Category Archives: Projects

making Projects technical

Laser cutting objects that don't exist

You may remember last week, the sun still wafted around in the sky,the light evenings  felt like they would go on forever.  Or you may remember  last weeks blog post  about 3D Printing an object discovered  via @museumbot .

That last project was all about turning a photo of a real object back from its digital representation into a real object again and looking at the transformation it went through.

I knew I wouldn't have time to do the next part of that project adding the detail of the face and changing the thicknesses to match the original more closely this week, but it did get me thinking about the idea of taking things that don't really exist and turning them into physical objects.

Rather than 3D print objects I wanted to laser cut something with the laser on Laser Level Advisor, mostly this was because of wanting to put into practise the training I had, had on the laser cutter at Machinesroom.  Its ok being taught how to use something, but you don't really learn until you have a go. The two photographs that came to mind also leant themselves to being laser cut rather than a 3D print.

The first photograph is  of a leaf,but not really a leaf.  I''m not sure exactly what the process is that happened but recently as I set off for work to the Science museum I noticed several 'imprints' of leaves on the pavement. There was nothing left of the leaf except for a brown mark where it had once been.

leaf mark on pavement
leaf mark on pavement

The second was a photograph from twitter taken by Katy Barrett @SpoonsOnTrays of a shadow taken on a sunny day at the coast in Norfolk.


Photograph of a Shadow by Katy Barrett
Photograph of a Shadow by Katy Barrett

I found this photograph really interesting, the pattern of holes in whatever object that is casting the shadow, the sand and pebbles, the sea that can only be seen in the shade of the object.

For both photographs although it is possible laser etch straight from photographs I chose to draw outlines in the same way I had done for the 3D printing of the Pendant.  I knew I couldn't draw the items exactly but I wasn't trying.  Zooming into the photograph of the leaf showed on oddly digital texture as the imprint had become defined by the dimples on the paving slab.  The edges are a lot harder to follow than when looking at the image from further away. Trying to decide what constitutes the outline of the leaf and what is just the dirt on the pavement was difficult

The shadow on the beach was similar. The lines of the shadow seem really well defined when first looking at the photograph but again when zooming in, they are much softer and difficult to follow,being broken up by the contours of the sand,pebbles and the ripples of the water.

For each of the photographs I realised that if I repeated the process of tracing the outlines they would come out differently for each one, I would never end up with the same outline twice. That was ok, it was never about creating an exact copy of the photograph but looking carefully at the lines and choosing what I wanted the shapes to be and being happy with whatever the result was.


Memory of a leaf. Lasercut in 3mm Birch plywood
Memory of a leaf. Lasercut in 3mm Birch plywood


Lasercut of Shadow. 3mm Birch plywood
Laser cut of Shadow. 3mm Birch plywood

As with the 3D printing the Laser cutting was done at Machines Room Limewharf  .  If you are wanting to learn about 3D Printing,Lasercutting it is a great place to go.


I won't be making anything solid for a few weeks.  Will be busy at Technopop London volunteering mostly on the Vex Robotics workshops, so bring you kids and lets build robots together, because building robots are cool.





making museums Projects technical

3D print from a tweetbot

There are a lot of museums looking at how objects in their collections can be scanned and 3D Printed.  There are  reasons for this, most of them very serious,academic and scholarly.

The small project I have been working on is a lot less serious but still has a worthwhile reason behind it.  Just as my Farting statues App was a exploration of taking the objects in a collection, mixing them with information from Wikipedia adding in  Android code and coming up with something silly and frivolous.  This is a exploration of  turning  the output of a museum API into a 3D printed object.  I was interested in how the object would transform and change as it went through the processes of turning from a Physical object, into digital data and back into a physical object albeit in a modified form.

The project was inspired by this guardian article on twitter  bots, the interest in that comes from my current work project making the satellite X3Prospero tweet.

One of the bots in the article was @MuseumBot  this is a bot written by Darius Kazemi (@tinysubversions)  it takes the open access images that are made available by  the Met Museum, tweets an image along with a link to the page on the met museum website.

After following this bot, there was an image that was tweeted that took my interest



There was just something I found  interesting about the object,also the quite detailed but well defined outline made me think straight away that would be interesting to 3D Print, and thats how this started.

Not really knowing what to do  but knowing it is possible to build 3D models from photographs that was my first avenue of investigation.  Yes it is possible but it requires multiple photographs  taken at different angles.  I only had the one photograph taken at one angle.

