Wearing Lights




The bicycle glove is designed for urban cyclists who rides for long distances with their group. The main purpose of designing this glove is to help the night riders to indicate directions to the other riders behind them in the dark. This glove will also help to communicate turning intentions to other vehicles on the road.

The bright LED lights on the back of the gloves makes it easier for cyclists to locate their group members and clearly understand the directions that are being instructed. The ON/OFF feature of the glove is coded in such a way that the glove is off when the cyclist has his hands on the handle, so that he doesn’t get distracted with the bright light. But as soon as the cyclist moves his hand away from the handle to direct others, the LED lights turn on.

I’m a cyclist myself and I have experienced that at night and during winters when it’s very foggy  with minimum visibility , it gets very difficult to indicate directions to the car behind or to instruct the fellow cyclists as well. Therefore this product enhances the safety of a cyclist.

In this project, I have soldered about 11 LED’s together in a frame according to the design on the glove. All the LED’s connect together to a single positive and negative wire on the breadboard. I’m using the gyroscope sensor to record the moment  so that the LED’s can turn on accordingly.







Parts –

  1. Arduino Nano 33 IOT
  2. LED bulbs
  3. Jumper Cables
  4. Resistors
  5. Breadboard

Materals –

  1. Pair of gloves
  2. Soldering wire and Soldering iron
  3. Sewing kit
  4. USB cable
  5. Powerbank



Soldering all the LEDs in a particular shape was the most challenging part of this experiment.








Cycling is an essential mode of transportation in cities. Bicycle safety is the most critical problem, and as more riders take to the streets, cyclists are looking forward to increased road safety. Cycling, on the other hand, continues to face difficulties in terms of protection, convenience, and accessibility. There are a number of things you can do to stay safe on the road, particularly in low-light conditions.

Bicycling at night can be unsafe because cars don’t see you. Only by using lights will you remain visible. There are many products already in the market such as bike lights/reflectors that make the cyclists more visible. The LED headlight for bicycle is a very good product for the riders to see till far off distance in the front. The loud electric bell is also one products that makes it easier for cyclists to show their presence around in peak traffic hours as it is much louder than the traditional bell. Revolights system is one really good innovation made for night riders. Revolights system includes a front shining light that projects on the road in front of you, lighting your path, and the smart brake light flickers when you hit the brakes to show traffic you are slowing down ensuring a clear and safer parth for the rider.

There are a lot of cycling groups that go for bicycle hikes together. Specially during the time of the pandemic, cycling has become an activity that is enjoyed by everyone yet they are exercising at the same time. There are a lot of people who have cycling groups and go for hikes. Therefore the light indicator on the gloves can make it easier for the person following to locate his/her partner or group members even from far off distance.




Haptic Feedback Experiments




(1)Arduino Nano 33 IOT

(2)Keyes Vibrating motor module

(2) Transistors

(2) LED lights replacement of diodes

Jumper wires

Aligator Clips

Conductive Fabric

Conductive Thread

Felt Fabric

Thread & Glue gun


Experiment 1 – Understanding Vibrating motors blink/fade


Experiment 2 – Tactile illusions






In the first experiment , my aim was to understand how the vibrating motors work and how the sensation feels when we change the intensity of the vibrations.I tried both Blink and Fade code and explored the vibration sensation by directly moving the motor on my fingers and palm. I also tried putting a fabric between by hand and the vibration motor and observed that the sensation varies from the thickness and nature of the materials in between.





EXPERIMENT 2 – Face massage tool

For the second experiment, I wanted to create a small product prototype with two vibrating motors. I also used my learning from the ‘Digital Switches’ and made a Face Massaging tool that works only when pressure is applied and the digital switches connects. The prototype has been constructed in layers with conductive fabric sandwiched between felt fabric, connected with conductive threads and vibrating motors attached to the another layer of felt fabric.

The motors are coded in such a way that creates a tactile illusion of vibrating sensation. As soon as the Positive and Negative of the conductive fabric touch each other, the first motor starts vibrating. After a few seconds, even the other motor turns on and the intensity of the vibration increases. When the digital switches disconnect, the one motor turns off immediately and the other one turns off after a few seconds. As a facial massaging product, this sensation illusions helps in slowly decreasing the intensity of vibration on the face.

Process Images & Video –



Final Images & Video –

4 3


References –



Dhyāi Sparsá by Simran and Krishnokoli




Dhyāi Sparsá is an immersive meditative device that is worn as a glove on the hand. The glove has vibrating points embedded on the chakra points on the palm, that help in the chakra meditation process.

Chakra based meditation is an age-old Indian tradition, which helps to soothe the mind, increase productivity, and has multiple other benefits. Traditionally located along the spine towards the brain, chakras are present in different parts of our body like our palms, feet, joints etc. Each point has its own benefits and is signified with a colour, form and raaga (sound tone).

