With wearable tech poised to be the next big thing in technology wouldn’t it be grand to get in on the ground floor and create something revolutionary? Even if you don’t have plans to conquer the world wouldn’t it be cool to be able to build anything you’d like, wear it around, and show it off to people? With the Arduino Lilypad it’s entirely possible to do so, and heck, you might even learn some valuable real-world skills as you do it.
Arduino, for those of you unfamiliar with the project, is a blanket term used for a line-up of open-source electronic prototyping boards and associated accessories. You can think of it as the Linux of electronics. The boards, design schematics, and documentation are all published under the liberal Creative Commons license enabling you to create your own versions of the boards, up to, and including reselling the modules commercially! What better way to learn electronics than with a whole system specifically designed from the ground up for learning? Mastering the Arduino platform opens a whole world of possibilities for prototyping with a plethora of modules to choose from; from bluetooth enabled boards, boards that are able to control precise and powerful stepping motors, swarmable Zigbee protocol based XBee boards, and boards with LCD screens and gaming joysticks, the possibilities are mindboggling endless!
The Arduino Lilypad was developed by Leah Buechley and can be purchased from SparkFun. The Lilypad is both a specific version of the Arduino, and is a term that includes a whole line-up of accessories all designed to be thin, clothing-sewable, and hand washable. Stainless steel fiber conductive thread is used to connect everything together into electronic circuits.
The Lilypad mainboard is connected through a small USB to serial break-out board to a computer and programmed with a custom C-style Arduino programming language. Programs (called ‘sketches’) are then sent to the Lilypad which then happily run your custom code to mold and shape the world to your hearts content. Many modules are available to interface with the Lilypad like motion sensors, LEDs, vibrating motors, accelerometers, and temperature sensors. And since it’s an Arduino based any other Arduino or Arduino-clone compatible accessories will work out-of-the-box!
So what can you create with the Lilypad? Anything you want! The internet is chock full of project ideas like a turn signal hoodie, a dice throwing gauntlet and an animated heart broach. Make a set of armbands to play electronic tag with, create a step counter to count how far you walk in a day, make a shirt that displays the current temperature, or changes color based on your heart rate. Anything is possible with a little creativity
and technical know-how. The internet is filled to the brim with tutorials, youtube videos, instructables, and blogs posts all documenting every step of creating your own doomsday device so no technical know-how required.
The Lilypad opens up the wide world of wearable tech to the lay-person so be sure to check it out. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two!