to go out and enjoy sunshine, flowers blooming, birds singing and breaths of fresh air with spring approaching. It is only when we are separated from nature for a long time that we start to appreciate the value of it. Voice in nature tries to capture glimpses of beauty in nature and awaken the appreciation for beauty in anyone who has forgotten our interdependent relationship with it. It also functions as a reminder for me during this difficult time to stay hopeful and positive that spring, a season which symbolizes life and hope, is around the corner.

Project Context


Iris van Herpen and Liliya Hudyakova are two fashion designers that came up during my research of nature inspired fashion pieces. Their works are absolutely beautiful and inspiring. While Iris van Herpen seems to play with the shape of her fashion design pieces more, Liliya Hudyakova seems to play with the prints of her design pieces more. The works of both fashion designers are all very stunning and have really enabled me to develop a strong appreciation for nature through their works beyond what words can describe. If one day nature will no longer be the way it is now, perhaps this is a special and meaningful way for it to be recorded and remembered. It was after seeing their work that I decided to create nature inspired wearable designs because wearing nature on the body is as close as we can get to it. Especially now when people have more difficulty getting close to nature during the pandemic, I think creating nature inspired clothing design holds special meaning. I feel unsettled knowing that spring is coming but I can not go out like usual. It serves as a reminder of not only how precious nature can be to us, especially to me, but also a reminder of hope that spring is around the corner.

Wearable forest (Kobayashi et al. 1) is a wearable by 3 Japanese artists Hiroki Kobayashi, Ryoko Ueoka, Michitaka Hirose that brings humans and nature together. By embedding speakers and a GPU on the dress, the wearable is able to have bio-acoustical interaction with the subtropical forest of the southern Ryukyu Islands of Japan by receiving real time sound data from the forest. Inspired by the Zen Buddist philosophy, Wearable forest intends to bring inner peace to wearers who live in fast paced cities wherever they are by carrying the sound of forest around through this wearable piece. Quite similar to the idea of my wearable piece, Wearable forest emphasizes on the relationship between humans and nature as a whole and invites people to ponder on this relationship by wearing nature on the body. Although the lights on Wearable forest do not have a direct relationship with nature, it added to the aesthetics. There are a lot of similarities between my project and Wearable forest in terms of conceptual idea, utilizing sound and lights. Although on top of this, I will be using fiber optics, which has created a unique look in my opinion in my project.
I came across this video on YouTube of a fiber optic table. I really like the starlike effect of the table created through fiber optics. I thought perhaps I could do something similar to this table with my wearable project by having 1 light source and connecting long fiber optics to this light source. In this table project, all the fiber optics are concealed in a protection box. With wearables however, a new solution to secure and place fiber optics is needed as hard and stiff constructions such as boxes are usually unfavorable on wearables. Also, humans, unlike a table which is static, tend to move around a lot which can bend and therefore destroy fiber optics by accident. These are all things which should be taken into consideration. These are also the problems left unsolved in my second assignment. As this project is my attempt to refine my second project, I need to seek better solutions this time.

I saw quite a few fiber optic wearable projects on the internet to find inspiration of how they embed fiber optics into their design, it turns out half of them weaved the fiber optics in the fabric directly, and half of them just left them hanging on the surface without any attempt to stabilize them (a lot of the times that’s also the effect the creators wanted when the fiber optics swing as the wearers moved and sometimes danced.). I need to come up with my own solution to placing and securing the fiber optics.

After digging around on YouTube for a while, I found that glue guns are actually a really good way for a number of things when it comes to dealing with fiber optics. Not only can it diffuse the light, as shown in the video, but also, it can secure fiber optics in position on fabric. I used it to glue the ends of a bundle of fiber optics together because I realized without the help of glue, the angle of fiber optics in relation to lights need to be quite precious. The fibers will lose light even if the ends miss the lights by a few millimeters. The glued end gives more surface for the light to be in contact with. This is also what led me to figure out to use an iron to melt and curl the fiber optics as I realized fiber optics tend to curl after heated, however, it doesn’t lose its ability to transmit light after being heated and curled, so I used this method to manipulate fiber optics to get more organic feel.

Also to reduce the tendency to bend the fiber optics, I think I should use a few light sources instead of only one so the fiber optics don’t need to be too long. The lights on the dress will be something like the video below. And I will place a bundle of short curled fiber optics at top to resemble flower stamens. The result I thought would look better than just the lights alone.


parts list
Fiber optics
Sewable LEDs
Conductive fabric
Conductive thread
Adafruit CPX

circuit diagram or schematics


link to code on GitHub

1 2 3 4

Wearability Assessment
According to the article Fiber optic sensors for wearable applications (Rantala et al. 88) that a few criteria should be taken into consideration including form (needs to follow the form of the body), size (needs to be small), weight (needs to be light), displacement (needs to be placed in areas with less movement), interaction (needs to be intuitive), electronics (needs to be simple). Among these criteria, I personally feel that the displacement is the most important and relevant in my project. Because the nature of fiber optics are not very flexible, therefore, it would be better to place them on areas of the body that have less bending movement. With torso being one of the largest areas on the body and more stable compared to areas such as limbs or joints, I think it adds to the wearability of this piece. Other criteria such as the form, size and weight I think are less relevant as fiber optics as decorative pieces sewn to the dress rather than weaving fiber optics into the dress as part of the fabric. I think the interaction and electronics are relatively intuitive and simple.
Moreover, it is suggested in the article that “Special construction will be needed to ensure controlled movement of the fibers and functionality of the sensor.”, this is taken care of with glue and stitches. The article also mentioned the importance of the alignment of the end points of fiber optics for light to be transmitted. I also solved this problem by gluing the ends together. It turns out the glue is very important in handling fiber optics.