This project is an extension of the Dhyai Drishti, which was a touch based Chakra meditative experience, using visuals and sound. The project was created during our Creation And Computation course, by Kate Hartman and Nick Puckett, in our first semester at OCAD.

Experience Video

Project Images



image: top – palm view, bottom – structure

Project Context

This project was inspired by several haptic and sensory driven meditation aid products. We have listed some of the most important references below.

1.Healy – Frequencies for life, https://globalfrequencynetwork.com/chakras/

Healy is a frequency based unique healing device that aids in holistic solution to pain, sleeplessness, anxiety and helps in creating an atmosphere of positivity and mindfulness. It is attached to the body with clips, that help distribute the frequencies to the wearer, aiding them in numerous ways.

2.Nadi X Yoga pants –  https://vimeo.com/251850319

Nadi X yoga pants is yoga pant created with woven technology which makes it easier for users to practice yoga alone. The yoga pants are wirelessly connected to the user’s smartphone and enables them to correct their posture if they do go wrong.

3.Salted, Smart Insole for golfers, https://www.salted.ltd/insole

Salted smart insole is an IoT-based wearable device and mobile app, which offers digital healthcare solutions to maintain “balance” in everyday life.  With Bluetooth, users can connect SALTED Smart Insole to the mobile app to assess their posture and receive personalised exercise recommendation.Embedded sensors that analyze user’s walking and gait patterns provide real-time feedback with 12 different vibration patterns. It’s chargeable, waterproof and sweatproof.

Project Code

While developing our project we, developed a version that has an LED matrix embedded on the top of the hand to visually indicate, others which Chakra the user is meditating on. The LED matrix changed pattern according to the symbol of the activated chakra. However, after further contemplation and discussion on the same, we decided, that meditation being a personal activity, we would not want to broadcast, the chakra to others, than the actual wearer, and hence removed it from ur final prototype. However, coding the LED matrix was an interesting experience. Below, are two code, one with and one without the matrix.

vibrating motors code

vibrating motors and LED Matrix code




Image: Top- circuit diagram, bottom – actual execution and wiring

Parts, materials and techniques


  • Arduino Nano 33 IOT
  • LED Matrix MK7129
  • Vibrating Motors
  • Push Buttons
  • Conductive Fabric
  • Jumper Cables
  • Conductive Thread
  • PCB Board
  • Copper Tape
  • Soldering Iron + Wire


  • Nonconductive thread
  • Needles
  • Glue Gun
  • Felt
  • Precision Knife
  • Scissors


  • The motors are connected on the points of chakras across the palm.
  • Conductive fabric is placed on the finger-tips, which are connected to the arduino to create digital switches. The conductive fabric on the thumb is connected to the ground pin, so that each specific mudra can switch on a motor, on the palm.
  • We have tried to use our learning from prototype 3 – digital switches for the mudra switch, prototype 5 – electronic textiles for creating our own custom breadboard and connecting it with conductive thread, and finally prototype 6 – haptic feedback for our vibrating motors.

Further Developments

We would like to create a bodysuit which would be wirelessly driven, and vibrations triggered by hand mudras will be vibrated across different points on the body, to help in meditation process.


LED Live Music Visualizer


Project Description

This live music visualizer aims to  provide a more interactive and entertaining live music experience for music lovers. I love music, and enjoy going to concerts, livehouse shows and listening to music at home. So I would like to make the experience of these music-related activities more interesting and interactive. The amount of neopixels on LED strips will be changed according to the frequency of the music. If every person in a concert or livehouse show puts on the LED music visualizer, they will be able to see the visualizer on the back of the person in front of them. Along with live music, the change of LEDs can provide a more immersive experience for users. It can also work at home. Individuals can put it upon the wall, play music, and enjoy the visualization. 

My prototype consists of four functional parts: LED strips, Arduino UNO, battery and sound sensor. There are 10 LED strips and each strip is composed of 6 neopixels. Each strip connects to another by wires. The battery is a 12V dry cell. In order to prevent damage to the circuit board, LED strips and the sensor, a 12V-to-5V converter has been used. The final prototype is in a backpack shape. It is made of non-woven fabric,  and there is a window to see the neopixels. I used semi-transparent TPU to make this window because I think it can slightly cover the strips, which affect the appearance of the prototype, and still can let the light of neopixels pass the window. Other parts are stored in a pocket under the window. Switching on the prototype, the leftmost LED strip will light up. Other strips are controlled by the frequency and loudness of the music. So the libraries used in this project are FastLED and ArduinoFFT.

Video of the interaction


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detail images


Arduino UNO, battery and converter are stored in this pocket.%e5%be%ae%e4%bf%a1%e5%9b%be%e7%89%87_20210416090001

I used non-conductive thread to fix the strips onto the non-woven fabric.%e5%be%ae%e4%bf%a1%e5%9b%be%e7%89%87_20210416090005The sound sensor.

