Over the summer I worked in the Unstable design lab on my capstone project. I explored the implementation, impact, and technique of making an interactive textile.
I first started by learning how to weave. I had done some weaving on cardboard prior to this but I learned the weaving terminology and the anatomy of a loom. I learned how to use and set up a rigid heddle loom and about how to make and read weaving patterns.
I also played around with the conductive thread and figuring out how to put it into a textile. I have woven it into a few things creating some pressure sensors and a button. I did this by weaving conductive threads into places where they will be shorted creating a different resistance that is measurable along the conductive thread.
For each piece, it was a challenge to incorporate the conductive thread and have a great range of change to gather data and be able to use it. For example, I tried putting it in the floating pieces of the weave but that did not change the resistance enough. The best way was to have conductive thread under the floats and in the floats. This produced a resistance change from 82 to 57 ohms. Another thing I created was a button. I made some floating parts on the pin loom and then I put the conductive thread in opposite sides. I then weaved the different thread with conductive thread into the button. I also placed some yarn fluff in between but the button was not working well as the separation between the sides was not good enough.
The research for my project flowed off of this. I started by reflecting on the survey of fabrics people like to touch that I conducted over the semester. I enjoyed this survey a lot and love talking to and including friends in my project. This got me thinking about how I could include people in the project. I first had the idea to choose eight to ten people that are near and dear to me, speak with them and have them choose a fabric that represents them. Using a patch of that fabric I would create a geometric tapestry of different fabrics. A sign displayed next to the tapestry will explain the meaning and encourage people to touch it. When they touch a section it will interact with movement mapped to the influence they have had in my life.
Although I liked this direction I also explored making a modular piece, because of that I am thinking of calling it a quilt as it will be made of lots of patches. I love the idea of the viewers building the art. I could engage the community and they would have a chance to interact with my art. Building off that I want the pieces to be relevant. This quilt will be installed in a community and I want it to represent that community because they will be the ones creating it. To do this each piece will be correlated by colors to values. People then can place and replace the pieces according to their values. The finished product of people having added pieces will produce the look and feel of the community, a community quilt. Each small quilt piece would house electronics and they would move when placed in the frame. I like incorporating movement, it gives a feeling of life to the piece and encourages interaction. I think that the act of making something is a valuable experience that people should engage in. This will give them a chance to do that and to experience making things. It will also give me a picture of what the community values.
Playing around with this idea, I made multiple vibrating swatches and wove some metal mesh. I think that purchasing some sort of chicken wire would be much better for the final version. However, it worked well for prototyping purposes.
The metal wire is the backing and the small square magnets to the wire mesh. The magnets close the circuit and the vibration motor starts. This design worked really well for just starting the motor and I made another one to try different types of yarn. I made another one practice incorporating the technology and testing different yarn types
After these two prototypes, I thought about how I could get the motors to vibrate differently without having to have a microcontroller in every piece. The solution was to create in a frame a network of wire mesh separated by nonconductive material. This is the backbone of the tapestry and what the pieces will magnet onto. Because the pieces are separate I can connect each one to a pin. Then when the piece magnets onto the frame the circuit is closed with one magnet going to power and the other going to ground. This way the power and instructions are coming from the frame, not the piece, reducing the number of electronics in the modular piece.
Detaching the pieces from a power source presents a challenge because the piece has to have one side on power and one side on the ground to work. Therefore people would not be able to just place them anywhere and they would also have to know where the ground was. To fix this I am using design, creating a grey striped background the grey being where the ground is and then the pieces will all have on the small grey side, hopefully wordlessly indicating that the grey goes on the grey.
I also played around with the materials in the pieces. The blue one has a piece of vibrating foam and the black one has googly eyes that rattle when the motor goes. I also played around with the code going to the mesh backing.
I want the motors to vibrate at different frequencies. I played around with the delays to see if I can make them react to each other using booleans, however, this did not work out. I switched tactics and decided to try using capacitive sensing to tell when the piece was placed on the mesh. This worked and I was able to get the two pieces to interact, when the purple piece is on the black will vibrate. This works how I want it to, but the capacitive sensing can be a bit finicky, but I like the uncertainty of the interaction and that you may get different reactions at different times.
Here is the video of that code in action. The first patch I put on does not start vibrating until the second patch is placed. Then through capacitive sensing, it knows that the purple patch is on and both start vibrating.
Here is the code that I used to get the pieces to interact with each other.
After this, I worked on documenting and gather my thoughts and research that I did over the summer. I made a new slideshow presentation and thought about how I would describe and explain my project. I also organized all the swatches that I made into a book that is easy to look at and store easily.