Wearable Notifications: Process

CONCEPT

As I’ve said in my project proposal, we are addicted to notifications. It is not so much about the hardware or applications we are drawn to, but rather because they enable us to be constantly connected to other people. There is this constant desire to feel connected as if it gives us positive feedback for our existence. As a society, we are obsessed with the sound, the vibration, the little red ticker or the notification LED that screams for attention. But yet, our obsession is not satisfied if we have to keep checking our phones. The affects of that lowers productivity, concentration and attention. More importantly, it’s socially rude to be on your phone in a class, in a meeting or even dangerous in the car! A study defined this behaviour as “checking habits”, defined as “brief, repetitive inspection of dynamic content quickly accessible on the device” that “lasts less than 30 seconds, each within 10 minutes of each other”.

Although the mobile phone is within your immediate proximity 24/7, it is not something you wear. What if it’s in your pocket, in your bag or in another room, then you would have to be there to see, feel, or hear the notification go off. So with that said, I say we acknowledge the problem and feed the addiction and make the user be aware of the notification instantaneously. A wearable notification device seemed like the perfect personal and ubiquitous solution. Although it would have full functional value, I hope to take a satirical approach to the concept as well. Poking fun at the fact that we can’t detach ourselves from our devices and our desire for instantaneous feedback (which further validates our shorter attention spans).

As a functional concept, my hope is that the technology gets embedded into various types of body accessories — jewellery seemed like the logical choice. What if RIM, Apple, or Google Android made their own line of jewellery, it should surely have this functionality to extend the mobile experience beyond the device itself.

PROCESS

Sketches

First I was sketching to house the Lilypad + BT modem as a pendant, worn in the front with the vibe board behind the neck, but the size of the pendant was just too large…

Components + Circuit

– Lilypad Simple (modified)
– Bluetooth Mate Silver
– Lilypad Vibe Board
– Polymer Lithium Ion Battery

Challenge #1
For a long time, my Bluetooth modem was not working. No matter which tutorial I was following online or how absolutely positive I was that I followed everything correctly, it just won’t work! After much frustration, with the help of Kate, we discovered that power was not going to the FTDI header on the new LilyPad Arduino Simple. Therefore, + had to be hardwired to VCC (see above image).

“Note: Because of the added battery charging circuitry the Simple is unable to power a device from the FTDI header meaning that the Bluetooth Mate, for instance, is no longer plug’n’play compatible.” — is now added to LilyPad Arduino Simple Board

Code

I used the Amarino Toolkit (Android Application and Arduino Library) to get my Android talking to the Arduino. I first started with this Test Event tutorial. Then I went on to try other events in the application. With the ‘Receive SMS‘ event enabled on the Amarino app, I was able to get the vibe board to work when I receive a text message. However, it was very inconsistent because it was sending a string of integers and not all text messages were going to the Arduino… which makes the interaction pretty useless.

Challenge #2
Later I found out that the Amarino_2.APK I downloaded from the Google Play store is outdated and only supports Android 1.6 and 2.X devices, which is probably why it was acting weird on my Android 4.x device. Since I have absolutely no knowledge in any coding language, a friend of mine had to hack the app to make it work. Since one thing is for certain, whenever ‘hey’ is received, the device vibrated as expected. Using that as a control, he made every received text message to be sent as ‘hey’ to the Arduino. Therefore, the Amarino app I have on my phone is a hacked version that reads all received text messages as ‘hey’. See the log below:

#include <MeetAndroid.h>
// declare MeetAndroid so that you can call functions with it
MeetAndroid meetAndroid;
int vibe = 10; // Vibe board on pin 10
void setup()
{
// use the baud rate your bluetooth module is configured to
// not all baud rates are working well, i.e. ATMEGA168 works best with 57600
Serial.begin(115200);
// register callback functions, which will be called when an associated event occurs.
meetAndroid.registerFunction(LEDon, ‘A’);
pinMode(vibe, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(vibe, HIGH);
delay(800);
digitalWrite(vibe, LOW);
}
void loop()
{
meetAndroid.receive(); // you need to keep this in your loop() to receive events
}
void LEDon (byte flag, byte numOfValues)
{
digitalWrite(vibe, HIGH); // set for three quick vibes
delay(300);
digitalWrite(vibe, LOW);
delay(300);
digitalWrite(vibe, HIGH);
delay(300);
digitalWrite(vibe, LOW);
delay(300);
digitalWrite(vibe, HIGH);
delay(300);
digitalWrite(vibe, LOW);
}

Fabrication

I decided to house all the electronics in the back because I wanted to hide it’s bulkiness out of sight. I knew this was going to weigh heavily in the back, but I also did not want the Lilypad in the front as a giant pendant. Having the vibe board below the neck was a conscious decision, so that the vibration is not confused with the phone…since you would never carry your smartphone behind your neck. Also because it would be in constant contact with the body, unlike a dangling pendant.

The left photo is the triangular pocket form that housed all the electronic components. In the right photo, I used conductive thread and covered it with electrical tape. I only did this because I did not have access to a soldering iron at the time. Wire would have been the smarter choice.

FINAL DOCUMENTATION

1. The user pairs their wearable with their smartphone for initial set up. The phone should automatically connect to the wearable once it is turned on for future uses.
2. Any incoming text messages, phone calls, social notifications or alarms that set off a notification would vibrate the wearable in its respective vibrate patterns.

Presentation PDF

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