Parts & Materials List

  • (1)Arduino UNO
  • (1)Sound sensor LM386
  • Wires
  • (1)One-meter long LED strip WS2812B
  • (1)DC-DC 12V to 5V converter
  • (1)12V battery
  • (1)Battery holder with button
  • Glue gun
  • Non-woven fabric
  • Translucent TPU
  • Non- conductive Thread
  • Solder Iron
  • Webbing
  • Buckle

circuit diagram




Project Context

My major research project is related to musical experience. So I would like to explore a multi-sensory way to participate in musical activity in this final project. 


The first inspiration was an audio visualizer using Arduino FFT by Chris Parker. It was made with ws2812b addressable LED strips controlled by an Arduino UNO. It was composed of a frame which was made with acrylic, plywood, and 3D Printed parts. The neopixels on the LED strips were controlled by the frequency and loudness of the music played. There were ten rows and ten columns of neopixels to constitute the colorful spectrum bands. The code of my project was based on this project, and I was inspired by his way of connecting LED strips — wires were soldered between strips, so I used the same approach to connect my LED strips. 


The second inspiration was the SubPac. SubPac is a tactile audio wearable device that transfers low frequencies directly to users’ bodies and provides them with a new physical dimension to the music experience. The SubPac allows users to feel the bass, like being in a live music show. It addresses the problem that hearing  intense bass for a long time may damage hearing and offers a more immersive experience for users. Furthermore, it can potentially help people with hearing impairment to enjoy music and prevent the sound from annoying their neighbours — they may hear music in a high volume in order to feel the vibration. I was inspired by the technological appearance and features of the SubPac. I intended to make a prototype that has both haptic and visual modules, however, my programming level was still not advanced and I lack the knowledge of how to translate frequency to vibration in code. So that will be the next step of this project.


The music to LED strip tutorial  by Yolanda Luque H. also inspired me a lot. This tutorial introduced how a RGB strip works, how to translate music to light and the idea of the code. Her LED strip changes its color according to different frequency bands. When making the prototype, I first tried this tutorial, to learn how to use an RGB strip to make a music visualizer. I used similar parts to build the prototype. However, the code didn’t work — The LED strip keeped glowing red even if I made sound beside the sound sensor. But though it was not a successful experience, it is good to know the knowledge of mapping and FFT.


The last thing that inspired me was the LED backpack. A LED backpack ofter has an LED screen, which can be controlled by bluetooth or an app, on its body. I liked the idea of putting the LED screen on the back and thought that if every audience in a live music show wore something like it would be a cool and more immersive experience.

Challenges & Successes

  • The lack of programming knowledge prevent me from making a prototype with haptic components.
  • The solder joints on the voltage converter keep peeling off and wires are easy to break.
  • The sensitivity of the sound sensor is not adjustable. So the music have to be played out loud if I want to see the change of the spectrum composed by neopixels.
  • The appearance of the final prototype looks well and the circuit works well.

next stepS

  • Learn more about how to translate frequency to vibration. Add vibrating module to the prototype.
  • Change sound sensor to an adjustable one and improve its sensitivity.


Yolanda Luque H. (2020, August). Music to LED strip tutorial (using the Fourier Transform). https://medium.com/@yolandaluqueh/music-to-led-strip-tutorial-using-fourier-transform-3d203a48fe14

Chirst Parker (2020, July). Easy Audio Visualizer Using Arduino FFT. youtube.com/watch?v=OPvW9lefkqE&list=LL&index=1&t=605s

SubPac. https://subpac.com/






The concept emphasizes the aesthetics of a fashion accessory, in this case a small purse, which is handy to carry a phone and a wallet. I put attention on the size, colour combination, material, and design. Other design component was sending a message about caring for our planet, a message that appeals to us in our role as guardians of our dear earth, to be more conscious, accountable, and respectful of our natural environment. A phrase made of letters which were built with 3 mm LED lights. “Because there is no planet B” is placed outside at the front of the purse, lights will be activated by the sound pressure level. Sound pressure level is the result of the pressure variations in the air achieved by the sound waves, and it depends not only on intensity of a sound, but also on the distance to sound source.

The message will be displayed in five lines of text that will turn on in sequence line by line, one at a time. The message is activated by sound to a certain level to a certain distance, the level used to activate lights is the one produced by a person saying “hello” at a distance of around two meters. Once lights are activated, lights will turn on line by line and fade off once all lines are on. This process will be repeated five times until, and during this time the sound sensor is not read. Lights can be activated again once the process is completed and lights are off. The idea behind is that when two people meet and salute each other the message will go on, this could be a nice way to start a conversation about our environment.

