Category Archives: wearable

museums technical wearable

Virtual Reality - Is this real life or just fantasy?

virtual reality helmet from the 1990s Back in the 1990's Virtual Reality (VR) was going to be the next big thing, for a moment it did look that way, then it all went wrong.  The headsets were big and clumsy and generally not very good. VR went away for a long time until the Oculus Rift took Kickstarter by surprise.   The company  went on to be bought by Facebook for over $2 Billion dollars and itself kickstarted a new VR industry.

With this new interest in VR I thought a round up of some of the headsets and applications  would be a good idea.  The Oculus Rift is now in its 4th developer version.  A full consumer version is intended to be launched next year.

Other manufacturers haven't been resting on their laurels.

Samsung have taken a slightly different approach.  The Gear V.R does not use its own display but is a holder for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The Samsung phone acts as both the display and the processing power of the device.

All the current devices can be split into either a Rift type or Gear V.R type device.  Each method has its own advantages or disadvantages.  The Oculus Rift requires a wired connection to a P.C or games console.  This limits its mobility and flexibility but does enable  more  detailed and responsive graphics that a powerful Graphics Processor can give.  The Gear V.R  can be easier to set up and with not being tied to a P.C is more mobile both in the location it can be used and for the person using the device. Disadvantages of this approach are battery life, the power of the Graphics Processor (GPU) in the phone and that using the phone like this for long periods can cause the GPU to overheat so to protect itself it will scale back its output quality, either the frames per second or the detail that is shown.

Google took the Gear V.R approach to the extreme when it launched Cardboard at I/O its developer conference earlier on this year.  A cardboard kit that folds up into V.R headset and can accept a wide range of phones.  I recently bought one of these and was genuinely impressed at how good it is. There is a difference between what Cardboard can do and what the Rift can do but there is a place for both.  Rift can be such an immersive experience if you aren't used to it, it can be better to use sat down, I have seen people stumble around as they become consumed in the virtual world. Having taken Cardboard to work and letting a few people try it, it can be much more social experience passing the headset around and comparing and sharing experiences.  Less totally immersive, different but not less.

Similar to Cardboard is the DIY VR headset  also adds trucker cap mounting and inclusion of the Leap motion sensor as the Oculus Rift has done.  Headsets like cardboard and DIY VR will get more people trying out V.R, developing for it and thinking up ideas and applications, that can only be a good thing.

Other devices that fall somewhere between cardboard and Gear V.R are the Archos V.R Headset  and the Zeiss V.R One 

Don't worry I haven't missed the obligatory 3D printing and Arduino  mention here it is with the Adafruit V.R Headset 

The most well known of the other Oculus Rift type devices is the Sony Morpheus not yet released  and like the Rift will probably launch in 2015 but at the moment hasn't had the same amount of public testing.   Morpheus is intended for use with Sony consoles, though just like when the Microsoft Kinect was launched it was soon hacked to work on other devices as well , that could well happen with Morpheus.

Microsoft themselves probably  have a V.R headset in development but less is known about this and its currently more rumour than confirmed product.

There are lots of applications for Virtual reality devices.  Really it needs a separate post for them but a couple of notable ones are the Volvo app for Cardboard,   The Paul Mcartney app for Cardboard  and the Thomas cook 360 experience for the Gear V.R .  These aren't small niche ideas but large brands using V.R to demonstrate their product in new and interesting ways.

I've not heard much of V.R being used in museums or galleries yet except as an experience to try the technology. The only exhibition that I'm aware of using V.R is the De/coding the Apocalypse at Somerset house. Overall the exhibition is very good, it uses digital technology in a very restrained and grown up way, but the use of the Oculus rift didn't really work for me. I think mainly because it was tethered for i'm guessing security reasons and the cord was too short again guessing but for health and safety.  I wanted more freedom of movement.  Glad they tried though.  Looking forward to seeing more applications for V.R, given the amount of headsets available and software being developed will surely be some interesting concepts developed

Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality

silly technical thoughts wearable

Stupid wearable idea of the day - distance sensing headphone band

It happens all the time, people walk around with their heads down looking at their phones,oblivious to the world around them.  If you aren't looking at your phone you have to watch out for people headed straight for you and get out of there way.