From then my next was to see what I could do with the outline of the object. I realised that it wouldn't be possible to get all the detail of the face of the figurine  in the print, at least not in the first iteration of it.

I Started off following this article  but using Adobe illustrator to turn the image into a SVG file.  The output from the automatic outline feature of Illustrator was quite poor.  It was probably because of the shading and highlighting on the object.  So it was time to bite the bullet and do it myself.  This took around six hours, working at a high magnification and going very slowly.  This process did highlight  a problem with the image. It is not perfectly straight on at the top face, the outline shows some of the side edges.  Not sure what the technical term for that is, it probably has one.

I made the decision to ignore that problem and rather than try to guess what the actual outline should be just go around the outline as it is on the photograph.

The first time doing the import into 123D Design didn't go well.  It showed up a mistake made in the outlining process. Rather than creating a single outline I had inadvertently created hundreds of very small lines. A newbie Illustrator mistake.  So had to spend around another six hours joining up all the tiny lines.

The import into 123D Design was much better this time. All I had to do then was to scale the model to approximately the same size as the actual object and export the STL file for printing.

The Printing was done at Machines Room  on their Ultimaker 2 printer.  All I had to do was import the STL file into the Ultimaker Cura software and export a GCode file for the printer.

Printing was simply a Copying the gCode file on to a SD card, putting the card into the printer,selecting the file and pressing print.   The printer takes a few minutes to warm up and there is a little of the PLA oozes out as it reaches temperature, that just needs to be supported away from the print base to stop it from getting onto the print as it starts.


Once it has done started printing and been running a few minutes its ok to leave it running until it completes, so I went for a coffee and waited.

It was all straight forward, it took around one hour to print and then around ten minutes to leave to cool on the bed of the printer to prevent it from warping as it cooled.




Whats next?

I would really like to add in the face and its features.  The current design is a single thickness , I would like to make the thickness of the different parts of the object must closer to the actual object.

One interesting thing that I had not considered was the material transformation.  It was printed in yellow because that was what the printer was loaded with at the time and was close to the gold in look.  Two people I showed it to suggested gilding it or coating with gold leaf.  After thinking about this for a while I have decided not to.  The shape of the object has changed through the process, the material has changed, I don't see any need to pretend that it is the same material as the original, I think that is an interesting part of the story.

The file for printing is now on Thingiverse , so if you want to print out this object or play around and transform the model in any way, feel free.  If you do let me know what you happens,  am interested.












Projects X3Prospero

Making a Satellite Tweet

This post is an introduction to a project I'm working on at the moment.  Officially its a work project but I'm finding it so fascinating its taking up quite a lot of my own time.

A while ago my boss asked me to look at making an object in the museum tweet.  Easy I thought we have loads of objects in the museum making one of them tweet will be easy.  Choosing the object to tweet was actually more difficult than I imagined. It needed to be something that could be fully autonomous,  either taking a data feed or generating the text of the tweets itself.  I looked at the some of the well known 'twittering objects' , I  went through a few ideas, talked to several people in the museum and outside but nothing was really clicking.

It wasn't until One sunday afternoon I was sat outside Stepney City Farm drinking coffee and trying to think of ideas.  My eyes looked up to the sky and thats when I came up with the idea of a tweeting satellite.  I knew we had Satellites on display in the Space gallery so  A quick search on the Science museum web site turned up Prospero  The first and only Satellite that Britain launched on a British Rocket.  The actual X3 Prospero is still in orbit, and we have the flight spare on display in gallery.

The project is progressing well.  I have the code written that can send a tweet, as of tonight i am able to obtain the position of X3 Prospero.  The next step will be to put the two together and create a tweet that will be both meaningful and interesting to people.

I'm planning a few blog posts on what I am doing.  These will cover:

The Historical story of the British space programme.

How to write the code to make a satellite tweet  and why  knowing how will help to keep you safe on the web, as with most of my technology posts this will finish with me banging my fist on the desk and calling for everyone to buy a raspberry pi or Arduino and take an interest in the understanding of the internet and web .

Finally the Science of  how satellites orbit  and how to find the position of just about any satellite orbiting the earth right now.


You can follow Prospero on Twitter @X3Prospero Its not saying much right now but you may find some of the test tweets interesting.

But thats it for now.  Here is a picture of the Flight Spare of X3 Prospero  on display in the Space Gallery of the Science Museum.