img-1596 img-1680 img-1684

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Any supporting sketches, diagrams, models, renderings



Challenges & Successes: What challenges did you overcome?
Pulse sensor and external LEDs
One of the biggest challenges with my initial idea was that I was unable to write code for external LEDs in Arduino IDE after initializing the Circuit playground library in Arduino IDE. The LED blinking code and pulse sensing code work separately, however, when I put them together it stops working. I eliminated the problem on the code line by line and realized the problem started when I initiated the Circuit playground library, which led me to think there might be a conflict between the Arduino standard library and Circuit playground library. I spent days on trying to figure out this problem and tried 3 different programs – Arduino IDE, Makecode and Circuit Python and still couldn’t figure it out.
I still haven’t been able to find anything online about this topic since assignment 2 either, so I decided to compromise. In assignment 2, I compromised the external LEDs in order to use the pulse (light) sensor on the board, however, I realized the fiber optics are quite difficult to secure in position when they are long but they had to be long to reach the neopixels on the board. This time, I decided to compromise the pulse sensor and choose a different input for the wearable project. This led me to think what other attributes constitute the essence of life. Heartbeat is of course the most direct and obvious thing. However, sound can also express lifeness, which is why I decided to use the sound sensor instead of the pulse sensor. This decision has allowed me to follow the same conceptual idea, however, it also solved the library conflict problem in Arduino IDE as Makecode has the function to receive signal on the sound sensor on the board and also at the same time send signal to external elements.

Next Steps
Go big! More lights! A whole dress full of flowers!
One of the challenges limited by the current situation is not only the limited material that I could work with (I only have fiber optics and 8 LEDs at hand.), but also a limited time frame to make something nice and polished. I only made 8 flowers but decided to make the small amount nice and pretty. However, given more time in the future, I’d like to go big and make a whole dress covered in lights. Big scale of things always look nice.
Brighter lights
One thing I noticed during my project is that the sewable LEDs are not big or bright enough for all the fiber optics to be equally bright. The fiber optics in the center are brighter and the ones on the outer area are dimmer. I think using brighter LEDs or use Neopixels will solve this problem.
Pulse sensor
It’s a shame that I could not use the pulse sensor on Adafruit this time because of the conflict of libraries. However, I would still like to use it in the future in some capacities to add that element of life in the project. Perhaps I will make gloves as part of the design and place an external pulse sensor there.
One thing I would really like to try is to incorporate some kind of environmental API to the wearable and play with different data visualization approaches. Perhaps the more polluted a place is, the dimmer the lights will be on the dress for example.


Clements40. Fiber Optic Concrete Table. 2018. YouTube. April 3rd 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7UrfCaF0PM&t=62s

Iris van Herpen. Shift Souls. 2019. YouTube. April 3rd 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwJb0-20Ad4

Joyplanes RC. LED lights in a jumper / sweater, wearable electronic project | JLCPCB. 2018. YouTube. April 3rd 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5U8Db2PbfY

Kobayashi, Hiroki et al. “Wearable forest clothing system: beyond human-computer interaction” SIGGRAPH ’09: ACM SIGGRAPH 2009 Art Gallery. 2009: 1-7. ACM Digital Library. Web. April 3rd 2020. https://dl-acm-org.ocadu.idm.oclc.org/doi/abs/10.1145/1667265.1667267

leucocephala. How to make a fiber optic light diffuser with a dot of hot glue. 2011. YouTube. April 3rd 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSdpRzBbR2E

Lumen Couture. Fiber Optic Lighting for Wearable Tech: Beginner How-To Guide. 2016. YouTube. April 3rd 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nitoFevfIJg

PERFECT-STYLE-KNOWER. Fashion and Nature – Liliya Hudyakova The greatest designers are inspired to create their most fabulous pieces, 2018. Web. April 3rd 2020. https://perfectstyleknower.wordpress.com/2018/01/21/fashion-and-nature-liliya-hudyakova-the-greatest-designers-are-inspired-to-create-their-most-fabulous-pieces/

Rantala, Jyri et al. “Fiber optic sensors for wearable applications” Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. 15.1(2011): 85-96. ACM Digital Library. Web. April 3rd 2020. https://dl-acm-org.ocadu.idm.oclc.org/doi/abs/10.1007/s00779-010-0303-y

Wikimedia Commons. File:Pohutukawa flower stamens and styles.jpg, 2016. Web. April 3rd 2020. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pohutukawa_flower_stamens_and_styles.jpg

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