What about this for an idea.  Mount a distance  sensor (ultrasonic,infra-red or similar) and camera to the top of the headphone band. Point it at approx 45 degrees so when the head is tilted down it will be pointing straight forwards.   When it detects a obstacle it can make the phone vibrate and swap the display to the camera image.




Pretty sure this will be worth a few million of venture capital money in silicon valley but it is a stupid idea and you saw it here first

silly thoughts wearable

Daft wearable idea of the day

It is a universally acknowledged fact that people on Yahoo answers ask some stupid questions.

Is someone talking about you when your ears go hot and red?

Of  course your ears don't have some sort of supernatural, psychic, spidey sense powers.   For some reason the saying about your ears going hot when someone talked about you popped into my head today, so I thought up the idea of hot earrings.




Sorry for the crap drawing,  ears are really difficult.

Basically the idea is a bluetooth  earring with a heating coil so whenever you are mentioned on twitter,facebook etc your ears get hot  to notify you that you are being talked about.

Not put any thought into the practicalities of the heating coil, bluetooth electronics or power.  Just wanted to note down my idea before it got forgotten.







thoughts wearable

Charging my clothes.

These are my devices.  I own a Android phone,  a DAB radio, a 1st generation iPod, a Android Nexus Tablet and a Macbook Pro.

Devices I Own

These are my clothes, a mix of Shirts, T-Shirts, Jumbers, Skirts, jeans and trousers, and a couple of dresses.

Clothes in Wardrobe

There are a lot more clothes than electronic devices. Even if only half of my clothes had some sort of technology in it that needed a battery and required charging that is still a lot of charing needed.

I'm going to throw this out as an idea.  Make the Clothes rail and hangers act as chargers.

Have two strips running the length of the the that are 5V and 0V respectivley.  In each hanger have corresponding metal pads in the hook part of the hanger.

At the points that the clothes touch the hanger also have metal pads and in the garment have a conductive pads that are connected to the battery and chardging circuitry.


Something a bit like this

Charging hanger

I reckon I could raise $50K on Kickstarter with that idea or just take the battery out and plug it into a charger, probably  a lot easier.


thoughts wearable

When wearable tech is not the answer.

I love wearable technology.  Since I started learning about it a few months ago I am constantly amazed and delighted by how engineers,designers and artists are integrating technology into the clothes we wear and designing new devices designed to be worn. A lot of these can help to overcome disabilities and give people abilities that wouldn't be possible without technology.

I'm also a Cyclist. On and off i've been using a bike to ride to work since I was at University. Cycling in  London has been in the news a lot recently and not for good reasons. Sadly 6 cyclists have been killed in the recently.

In a previous job I have also spent time driving around London so have seen things from both sides.

So you would probably think that if I was to come across a wearable technology device that had the potential to make cycling safer I would be in favour of it.

Well this article really annoyed me. Initially because the product isn't powered by LEDs.  It uses LEDs but it isn't powered by them.  Once I'd got over the Semantically incorrect headline I read more about the device. The SEIL bag is designed to send signals to other road users of the intentions of the cyclist.

The intention of the device is honourable.  There is nothing wrong with trying to show drivers what you intend to do by displaying an arrow on your rucksack but that isn't why cyclists are being killed.

Cyclists are being killed for lots of reasons.

1) Cyclists.  A lot of cyclists on London's roads are very sensible.  They ride well, look around them, have lights and bright clothes on.  But there are stupid cyclists.  I've seen people riding around hyde park corner not just talking on their phone but reading the screen as well.

2) Drivers.  There are drivers who show utter contempt for cyclists, not giving them room on the roads, parking in bike lanes, driving into the areas at traffic lights that are reserved for cyclists.  But I suspect that the majority of drivers have simply never ridden a bike in a busy urban environment so don't know what challenges cyclists have on the roads.

3) Road design and vehicle design.  There are bad junctions that put cyclists into dangerous situations and there are problems with HGVs that mean drivers can't always see cyclists.  Something that a lot  cyclists probably don't understand.

I'm not convinced that a Rucksack that shows an arrow that you are turning left is the answer.   If a Cyclist can't be seen or is being ignored by a driver showing an arrow won't make any difference.