Flight Spare X3 Prospero
Flight Spare X3 Prospero
By User Geni Wikimedia Commons GFDL CC-BY_SA
developer museums Projects technical thoughts

An App called Farting Statues, I made it, here's why

Farting Statues, yes really an app called Farting Statues.  If you don't believe me go and have a look on the  Google Play Store  If you have a Android device install it and have a play with it.   Ok it's a real app that I made, explaining why I made it might take a bit longer but here goes.


Farting Statues main screen
Farting Statues main screen

At the end of last year i took a Coursera course called  Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps an introduction to computer science and writing Android apps. I'm not a really a beginner but it was a nice course to do. I picked up  some useful tips and tricks when using the Eclipse IDE and it was good to have a lot of the things that I have taught myself verified as the right way to go.

One of the early assignments was to produce a simple app that displayed a photograph of an early computer along with explanatory text. The assignment didn't require any coding as such, just to produce a portrait and landscape layout and have it swap between the two when the phone was rotated.

The assignment did get me thinking, it had a very stong museum feel to it , very similar to the sorts of apps that museums produce, but theirs are so much more polished and professional, but here is me writing a very small and simple museum type  app. Would it be possible to use app writing as a way for visitors to engage with content.  Instantly I fell in the love of the idea of guerrilla museum apps. Visitors writing apps using the content available on museum websites . Distributing them on app stores for other people to use when visiting museums.

There is a big push at the moment for people to learn to code, to use computers to not just to consume content but to create it as well.  I decided to write a museum app to explore this idea and look at the the potential pitfalls of doing this both from a app writer ,visitor point of view and what benefits and problems it would cause a museum.

First thing pick a museum and collection. The Science Museum might seem an obvious choice as I have easy access to the collection and information. I also really like my job and The Science museum had just launched an official iPad app. Creating a guerrilla version of that app seemed a really bad idea if I wanted to keep my job.  I wanted to be a little subversive but I'm not stupid.

Around Christmas Time  Team Cooper launched a game little browser game  called Farter Christmas. It was silly, childish and great fun.  That gave me the idea, combine the childishness of a fart app with the high culture of the statues in the Victoria and Albert museum.

The concept was simple and didn't change. Pick around five or six statues, find out a few  facts for each one and reveal a random fact combined with a fart noise.

The first version of the app was really easy to write and operationally didn't change through the development. It had just one small problem. The app crashed a lot.  It took quite a lot of digging around the developer docs and Stack Exchange pages to find out how to cure the problem. hitting a problem like this instantly takes the app creation process from something that an absolute beginner could do to something that requires either great determination and time spent learning other app development skills and knowledge, or assistance from somebody more experienced.

Once I had solved that problem there wasn't really any other technical problems.

Finding Content 

The next part was to find the  statues and facts about each one. The finished app only has two statues from the V & A.  They are the Dacre beasts - Dolphin and the Bather by Albert Toft. The biggest problem with selecting statues was finding the Content.  I  really loved the Dacre beasts so was glad to find information  about them, but very little on the V & A website.  There was only really Rodin's The Thinker that had a lot of easily available information because it is such a famous piece.


The Dacre Beasts, The Dolphin
The Dacre Beasts, The Dolphin

So not only did I have to widen it out to to statues not only in the V & A I had to widen it out to statues outside of museums all together. That is why the Moai Statues of Easter island are included.

Morals and Ethics

Its a silly app with farting statues, it might not seem that Morals and Ethics would be a concern.  While walking around the V & A I realised that a lot of statues are of a religious nature. They have representations of Buddha, other Indian Gods and the Madonna and Child.  Using any of those in the app could potentially be offensive to people of any of those religions. I wanted to create a fun app not one that could cause serious offence, again i wanted to be a little subversive but i'm not stupid.

Copyright and Licensing

The two V & A statues that I used the Dacre Beasts Dolphin and the Bather are both photographs that i took myself, why? I couldn't find any appropriately licensed images to use.  All of the other photographs are from Wikimedia and either Creative Commons Licensed or released into the public domain. That was the reason for the prominent credits button on the front screen, I wanted to make sure that the licensing of the images  was clear and up front.

It was only near the end of the development process I realised the image I was intending to use for the Bather wasn't licensed for use, so had to take my own photograph.