This purse could be used anytime, it could be casual or more dressy, depending on how it is accessorized. Brightness of lights is good enough to be seen during daytime.

This purse could be appealing to an environment-friendly person who wants to disseminate this type of message and possibly to anybody. This concept is based on:

Material: this purse is made of alpaca, a natural fibre I am familiar with. I have used this fibre to make scarves, hoods, and sweaters; but this time I am expanding and experimenting by making a purse.

Uniqueness: this purse is easy to make. It requires basic needle skills that most people can do. This is a unique piece that could be made and customized to anyone’s taste.

Convenient: the size has enough space to place a cellphone and a wallet. Although sizes could vary according to personal preferences.

Allied with sustainability and ethics: as a designer, I am trying to select a fibre and/or fabric that is made following ethical protocols, which means a fair treatment of the animal and a fair treatment of the people that produces the material. In this case, it is an artisanal alpaca fibre made in a Peruvian Andean community. This was a hand-made item.

I am conscious and concerned of the side effects of tech wearables on sustainability, in this case using LED lights in my project. As Gurova (2020) states, there may be a negative impact on the environment, such as an increase in energy consumption by using electronics and an increase of e-waste from abandoned devices. On the other side, Gurova concludes that the side effect of tech wearables on sustainability need to be further explored, because wearable is a broad technology and they could have different life cycle processes.

Sustainability is also a very complex concept, especially when the world is changing so fast, and many innovations are arriving that we could not even imagine few years ago. For Fletcher and Grose (2012, p.10), changes in the sustainability process in fashion come more from individual actions than from an international declaration. For example, I agree that being accountable or responsible is a more powerful approach than being sustainable, because it seems more achievable something that depends on us that something that depends on someone else. The message for me is to develop and use electronic wearables in a careful and responsible manner.


Regarding my inspiration sending messages using letters and lights I was inspired by neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzner (Kemp, 2015, p. 219-220). Her work focused on delivery of words and ideas in public spaces, she used LED as a media to express her writing and political opinion.

I also was inspired by the phrase “Because There is no Planet B” that belongs to an organization of the same name (https://becausetheresnoplanetb.com/) that inspires people to look after our planet. I think this phrase maybe be overused, but I think it is still interesting to use it in my project because it is a short statement that fits on this purse size and it is powerful.

Another inspiration was how to build letters made of 3mm LED lights. I found a YouTube tutorial DIY How to make led letters, that was very handy and help me build letters for this project. During this term, when I worked on my projects I tried not to use the soldering iron, because I had never used it before and hesitated to use it, but in this project I used it a lot.

I was looking for similar projects for inspiration, [see reference], I found handbags with interior lights that activated when the handbag was opened to help user to find items inside the bag. I could not find something similar to what I have in mind.

I found a project that I liked very much after almost completing this project. It was “The Sessile Handbag” by Grace Kim (Hartman, p. 449). After my final critique-presentation I wanted to add interactivity to my project. I was checking different resources and I found a beautiful handbag project in Hartman’s book. I appreciated the artist mix of technology, LED lights in natural shapes, where lights fade on and off, creating a subtle effect. This project is similar in some way to my idea of natural shapes, handmade purse and using LED lights. The difference is in the reason to use light, in my case mine is sending a message.

The next handbag I will talk about is a waterproof backpack, maybe related to my work in the sense that through an LED screen animations, custom images and text are sent. My project sends one message, a bright environmental message activated by sound pressure through an interactive sensor built-in on the board I am using [Circuit Playground Express]. This backpack has a different concept, it is more to stand out from the crowd and lights go on when connected to power. It seems there is not interactive sensor, besides it appeals to school and travel wearers with room space to carry a laptop.

After delivering my prototype for this final assignment, a project called my attention. It was the TagURIt (Pailes-Friedman, 2016, p. 078), an electronic game of tag that works with proximity sensors. I wanted to add this type of sensor to this project, but I did not have enough time to order it. The idea was that when someone was close to the purse, LED lights will go on. Instead of that, I used sound pressure level, which is affected not only by the strength of a sound but also by its proximity. It was not exactly a proximity sensor, but somehow could detects when a person gets close and say something, a greeting or something else. The tone of the voice can not be that of a whisper, but more a normal tone of voice to a distance of around two metres.



At Noon: https://youtu.be/FGUL5X_CvrE

At Night: https://youtu.be/CAK0kScVTXw





Purse being worn during daytime: https://youtu.be/tkH1c1E1b-o

Wearable being display on a chair: https://youtu.be/ToYv7J9OCEk




Here welding letters together to make a word.


Here I am testing a welded word. I tested after welding each letter, to avoid having to redo the whole word.


Video checking the circuit: https://youtu.be/VNJ16XNgI1k


Welding wires to Circuit Playground Express.



