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Heartbeat necklace

30 March, 2016 at 22:19

necklace test

For a long while now I have been keen on doing a wearable project. The intersection of art and the body has always interested me and since wearables are an increasingly popular categories companies like Adafruit have been making amazing strides in making these projects in a non industrial, experimental way. The problem is A: I do not have any fashion sense and more importantly B: I can not make Clothes. Enter Sandra Kaas, an old friend of mine and artistic allrounder: theatre, video, performace and most importantly fashion!

I started drawing up some plans, the brief was it needed to be managable and interactive in a way that would be easily understood. My first idea was to make a compass collar. I thought a fabric collar could be produced in a short time and it could be covered in lights all around with one color pointing north always and turning as you turned.


I wanted to use the flora, an Arduino variant, as it seemed a great fit something wearable as well as these amazing rgb leds with their own drivers (which would make assembly easier), looking around the site I found this Accelerometer/Compass Sensor and I thought this could create an interesting interaction, I liked the idea of colour pattern that rotated itself north. Before going and meeting Sandra to put the things together I did some prototyping.
alligator clip test
The module worked as expected but it was quite hard to test facing and colour effect (I was cycling through an RGB colour pattern depending on which direction I was facing with the RGB led on the flora chip itself), so I set out to make my beautiful cardboard collar prototype.
carboard prototype
And taped the chip to it.
cardboard prototype with chip
This still was quite unwieldy although I got some useful results from it finding out approximate facing direction and how to translate a 3d vector for magnetic north in to a 2d one. I decided to try out the stainless steel thread which I was going to sew the sensor the flora and the lights together.

test 2test 3

After this it was enough of my rough prototypes and I went to visit Sandra Kaas.

test 6

We discussed and she made some changes to the design taking beyond my functional prototype to give it actual shape, made it into more of a necklace than a collar. Putting together a nice looking fabric necklace, she started sewing on the flora  and the lights.

Test 8Test 7

We made the colour pattern and tested the turning, I still had some tweaking to do. There were also some important lessons here, the thread had to very firmly be sewn on the copper copper connectors and the sewn electrical tracks needed to be very straight and firm as to not to cross connect wires when twisting and turning the fabric.

Test 9

Later as I was tweaking the code to make the colours change and turn to magnetic north Sandra came up with an idea connected to the theme of her own recent performances, couldn’t we make the necklace beat on the rythm of your heart? This was an interesting suggestion, I had never actively looked but I though their might be a heart sensor I could connect without too much trouble to an Arduino like device. As it turns out there is, a company called pulse sensor does exactly that. As I looked through the documentation it looked like it would be pretty doable in a short space of time, so I bought one and integrated it.

After some modifications to the old design and attaching the earpiece which through light and reflection measure bloodflow, I got together a first physically complete but still a prototype in terms of programming the lights.

heart necklace earpiece

I iterated over the programming and gave the lights some animation and more livelyness, I prototyped this in the awesome processing language for much quicker iteration. I finished up for now at least as I consider modifications to this design and new wearable ideas. Many thanks to my collaborator Sandra and all the awesome creative hardware and software to make it possible.

post-mortem ‘creepy phone’

5 August, 2013 at 01:35

Recently I have been diving headfirst in to Python and for the sizzle9 Hackathon I built an phone service to give up someone as a ‘terrorist’ with this new skill, it was a lot of fun to build even though me and my teammate @simonvc didn’t quite finish it for the deadline. I worked on it for a bit more, and its finished and working now! There always bits to expand on or to refine, but I feel its a good moment to write a post-mortem on the project.

‘Creepy Phone’ is a number you can call type in a friends mobile number and answering some creepy yes/no questions about them, the premise being that you are reporting a terrorist. Your friend gets a call afterwards with message composed of the answers of the original caller telling them they are being watched.

When I saw that Twilio, an online phone service, was sponsoring the hackathon I knew I wanted to do something with phone calls and one of my long standing interests narrative and story. As a big film buff with a penchant for horror, I have always loved the trope’s and conventions surrounding phones. There is something profoundly personal about the human voice, and its separation from the body lends itself well to subterfuge and intrigue. I love this scene in Lost Highway where the disconcerting disembodied nature of a remote voice is really rammed home.

The phone can be an effective device of threat such as wire-tapping or anonymous abuse. I thought it would be amazing to bring this jarring quality into a digital realm as a personalised horror experience.

I want to invade this very personal phone space injecting something creepy. Without context a scary message does not really affect, it needs a personal touch to get under peoples skin. By far the easiest way to do that is having someone else who knows the person on the other end of the line fill in the details. Adding another party also lets you catch someone off guard as well as well as giving you someone to share the experience with. When I met @simonvc at the hackathon and he was pitching an idea to do surveillence and wiretapping in light of the recent NSA scandal it was a perfect fit. We made a phone service that creeped someone out as their friend sold them out as a terrorist!

For people who are interested I will briefly cover the things I used and learned about! My fellow hacker @simonvc taught me a lot about setting up a cloud server for super cheap using digital ocean as well as Python and a myriad of libraries. The main programming weapons of choice for the weekend were off course Python and the Twilio API which worked together easily. In order to setup the server we used Flask which requires very few lines of code but which syntax was a bit new to me to using redirects coupling code blocks with url’s. A pleasant surprise was ponyorm — a simple python sql interface. I learned that simple sql stuff is exactly that, simple! Last but not least I learned a ton of stuff about the linux command line interface setting up ssh, git and tons of other nifty tools! It was intense couple of days of learning by making, and I loved it!

If you’d like to see all the hackathon projects they’ll be exhibited at the South Place Hotel from the 16th until 18th August. On top of that a few projects will be shown at the Barbican in the two weeks that follow!

Two other films who use phones to affect:
Black Christmas



17 February, 2013 at 10:49

Here is a video, I shot & cut, of the awesome Cybersalon event I am involved in!

Bridge It

13 February, 2013 at 21:57

A video of the game I made during my internship at Imagination!

Demo of Bridge It an Arcade Game from Simon Sarginson on Vimeo.

creepy queen is looking at me

2 November, 2012 at 10:38

lamp post squares

25 October, 2012 at 21:53

Under construction

11 August, 2012 at 16:05


Two shoes

7 August, 2012 at 08:36


Lost shoe

6 August, 2012 at 21:33


Creepy Queen

5 August, 2012 at 10:24