One of the statues that I did consider using has a image available from Tate images. The cost of using it was prohibitive so wasn't chosen, looking at  the categories of products and media available they were all aimed at physical products, mousemats,mugs posters etc. nothing suitable for use in a digital product. It makes me wonder how museums will handle people wanting to use images in apps

Advertising and Distribution

The app has adverts in it. The are displayed on the individual statues but not on the front screen. This was something I hadn't done before so wanted to do it from a technical point of view to see how easy it is and to consider what happens when an app developer uses a museum content to make money.  I'm not sure how much the app will make. I'm not expecting to get rich from it.  Just as the museums has no control over people developing apps with its images I have realised I have no control over the content of the adverts. On the Play store the App is marked as suitable for all ages but looking at a few ads that have come through on my phone already, one is to download a 'virtual girlfriend' not the faintest idea what that is and don't plan on finding out, but not convinced it is suitable for 'all ages' or wouldn't end up creating a massive security hole on my phone.

Are museums set up to make money from apps that other people develop. I have not made any connection in my app between myself and the V & A or other museums.  If people were to write apps using museum content and distribute it would it be clear that it isn't an official app produced by the institution. What if there are mistakes or offensive content? what would happen then. How much trouble would it cause for the museum or gallery?


So do I still think that that writing guerrilla apps is a way for people to remix and engage with museum content while learning to code?  The barebones of this app were written in a single weekend but it took a lot longer to research the content for it. I am lucky to work next door to the V & A so popping across the road to take photographs wasn't a problem but if you aren't near a large national museum or the museum that you want to take photographs of doesn't allow them could cause problems.

It won't be straightforward and I can see  apps like these developing in two ways.  People who can already code will develop apps along similar themes to Farting statues. Hopefully not loads of clones of the this the world doesn't really need any more farting statues apps. But being creative and having fun. I have been careful to make sure the images were properly licensed. The majority of the content comes from wikipedia rather than museum websites, so is the information correct?   its as good as i can make it but i'm not a expert on any of the statues or the artists. I would rather have the information come from the  definitive source of the museum website but wasn't able to.

The other possibility is for museums to run coding workshops with visitors, start with part written apps or web pages and embed museum content into them.  Web pages can easily be converted into mobile apps.  This would give people an app they can take away with them and would hopefully be a springboard into finding out more about coding and app development.

Either way it needs museums to push out more content and information, the internet isn't limited to the space on a label.  Its a lot easier to find information on wikipedia than it is on a museum website.

In the same way that museums worried that putting content online  would reduce physical visitors to their institutions I have no doubt there will be similar worries to putting content online in a way for people to re-mix and develop. While developing this app I found myself  becoming more interested in the information than just reading it, having to find useful facts and  break down  the content down in to small chunks made me draft and read and re-draft the text several times.  This is something Museum exhibit developers have to do so why not break down the barriers and  give visitors this chance to get down to the nitty gritty with the content. After  all as its digital it can easily be changed, thats the beauty of it.

If museums want to stay relevant as hopefully their  visitors become not just consumers of digital content but creators as well a shift will be needed to make more content available online and encourage its use rather than creating barriers.  Guerilla apps and Farting Statues may not have all the answers but I think it could be a start






Projects technical thoughts

How I developed A Really bad Calculator app

A few weeks ago i was pondering on Twitter about how Calculator apps still look like traditional physical calculators.

I think I'd recently been using the Calculator widget on my Mac so the thought wasn't specifically aimed at mobile apps.  I wasn't even sure how true it was exactly.  For all I knew there could have been a massive surge in designers and developers re-thinking the  calculator experience.  I discussed this on twitter a little and did have a look around on Google Play.  There are some new apps that push the design but there hasn't  been any big revolution of Calculator apps.

I was looking for a project while I was off work over Christmas and the thoughts about calculators was still floating around in my head. I wanted to keep working on my design skills and also do a native Android App as its been a while and was feeling out of practise.

Not sure where it came from but I had the idea of doing a calculator that would add, subtract,multiply and divide two numbers simultaneously and I wanted the app to be really simple.

How I envisaged it working was that you would enter a number, press the <enter> key, enter a second number and the results of the two numbers having been added, subtracted, divided and multiplied  would be shown on separate lines.  I also wanted the results to be updated as the second number was being entered.

The interface design and development took the longest because I was very keen not to compromise two of the features of the app.


