Fairy Dust – Angelina Do & Valeria Suing

Project Title: “Fairy Dust”

Project Description

“Fairy Dust” is a wearable electronic device exhibited in the form of a vest mounted with moving wings controlled by the movement of the body. It also has an installation/interactive piece where the movement triggers on-screen animated fairy dust. “Fairy Dust” was an exploration by use of wearable technology as a platform for self-expression through fashion or style. This wearable was created for those who dare to dream and imagine!

Project Context

Parts, Materials, Technical Assets

  • Circuit Playground Express 
  • Micro USB Cable 
  • Micro Servo Motors (with 3D printed servo 90 degree)
  • Needle and Thread 
  • Fabric (Flannel, Cotton, Tule) 
  • Fairy Wings 
  • Decorative Elements (Flower Trim, Rose Embellishments etc.) 
  • Alligator Clips 
  • TouchDesigner 
  • Power Source (Powerbank used)

diagram_servomotors

Link To Code

Link To MakeCode

Wearability Assessment

“Fairy Dust” was designed to create an engaging experience. It’s meant to be presented as an interactive art piece that would impress, surprise and delight the user and audience. Throughout the process, we followed the Design Framework For Social Wearables (2019) as we considered how and why we would create our desired outcome. 

  • Sensing 

Our wearables project consists of using an accelerometer to sense body movement. The placement of the accelerometer was discussed by using Clint Zeagler’s Movement Sensor Placement Body Map. After taking into consideration garment manufacturing and wire placement, we decided to place the sensor in the back. We also considered that according to the accelerometer’s height, there would be different values for the y and z axis that would have to be addressed via calibration. After several tests, we saw that z axis values gave us consistent results in relationship to the wearable’s behaviour and environment. 

  • Actuating 

“Fairy Dust” has two expressive visual outputs that are meant to capture the attention of the public. As a kinetic wearable project, we made use of servo motors to activate movement. Motors were attached to fairy wings in the back to create a flapping motion. As part of the immersive experience, the other actuator was interactive fairy dust visuals using a particle system. 

  • Sensing-Actuating Interplay 

Since fairies are mythical creatures, our perception of their wing behavior is heavily influenced by childhood characters and stories. In our interpretation, we decided to use an upright position to make the wings move. When the accelerometer senses a change in this position, the wings will stop moving. 

At first, this interaction may be a surprise for the user, creating a sense of magic. As the user keeps interacting with the wearable, the input may become more apparent. At this point, the user can start expressing through their body movement while changing the behavior of the outcomes. 

  • Personal and Social Requirements 

This immersive experience requires attention from the wearer. A big decision to incorporate visuals was to keep the user’s engagement and focus. This physical immersion allows participants to step into a unique interaction and let their imaginations flow. We wanted to create an experience where the user feels like part of the story. This wearable is meant to create an audience and allows for different interpretations. 

Photos

  • Being Worn & Displayed

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Video of Interaction

Interaction of body movement (CPX accelerometer values attached to serial monitor) controlling fairy dust animation on TouchDesigner:

finalvisual

Supporting Sketches, Diagrams, Models, Renderings

  • Visuals Process

To decide the look of the visuals we decided to make a moodboard. This helped us choose a colour palette and aesthetics.

visualsmoodboard

The next step was to allow serial communication between MakeCode and TouchDesigner. After some research we realized that this connection was only possible on Windows. We were able to make it work by switching computers and using functions to reference these values. 

To make the visuals reactive we used a sphere geometry function. The position of the sphere referenced the serial monitor. We then used the sphere as an input in the particlesGPU and customized the behavior of the particles.

After testing the behaviour of the particle system, we customized the look to match the desired aesthetics of our immersive experience.

finalvisual

  • Wings Process

Being our first time working with micro servo motors, or any motors as a matter of fact it was important to run many trial and error sessions. In this first video here, one half of the wings were roughly attached to view the potential motions the motor could create.

After seeing how just the motor on its own made more of a “wiggle” motion rather than “flapping”, we were lent a 3D printed 90 degree servo attachment to allow for a more seamless flapping motion. At this point in time, the wings were moving seperately, rather than together.

The final step of the motor mechanics was placement inside the vest. We had to ensure they were sewn in at an appropriate height and distance from each other for a more accurate emulation of “flapping” wings”. At this height, the wings do not obstruct the wearer’s movement or offer any discomfort which is exactly what we were aiming for!

  • Vest Process

Since this project was more of an exploration for self-expression, it was important that we created a wearable that captured the majestic style and mood that was envisioned. We decided to create a vest from scratch using materials sourced from FabricLand. I started out by using a form-fitted shirt as a guide since the wearable would be fitted to my (Angelina’s) body. The final wearable ended up being a hand-sewn double lined vest made of a flannel fabric, with tule sleeves and a tule trim, finished off with rose embellishments. The wings were the only thing that were pre-made (purchased from Dollarama). This was my first time doing something like this and I am very proud of the outcome!

Challenges & Successes

Being a collaborative project, we depended on meetings and constant communication. As per safety precautions due one of us contracting COVID-19, we were forced to work remotely on the last week before the due date. This was challenging since only one of us had access to the wings and vest. We also needed access to Windows to connect the serial monitor from MakeCode and, unfortunately, this led us to not see both finished pieces work together. 

In spite of all circumstances we are both very proud of the outcome. We followed a schedule and we communicated really well throughout the process. We set goals for each team meeting and we assigned responsibilities to work on our own. We were able to successfully work as a team and individually. 

Next Steps

We would definitely want to keep working on this project as a collaboration. Something  that we want to incorporate is another output such as lightning. We had some trouble incorporating neopixels into our design, we also discussed the possibility of adding fibre optics and the design possibilities that this would bring. 

Our goal was to see body movement interact with the wings and visuals. Nonetheless, another exploration that we are curious about is making the visuals interact to the wing’s movement. We’re both curious to keep exploring this little world that we created and the endless opportunities for different unique interactions. 

References:

Dagan, E., Márquez Segura, E., Altarriba Bertran, F., Flores, M., Mitchell, R., & Isbister, K. (2019). Design Framework for Social Wearables. Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference. https://doi.org/10.1145/3322276.3322291

Zeagler, C. (2017). Where to wear it. Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers. https://doi.org/10.1145/3123021.3123042

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