There is also the problem of the actual interface.  I understand when a vehicle has a flashing orange light on its left hand side that is the driver displaying the intent to turn left.  A arrow pointing left is not familiar and the meaning of it most likely wouldn't be understood until a cyclist actually made the turn.

The technology of the SEIL bag is very similar to that of the FOS display I looked at a few months ago.  The SEIL shows a potential application for the technology that was developed for  FOS.

The SEIL bag didn't make its Kickstarter goal and i'm not sad about that.  There may be a good application of the FOS technology and there may be a wearable technology product that can help cyclists and other road users stay safe but this isn't it.








technical thoughts wearable

Looking at the Fos. Wearable LED display.

The Wearable project I’m working on is entirely a one off, a prototype, a what if? sort of project. Its an idea to show what can be possible,to learn and test out the technology and to gauge people’s reaction to it.

Recently  I discovered the Fos  project on Kickstarter .This is a project that  uses an array of LEDs to display information sent from a mobile phone.


The Kickstarter page shows an example of an exercise statistics app but there are more ideas in the video and as it comes with an API for Android with an IOS one to follow the possibilities are much wider.

I really like the idea of this. I think it would be even more awesome if it could connect to an Arduino board based board like the Adafruit  Flora to enable a more  direct connection of other devices such as switches, light sensors and gps but can see  that would add a lot of complexity to an already ambitious project. 

Another thing that impressed me about this is the dedication that Anders the developer of the Fos has had to the project.  This isn’t a fly by night operation, he has been working on similar projects as bespoke designs for since 2005.

I don’t know if Fos will reach a massive consumer audience. The big players Apple, Google and Samsung are more likely to achieve that. I can see it finding a niche and hopefully other developers will come up with ideas that use the Fos in interesting ways and lead to other projects and devices.

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




Wearable Technology, the down side?

Just over a year ago Steve Mann  one of the pioneers of wearable tech was attacked in a McDonalds  by the staff apparently for wearing his Google Glass like augmented reality glasses .  While I waited for my  AdaFruit Flora kit to arrive I remembered that headline.

I’ve been thinking a lot about wearable technology a lot recently(You’ve probably  noticed if you regularly read this blog or follow me on twitter i’ve not shut up about it) My project for the element14 AdaFruit  Flora challenge is designed to provoke an emotional response, I want people to see the patterns of LEDs on a persons arm light up and be influenced by it.  Hopefully people will be influenced in a good way. I want people to be thinking “That person liked the ‘Red’ gallery” (What ever the Red gallery actually is)  If the red LEDs are lit up for example. But what happens if a person sees the red LEDs light up and disagrees with the opinion to the point of becoming angry or even worse violent.

People don’t tend to become angry at Really cool Science Exhibits  ,Dinosaurs or good design but a lot of art galleries and museums do have exhibits that are intended to shock and provoke their visitors so it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that somebody could be upset if another visitor was showing open admiration for a controversial piece.

Situations like that as well as the well founded privacy concerns are something that we will have to deal with if wearable computing does grow as predicted.

Since I started working on my wearable technology project I’ve started to get interested in some of the issues such as these.  It will be interesting to see how the wearable technology develops,what peoples attitudes are to it and  how they change over time.

Speaking of which I have created a short survey which if you could spare a couple of minutes I would appreciate you filling in.

The survey is here 

or if that doesn’t work alternative version here


This week in Wearable Tech.

Couple of interesting articles caught my eye this week, both about the growth of wearable technology This BBC Article  focuses primarily on how wearable technology will benefit businesses and the numerous advantages it could bring.

The quote “Recent research by US cloud technology company Rackspace found only 6% of businesses had provided such devices to their staff."  Intrigued me.

Would like to know how they are defining “wearable technology and which businesses  as to me 6% seems quite a high figure for  companies to be providing technology of this type to their staff, given that devices such as Google glass are still very much in the infancy.

The whole article did seem to concentrate on Glass type devices probably as those are the most prominent at the moment.

This Article as well as looking at the projected growth of the wearable technology market (Value predicted to be $6 Billion by 2016)  It features an interview with Christian Defeo of element14 talking about the AdaFruit Flora Wearable Challenge, and how it fits into the growth of wearable computing.

My project even gets a mention at the end.