The finished interface design


The first feature is the large right angled enter key. I originally looked at  using a  Android GridView to layout the buttons, but it isn't actually possible  to have buttons that aren't rectangular.  It would probably have been possible to define a different shaped button and GridView layout to accommodate it.  But that seemed like a lot of work and didn't seem a very general purpose solution.  I'll write another more detailed blog post but it boils down to putting another image above the image used for the layout, making it invisible but still being able to detect the colours in that image


 The hidden image showing the different colours used for detecting the different buttons

I wasn't sure if I needed to detect the plus,minus,divide and multiply symbols being pressed but I decided it was better to have them in just in case.

The other difficult part was lining up the displayed  results with the +, -, ÷ and × symbols.  There is a lot of formatting in the TextView that had to be stripped out. It took a bit of googling to find out how to do it exactly.

Another design decision I made was to have the number keypad using the layout shown.  A traditional calculator has the number 1 at the bottom left and numbers go upwards.  I chose to have the keypad with the number 1 at the top left and have the numbers go downwards the same as a telephone keypad.

Once the design had been done, it took a few attempts to get the operation of the calculator just right. It was then I spotted the massive flaw in the design.

The calculator cannot mix operations  on the numbers that have been input. For example it will do

5 + 6 + 3

5 - 6 - 3,

5 × 6 × 3

5 ÷ 6 ÷ 3

all at the same time but it cannot do 5 + 6 × 3 or 5 - 6  ÷ 3

big OOPS there.  I did wonder if it would be possible to alter the interface to select which operation you would want to do next on the already displayed answers, but chose not to. It would have become very complicated very quickly.

I decided to end the development at that point.  I was happy that I came up with a new idea for a calculator, learnt some new skills designing and developing the app but didn't want to get bogged down fighting a design that didn't work

I still think that there is room for improvement and fresh thinking of the calculator.  If any ideas do pop out of my head i may have another look at the calculator.

The calculator isn't on Google play but the source code is up on Github for anyone that wants to have a look at it.


The calculator showing the results of the add,subtract,multiply and divide operations on 12 and 3

making Projects

Making the Lomography Konstruktor Camera

I'm not a professional photographer or a photography enthusiast of any sort.  If you look at any of the photos of mine on this blog you'll probably agree that I'm actually quite bad at photography. Neither am I a trendy London  Hipster hanging out in Shoreditch with a vintage camera around my neck.

So you'd think then that i'm not a likely customer for a new Camera from Lomography, but what I did enjoy doing when I was a kid was building plastic airfix models. My mum bought me a RAF bulldog trainer aeroplane, which when it was built was probably more glue than plastic, but I was so proud that i made it.  My all time favourite was the Spitfire  built when my gluing and painting skills had progressed to a reasonable level and I could daub the paint on well enough for it to not look horrendous. My other favourite was the SR-71 Blackbird, just because its a cool aeroplane.

I love making things, taking things apart and finding out how they work so when I heard that Lomography were releasing the Konstruktor a  35mm film camera  kit I ordered 1 straight away.  I've been so busy with work and other projects that I've not had chance to sit down and build it until now.


The box says it takes 1 - 2 hours but I'm always a bit sceptical of things like that, especially as I prefer to go slow and steady so I wasn't too worried about how long it would take.

On opening the box I was really impressed how well packaged everything is.  All the major components are separated out and easy to identify. Before starting I wanted to double check that everything was present.


There is a really good manual that details the build step by step, the diagrams in it are clear and accurate. Sadly there isn't a list of parts, but this isn't a major problem.

All the small  parts that are on the plastic frames are easy to identify as they are numbered and the larger parts are easy obvious from the diagrams in the manual. There are a few that fall between the two that are in plastic bags or small cardboard boxes. It would have been nice to have some identification on this packaging, but as the diagrams in the manual are nice and clear this didn't give any problems.

I was a little worried when I looked at the small parts on the plastic frames as there appeared to be some parts missing, but reading through the manual the identifiers for those parts weren't used so I presume that this was down to the tooling used or for future changes.

As well as the camera parts there are two more important things in the box.  A small bag of screws and springs and a screwdriver with a magnetic tip. Having the magnetic tip made the build so much easier,  would have really struggled without it.

There are three types of screws in the bag, so i emptied the bag into the lid of the box and separated the screws.  There are also two very tiny springs.  The springs are easily lost so be careful with them.

There are a lot more screws than you actually need which was nice. Either that or my camera is actually missing a LOT of screws.

The build starts off easily with the Lens assembly and the hood viewfinder. Making these two parts are a good introduction to the entire assembly process.  For each stage I  would recommend the following.