Here the battery and its USB charger jack.




Materials, Parts and Tools

  • Pink alpaca fibre – my owm material, alpaca fibre from Peru
  • Grey alpaca fibre – my own material alpaca fibre from Peru
  • Knitting needles – I have at home
  • Recycled trims – I have at home
  • Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express – Elmwood Electronics –
  • No conductive fabric – I have at home
  • Conductive thread bobbin – Elmwood Electronics
  • Needles – I have at home
  • 3mm LED lights – approximately 276 Led’s lights – Amazon
  • Soldering Iron Station – Hakko FX-888D – Canada Robotix
  • Solder – Amazon
  • Silicone electric wire – Amazon
  • Steel fibre – Kate Hartman
  • Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery 3.7v – LP503562 – Elmwood Electronics
  • USB Charger Jack for the Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery

Circuit Diagram

Outside of the handbag:

All letters in a line are connected to a positive (in red), which will be connected to a “pin” in the Circuit Playground Express. All the negatives (in black) will go to a single line that will be connected to a negative “pin” in the Circuit Playground Express board.


Inside of the handbag:

There will be five “pins” in the Circuit Playground Express board for light switches (in red). All negatives (in black) go to a GND “pin”.



The process started building the circuit and making the letters. LED lights were welded to make letters and then letters were stitched on the purse to make words and lines. Letters on each line were connected using conductive thread and steel fibre

The message is going to have five lines made of welded LED lights and lines will light up in sequence starting from the top. Each line will have its own switch and the code will manage time for each switch, so lights turn on in sequence (the first line will go on firsts and the next line few milliseconds later, and so on). Once lights in all lines are on, they will fade down until they go off and the process will start again.





The most challenging task for me was to use the iron soldering tool to create letters of 3 mm LED’s lights. I used old CDs to make letter patterns. I built 23 letters, each letter has in average 10 LED’s lights, here my husband gave a hand with the soldering.


The other challenge was the connectivity. I sewed the letters to the purse and connected them with conductive thread to form words. Unfortunately, the connection was weak. Next, I added on top steel fibre, to make the connectivity more stable and stronger. I found my third line “is no” did not light up, besides the intensity of lights were not even and in some cases blinked.


The next step was to connect the letters soldering them to build words.



It was a great idea because the connectivity improved, it was not loose anymore, and the intensity of the light was stronger and visible during daytime, exactly what the guest speaker suggested after my final prototype presentation in class. I was concerned about having some wires showing in the outside of the purse, which would not look nice, but it was exactly the opposite. The words connected properly and the arrangement looked like jewellery. See below.


I realized that maybe my project did not have interactivity. The interaction I thought of was a manual switch to activate the LED lights, but that was too old fashioned. I thought initially in using a proximity sensor to activate light cycles when a person was close to the purse. Unfortunately, I was using Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express and this card did not have a proximity sensor on board. Finally, I found the Circuit Playground Express had a built-in microphone with a library that was able to measure sound pressure level. I decided to use the sound pressure level as a digital switch, to activate lights when values went over certain level. To find the level that would be the threshold value for the switch, I used the sound pressure level example that ships with Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express library and the serial plotter tool in Arduino’s IDE to figure out a value generated by the voice of a person to a distance of around two meters. This value allowed me to develop a switch that was neutral to background noise.



I am very happy with the outcome of this project, although there is always room to improve. For example, the connectivity is good, looks nice and the intensity of the light when activated is great, but I am concerned that placing this letter blocks on top of the purse could tangle with a wool sweater, especially a person is wearing a wool sweater that matches the handbag. In the end, I think there are fashion accessories for each occasion, same as shoes for each occasion, there are purses for each occasion. This project could be extended to different items: a canvas bag, a backpack, a top, jacket, there are many possibilities.


DIY How to make led letters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgYF1rjZwzY

DIY Leather bag with inside lighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID4A1r4uiW8

Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose (2012). Fashion & Sustainability Design for Change. Lawrence King Publishing Limited.

Gurova, Olga. (October, 2020). Sustainable Solutions for Wearable Technologies: Mapping the Product Development Life Cycle. Sustainability, 12, 1-26. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/20/8444/pdf

Hartman, Kate (2015). Make Wearable Electronics. Design prototype and wear your own interactive garments. Maker Media Inc.

How to Make: Light-Up Tote Bag | The Fridge-Light Bag

Kemp, Martin. (2015).El Arte en la Historia [Art in History] (A. Ferrer, Trad.). Turner Publication S.L.

Pailes-Friedman, Rebeccah. (2016). Smart Textiles For Designers. Inventing the Future of Fabrics. Laurence King Publishing.