Read the assembly instructions in the manual and look at the diagram together.

Using the diagram identify all the parts needed.

Remove any of the parts needed from the plastic frame. I recommend using scissors to cut the plastic rather than trying to bend them off.

Double check that you have the correct parts. Some parts are similar and they are mostly all black.

Assemble carefully. Make sure you are both using the correct part and it is orientated correctly. Some parts have features at each end that are similar but different.

When the components are assembled, check everything is correct and then screw together using the correct screws.


The Completed Lens 


The  hood Viewfinder assembly


After the  hood Viewfinder and Lens it was on to the winding mechanism. The orientation of the spring and the components is important as is the order of assembly.


Remember the tiny springs I mentioned earlier, now is the time to use it.  One is a spare which I needed to use as I damaged the first one.  Make sure you have the component with two spoke coming off of it the correct way around.  I didn't initially which meant after successfully mounting the spring I had to take it off again, re-position that component and then re-mount the spring.

The first spring was damaged because I tried to use the screw driver to hook it over the pin. On the second attempt I used a piece of thin stiff wire which made it much easier.


That entire spring saga took around half an hour and was the most difficult part of the build.

The rest of the build is quite simple but with one thing to watch out for.  The  Light Chamber assembly comes pre-assembled.  At the top of it is a mirror that shows the image.  It appeared to be covered in blue plastic to protect it, but I couldn't find any reference to removing the blue plastic in the instructions and didn't want to remove it in case it was supposed to be left on.


After finishing the camera I had a another flick through the manual and discovered the section at the back that explains how the Light Chamber works and how to take it apart and re-assemble it if you want.  It is here that it tells you to remove the blue protective plastic.

I loved that there is a section in the manual explaining how something works and how to take it apart if you want.  I wish all products had that.

So after another bit of disassembly and faffing about the camera was finished.


The entire process took around 4 hours including a couple of coffee breaks.  I'm not fast at this sort of thing and wasn't in any hurry. I would recommend that you have somewhere clean, tidy and well lit if possible.  Because of the small pieces I would also try and do everything in one sitting as there is the possibility of things getting lost if the partially constructed camera and parts have to be tidied away.

It is really rewarding to make a finished physical product that can be used, rather than something that is a prototype or hack with limited real world use for a change.  The kit is really well made and thought out.  If you do like making things or want to understand how cameras work a bit more I would really recommend buying this kit.  Some of the parts are a bit small and fiddly but take your time and be patient, most people should be able to make this in a afternoon.

Next step is to  put some film in the camera and take photos.















Projects wearable

Time for a good storyboard

Well it might not be a good storyboard but its my storyboard and i’m sticking to it (Unless somebody points out a big mistake and I change it)

I have annoted each step but will put the text under each photo in case you can’t read my really bad handwriting.


Visitor walks up to a museum. Their ‘Heart on the sleeve’ is flashing randomly to show that they aren’t currently in a museum.

But as they get closer the gps chip detects that they are going into a museum or gallery that works with ‘Heart on the sleeve’ and all the LEDs go out.


As the visitor walks into the gallery that has been assigned to be ‘blue’ just the corresponding blue LEDs Flash on/off


Detected by GPS,internal wi-fi positioning both passive to visitor or if not possible then touch a coloured panel in the gallery


Objects in the Gallery all have a label on them that is a shade of the gallery colour


One or Two things can happen when object is liked, its individual LED will light up and the more objects that are liked in a gallery the brighter the centre Gallery LED will get.


The centre gallery LED is independent and can be lit by a gallery panel


Museum is full of people displaying what they like.


Not sure of mechanism,need to think.

And then displayed online in a cool way.

And that it a brief walk through of what ‘Heart on your sleeve’ actually does. complete with my Star People

Projects wearable

Woo and Quite Literally Hoo

It took a while to come,but after watching the delivery tracking website for what seemed like days on end and having to explain what a AdaFruit Flora is so the kit could be put through customs. Well after all that I now have my kit. So lets have a quick look at whats in the box


Some very boring cardboard, but at least it came well packed


Getting close now


Really close


Ta - Da


The Full Kit


The Actual AdaFruit Flora Itself


The Sewing stuff


Bags full of goodness (Mainly Sensors, the one with the brown square in the centre is the GPS)


Wires, switches,batteries. The essential stuff that could easily be forgotten.