Purse Light with GEMMA & LED Sequins

Team’s flexible micro LEDs may reshape future of wearable technology


Vibrating Knee Brace by Trish

Project Description

The intention of my final project is to build a problem-solving prototype for people who suffer from knee pains more specifically wear and tear of the joint from excessive use. As someone who has had first-hand experience with knee issues my research explored a few problems:

  • Physiotherapy which is time-consuming and expensive, with the help of this device which is intended to be an alternative (disclaimer: if recommended by a doctor) for physiotherapy for long term use as it will be a one-off purchase.
  • Running and ExerciseRunners and athletes tend to exert their bodies with the activities they do and over time they start to experience wear and tear. This device could potentially be used by people who have active lifestyles to help with knee support and rehab.
  • DrivingThere is nothing worse than having to drive when someone’s leg is in pain hence this device could potentially help ease the pain while someone is driving.
  • Discomfort ImprovementOne other way this device could be useful would be to improve the comfort of someone while they sit for long hours working, some features would include a reminder for the user if they have sat for too long in one position without stretching their knee as well as adding a pulse vibrating sensation every 30 or so minutes.

For my study, I focused my research on designing the knee brace for very mild exercise such as walking and post-workout stretches. The knee brace has four modes which are indicated by the light emitted from the NeoPixels on the circuit playground express. The brace has four DC vibration motor modules two are located on the top strap of the brace and the other two on the bottom. When the NeoPixels are red it indicates all the motors are off, yellow indicates the top motors are on, orange is for the bottom motors and green indicates all the motors are on. There is also another mode that is activated by the accelerometer feature on the playground express when someone is in motion the motors go on and off in intervals. The vibration intensity is set to a comfortable moderation so as not to cause an intensive sensation when someone is using the knee brace. To change the different modes of vibration one must press the right button on the circuit playground express.


Parts & Materials List


  1. Adafruit Circuit Playground Express (1) PART: 1528-2280-ND MFG: Adafruit Industries LLC / 3333 DESC: CIRCUIT PLAYGROUND EXPRESS
  2. Lithium-Ion Battery (1) PART: LIPO803860 MFG: Shenzhen Pkcell Battery Co. LTD DESC: LI-POLYMER BATTERY
  3. Vibration Motor Module DC (4) PART: GR-US-222 MFG: Daiko DESC: VIBRATING MOTOR MODULE DC
  4. Jumper Wires (M-F)
  5. Insulated Wire


  1. Conductive Thread PART: 1568-1804-ND MFG: SparkFun Electronics / DEV-13814 DESC: SMOOTH THREAD BOBBIN 12M (STAINLESS)
  2. Non- conductive Thread
  3. Solder Iron
  4. Knee Brace
  5. Heat Shrink
  6. Scissors
  7. Wire Stripper


Final Prototype Imagesvibrating-knee-brace

Demo Video


Development Images and Video

How it works up-close https://ocadu.techsmithrelay.com/pDvI

Rapid Prototyping of Construction https://ocadu.techsmithrelay.com/NjDZ

In the first iteration of this prototype, the knee brace that I used had some restrictions of space and elasticity hence the circuit playground express would need added material i.e. a pocket to be placed which was not viable because the knee brace is multifunctional and can be used for intensive activities such as working out.


The second iteration was a better fit for the design I had in mind. The knee brace had good elasticity, as well as ample surface area, and was able to fit all the electronic components. However, the major issue I faced with this prototype was the wires which had to run across the knee brace but with the help of some elastic straps I added onto the brace I managed to tuck the wires away.




Circuit diagram


Code Hosted on GitHub


Project Context

Knee pain can be divided into three major categories:

During the time I would go for physiotherapy sessions to help with my grade 1 chondromalacia also known as runner’s knee I would undergo nerve stimulation using a Transelectrical Nerve Stimulator(TENS). Below is a brief explanation of how TENS inspired my design;


For my code, I was inspired by an Adafruit project the glowing LED team badge for Pokemon Go by Richard Albritton that uses the Circuit Playground to make someones own night-time safety + team spirit wearable. As it is quite difficult to show vibration on a wearable I opted to use the light emitted from the circuit playground express  NeoPixels to indicated the different vibration modes.  Another project that inspired my design idea is by Becky Stern a vibrating headband for timing meditation sessions. It uses a haptic motor controller that can execute different vibrational patterns such as waveforms, taps, clicks, fuzzes, hums, and bumps.


The idea of my device is to bridge the gap of convenience by introducing an alternative for physiotherapy that is on the go and can be used anywhere and the iTENS (see image above) does just this same job. It is a modern-day electrotherapy device that merges technology with the proven results of “TENS therapy” to provide effective and lasting pain relief via a simple medical device app. The iTENS uses a mobile app to operate an all wireless Bluetooth based electrotherapy device that is FDA-Cleared for over-the-counter use to combat pain.


Some of the challenges I experienced while working on this project include; connecting the vibrating motors to the circuit playground express as I was using three-pin motors the best option I had was to uses wires for the connection so that it is stable. Hiding the wiring was the main issue as well as placing the wires such that they do not cause distractions while the brace is in use. As a further iteration, I would perhaps look at different types of motors that require less wiring. Another challenge I faced in the initial iteration was the material I used to bridge the connection of the top and bottom straps of the knee brace elasticity is very crucial in this design which was something I came to learn later.


The circuit playground was easy to sew onto the knee brace and did not cause any obstructions while in use. The modification to bridge the top and bottom straps of the brace was a great addition. The connection used a battery hence it did not cause any obstruction with loose hanging wires and this made portability easy.

Further Study

Some things that I would like to revise in the project for further development include; changing the colour modes I used as I did not account for colour blindness in my study, perhaps the next version will use light intensity as opposed to colour. The next thing would be to have the circuit playground light up in different modes i.e. if the top motors are on then the top half of the NeoPixels light up. I would also like to build an app to help with the ease of changing the settings as well as add capacitive touch sensors instead of using a button in order to have each sensor have its own mode. I would also hope to incorporate some of the ideas from the iTENS company as well as adding more features such as heating pads and a timer to improve the efficiency of the device.


About iTENS, LLC. (n.d.). ITENS. https://www.itens.com/

Glowing LED Team Badge for Pokemon Go. (2016, July 20). Adafruit Learning System. https://learn.adafruit.com/glowing-led-team-badge-for-pokemon-go/project-overview

HailiCare Health & Beauty. (n.d.). HailiCare Heated Knee Massager. HailiCare Health & Beauty. https://hailicare.com/collections/new-arrival/products/hailicare-heated-knee-massager

Haptic Headband. (2015, November 25). Adafruit Learning System. https://learn.adafruit.com/haptic-headband

Johnson, M. I. (2007). Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) in Treatment of Mus. SpringerLink. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-540-29805-2_4556?error=cookies_not_supported&code=58df1542-80e6-42a8-97a9-8931b06e7690

Knee Pain: How to Choose the Right Knee Brace for Your Child. (n.d.). HealthyChildren.Org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/sports-injuries/Pages/Knee-Pain-and-braces.aspx

Knee Pain Treatment, Causes, Remedies, Symptoms. (2021, February 24). MedicineNet. https://www.medicinenet.com/knee_pain_facts/article.htm


Shoulder’s Feeling By Xin Zhang


Project Introduction

The main object of this prototype is to demonstrate an invisible sense that we perceive from the surroundings. The visible sense can be measured by and presented by two interfaces, which are wearable interface and a digital mobile interface. The wearable interface is based on an ordinary vest and be customized into the one embedded with pressure sensors on shoulders, and  the Arduino broad attached to the back of the vest. The pressure can be sensed when the user carrying a bag on their shoulders and this value will be delivered to a mobile-based interface. In this way, the user know the status change of invisible sense on their shoulders.The pressure values are divided into five intervals, and each of them has been represented by different phrases. The five phases are ‘easy’, ’comfortable’, ‘Ok’, ‘Hard’, ‘Can’t hold’, and each of them will be activated according to the pressure value read by sensors. Our physical body is considered as a non-verbal interface were embedded with a variety of biological sensors to generate the sense. However, people don’t perceive senses the same way, and our brain is selectively selective, these senses may be stored in our mussels, rather than deliver to our brain. In this sense, the external wearable device can help us to perceive the sense when we can read the feedback on the digital interface.

Experience Video

Key Image






Code link


Project Context

We generally have five senses( vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), and our physical body is a non-verbal interface and it offers a diagnostic interface rich with vital biological signals from the inner organs, blood vessels, muscles. For example, we could touch a piece of fabric to determine whether it was soft or hard, or on a tactile screen, people can use the gesture or pressing force to control the device. Moreover, there are more subtle senses that most people never really perceive. They are neuron sensors that can sense movement to control balance and the tilt of the head. Specific kinesthetic receptors exist for detecting stretching in muscles and tendons, helping people to keep track of their limbs. Once these sensors receiving the signals, they deliver these signals to the brain then the information will be translated into individual feelings. However, people don’t perceive senses the same way, and our brain is selectively selective. In other words, we are constantly failing to notice things right in front of us or the things that happened to us.

This is a common phenomenon, for example, our shoulders work as the main part to withstand external force when we carrying a bag or backpack. Imagine the scenario that you are carrying a heavy bag in a rush hour, it might easily ignore the tension on your shoulders until arrived at the destination. The time duration may also affect the sense in this process, like in the previous, we may not feel too much pressure on shoulders, and later, the capability for withstanding will decrease. At the same time, other factors may also affect the sense of force, like walking on a flat road or climbing a hill, our shoulders perceive the force of the bag will also be different. In this sense, it is essential to demonstrate the invisible sense with the help of external sensors which can accurately measure the value and deliver the information to a digital interface.