So its all there then.  Feels like I can properly get started and start to hack and make on this project. There are a few things I want to try with the project so if you see me walking around London with lights flashing around my person, feel free to stop me and say hello. As we say up North, lets Crack on



Projects wearable

Random dots turn into my first prototype

After looking at the images of tattoos that I posted yesterday and thinking about my ideas for the project I decided there was only one thing for it and that was to break out the felt tips and get something on paper.

I wasn’t too bothered exactly what i drew but I knew that just the act of putting pen to paper would help to crystallise my ideas by giving me something to look at and think about.

I knew I wanted to represent a museum gallery and exhibits in it. So I drew a circle with eight more circles around it.  I coloured the circles in and joined the small circles to the larger one. Then drew lines from the larger circles to the top of the paper imagining that the wires are the veins and arteries going to the heart.

I repeated this seven more times in different but similar patterns all on the same sheet of paper.


Its not the best photo but you get the idea.

That was when I had my first insight.  This could get really complicated. It was fairly easy to do on paper and it didn’t matter if lines crossed but doing this on a sleeve with conductive thread could be complicated and prone to failure.

Next step was to repeat the exercise but simplified the patterns to make the routing of the wiring simpler. I also drew a couple of lines in there to make me think about the wires for the power.

I could see straight away that although better than my first attempt  there would be problems. Second insight of the night, think in 3D I would be working with a sleeve so I have a cylinder not a flat plane.  This means that I can wrap wires around to make connections. Even though how I had drawn it wasn’t the best design it lead to that flash.  So decided to test my theory.

This is probably the first real prototype in that it was a physical test of an idea rather than a flat drawing. It only took a few moments to make by making a quick sketch then rolling up and sellotaping the paper, but that has probably saved me several hours testing out the same idea with LEDs and wires.

The next two things I want to think about are testing out the colour sensor and the electronics needed to control all the LEDs that I’m planning on using.

Don’t actually have my kit yet but hopefully shouldn’t  be long  now.Will post my thoughts about it when I do.


making Projects wearable

AdaFruit Flora Challenge - Early thoughts,Hearts and Tattoos

The other seven people who are taking part in  the AdaFruit Flora Challenge are probably writing their first blog posts and discussing bits,bytes,shift registers,resistance,current and lots of other technical stuff.  Don’t worry I will get on to that but for now I wanted to talk about the more creative side of my project.

The Challenge asked  for technology that helps people get that much closer. 

Looking at my proposal I wrote:

The device that i am proposing is a piece of wearable technology, that can display a response to a question or a poll. Or a recommendation of a exhibit or gallery.  

It will display the response in a abstract but recognisable way. Maybe a colour or a pattern that is  closely associated with the exhibit or gallery.

This would help people to select what they should visit within the museum.

It will bring people together by starting conversations and debates between people who they can see have similar or opposing views to their own.

Looking at both things like that, it looks quite a big ask.  That seems a lot to achieve with just a Arduino board and some LEDs.

So my basic thought is to have a piece of clothing that would have have LEDs sewn into it in an interesting ways. The LEDs would be grouped to show a abstract  representation of the gallery or exhibits.

There would be two transducers on this piece of clothing one would be a sensor to interact with the exhibit (I’m saying exhibit to stay general it could be an individual object,through to an entire gallery).

The other would be some form of communication to transmit your pattern of likes to both the internet and to other people.

I went down a couple of dead ends,before coming up with the idea that I am pursuing.

I thought of various devices that could be used. one of my favourite early ideas was to have some sort of plushy toy, that could interact with other ones. Themes would be possible the Natural History Museum could have Dippy the Dinosaurs that  could kiss to share, the Science Museum could have cogs that mesh to share and the V & A could have  vases to do something.  Really started to run out of ideas there at the end.

What that made me realise was although I had come up with good individual ideas there wasn’t a strong theme to tie them together and make it suitable for use rather than just a couple of museums.

At some point the phrase “Wear your heart on your sleeve" popped into my head and stuck there and it was this that I decided to pursue.

When I think of Sleeves, its these beautiful tattoo sleeves I think of






When I think of images of the Heart I find the anatomical images much more interesting than the normal two round bumps and a pointy bit  images.




So these are the things I’ve had in my head. Tonight I started sketching some random ideas on paper which started to evolve into early prototypes and began to think of some of the practicalities of the wearable part of the project.

But that is enough for tonight I’ll post those images and my thoughts about that hopefully tomorrow.