Those wearable devices, like smartwatches or bracelets, work as an external sensor to monitor the user-health condition, like heart rate, blood pressure, sleep quality.

As I concerned, the wearable can detect more information when they can better fit human fit and are closely associated with human interface. The ordinary vest is designed and manufactured based on human figures which means they are closely associated with our physical body. For that reason, I customized an ordinary vest into the wearable facilitated with digital components at the force point of the shoulders. Besides, e-textile and fabric-based wearable can also work more efficiently to detect the stretching in muscles and tendons and they can work as a highly flexible sensor to help people sense the physical change more easily without awareness like a bandage.

In the process of exploring the wearable interface, the following projects inspired me a lot, especially for customizing the non-functional fabrics into variable material which provides me lots of detailed solutions for further experiments.

The polySense:It applies a chemical process called in-situ polymerization to custom the ordinary non-functional material into sorts of e-textile material which sensing pressure, stretch, humidity, temperature, capability. One of the demonstrated examples is CCC leggings, the conductive undergarment at the knee can be used to measure the resistance changes so that reflecting the knee flex movements. Comparing with the wearable accessories like a watch or bracelet, the cloth can be closely associated with our physical body, which can constantly detect more subtle actions, like the forces on the joints and muscles which are invisible to people.

Divergence:It provides me another perspective to think about the context when taking the human body as an interface.  Literally, the interface is considered as a layer that provides users to communicate with the system, in a physical scenario, our body is a non-verbal communication interface that helps people to detect the signals from the surroundings, however, nature is filled with lots of ecologies which is beyond our human abilities. And this project proposes the creation of a wearable EMF detector that provides the human body with the ability to feel and hear the electrically and magnetically charged particles that propagate around us in the form of waves. These signals are also difficult to feel and detected by our biological sensors, so this project applied a fabric-based sensor to sense the invisible information from the environment.

eTextile matrix sensor :This is an open-source project created by Maurin Donneaud, who specialized in interaction design and physical computing. He has put a lot of work into making a large flexible touch-sensitive cloth. It features 30cm by 30 cm sensitivity that allows multi-touch sensing and pressure topographic analysis. It made out of conductive textile shaped in rows and columns and a layer of piezoresistive fabric and easy to use. From my perspective, this eTextile is easy to integrate with non-functional fabrics and will be more wearable when applied in practical use.


In the first stage, the challenge was on how to choose a propriety sensor that can read the force accurately. My prior plan was to use a ‘sandwich structured’ pad to reflect the force by a variable resistance. Using graphite pigments to transform ordinary sponges into conductive materials with variable resistance, however, the testing experiments showed that the pad is not stable in generating the signal after being pressed for a while, as the customized sponge could not generate significant analog value when it was squeezed for a long time without deformation. It is less reliable for practical use, especially for long time testing. Fortunately, I was inspired a lot by the projects above, especially the eTextile matrix sensor. Although there are still uncertainties in the experiment of making this fabric sensor, this solution is significant for improving the user experience in the wearable interface.


For this version, the digital interface was developed by P5.js and the way of sending messages over wifi is also limited its mobility. But I think the combination of the wearable interface with the mobile-based interface is a great start for designing the wearable. Most digital devices, they need cloud storage to store user information to support the further design of the product. And my solution of using the mobile-based interface is another sub-storage for storing the user history. In this sense, the mobile phone will not only work for presenting the information, but also for restoring our information.

Next steps

Further exploration will improve the user interaction from both the wearable interface and the digital interface. The first part is to improve the mobility and flexibility of the physical interface, and the second is to provide users more feedbacks on a digital interface, like solutions for dealing with shoulder pain. The detailed steps are as followed:

Wearable interface:

  1. The function of the current version was realized by Arduino Nano, which is difficult to integrate with a circuit on the fabric, the next steps will start with testing with other broads which are more mobile.
  2. Conducting experiments to find how dose time duration affects the force sense for users and visualizing the data into diagrams to demonstrate the relationships between them. (To maintain the same variables, the experiment will make other external factors, such as road conditions, consistent)
  3. Further testing also shows that the pressure sensor has a disadvantage in flexibility in practical use. As each individual have their habits in carrying bags, which may result in different force point at shoulders. To make it more capable for more users, I plan to try the solution mentioned in the third

Digital interface:

  1. Basing on the findings in the relationships between the time durations and forces sensing, the digital interface will also be improved in displaying more detailed feedbacks, like the solutions of adjusting the force point to avoid overload at a single shoulder or taking some exercise to release the tension at shoulders.
  2. In a real scenario, a voice reminder is more practical for a walking personal who is carrying the bag. Consider practical use, I plan to add a voice assistant to send instant notifications to users.