I found this on the Arduino blog recently: Matt Leggett has been having some fun with wearable pixels. He sewed an alcohol sensor, some LEDs and an Arduino processor into a jacket. The idea is that you breathe into the sensor and the LEDs light up to show how inebriated you are. Too many lit LEDs and your friends should call a taxi for you. Perhaps the Arduino could even make the call automatically. Maybe Moritz Waldemeyer or Vega Wang could incorporate this into their wearable electronics.
I think this could be done without needing to blow into a sensor. After all, too many drinks and you might not remember how! SoberSteering is developing a car steering wheel that senses blood alcohol levels through ones skin. Maybe their sensor could be built into clothing and sense alcohol levels in real time.
I know of more than a few fellow bloggers who probably wouldn’t wear this kind of this kind of clothing. For them, it would mean pixels everywhere would keep them from going anywhere, by car at least <grin>. Or, at the very least, they may stop getting served earlier in the evening.
In fact, MicroTiles might never have been invented if certain unnamed inventors had been wearing Leggett’s invention!
I’ve blogged several times about wearable pixels as well as pixels for interior design and architecture.
But for the world to be a canvas for digital light, digital light must conform to the world as it is — a world of moving shapes and forms. Forms that bend, shift and stretch. Projected light does this, but it can be limited by ambient light, sight lines, the color of the surface, and projector positioning issues. Pixels from projected light are really reflected pixels.
But what if the digital canvas could directly emit light, not just reflect it? That would open up a huge number of ways to use digital light. Recently I posted about work at the University of Illinois-Urbana where electronic circuits, including circuits with LEDs, could be put directly on the surface of the skin and other flexible surfaces.
Now, we’ve learned about the work of Dr. Qibing Pei his team at UCLA. The picture shows a blue light emitting surface being stretched 45%. The stretching is reversible.
This is a really important step forward. So far, we’ve mostly seen bendable light, but those approaches were usually brittle –and bendable isn’t the same as stretchable. The UCLA team solved this by fabricating transparent electrodes that included single-walled conductive carbon nanotubes and polymer composite electrodes in an interpenetrating network of nanotubes and polymer. This created a combined electrode with low sheet resistance, high transparency, high compliance and low surface roughness. They sandwiched a light emitting plastic between two of these new electrodes, applied current, and created stretchable light.
The pictures show a single stretchable light emitting surface…essentially one pixel. But this is just the beginning. Image this scaled up into large numbers of tiny, colorful, controllable, malleable pixels.
It’s early days yet, but imagine this being applied to wall coverings, furniture, curtains, clothes. It all depends on how rugged, scalable –and of course inexpensive– this process will ultimately become. It’s no stretch (bad pun) to say this could be a big step forward to the pixels-everywhere future.
You can read the UCLA press release here.
Yesterday, researchers at the University of Illinois-Urbana announced skin-like patches (here) that have electronic circuits on them and can be put directly on the surface of the skin. Here is an excerpt (emphasis added by me):
“The circuit bends, wrinkles, and stretches with the mechanical properties of skin. The researchers demonstrated their concept through a diverse array of electronic components mounted on a thin, rubbery substrate, including sensors, LEDs, transistors, radio frequency capacitors, wireless antennas, and conductive coils and solar cells for power.”
The announcement goes on to say:
“The technology can connect you to the physical world and the cyberworld in a very natural way that feels very comfortable.”
They emphasize medical applications, but I think this has big implications on the broader digital light/pixels everywhere future. For example:
- we’ll be able to put pixels all over our bodies. They’ll be almost part of us, not just projected onto us (see http://www.pixelizedlight.com/2011/07/pixels-everywhere-i-mean-all-over/) . Why? To reflect our mood, perhaps, or maybe as art or most likely just for fun.
- if this technology truly wrinkles, stretches and bends as well as the researchers claim, why restrict it to skin patches? Maybe this is a breakthrough that enables a big leap forward in highly flexible materials for
- fashion … think what Moritz Waldemeyer or Vega Wang could do with this (see: http://www.pixelizedlight.com/2011/07/wearable-pixels/)
- interior design… imagine LED enhanced curtains, furniture fabrics, and wall coverings …potentially taking what Kvadrat and Philips have done to a whole new level (see http://www.pixelizedlight.com/2011/07/big-beautiful-blurry-pixelized-walls/)
- architecture … the mind boggles at what architects could potentially do with flexible building material that illuminates and senses the environment.
Fun things to think about on a Friday afternoon! Maybe the pieces are falling into place for ‘pixels everywhere’. The world is going to be a canvas and you and I will be part of that canvas.
Oh no….are we approaching the digital light singularity … the pixelarity?
In early July, I posted about ‘wearable pixels“. The other day, I came across several kinds of sew-able pixels on the inventables.com website. Here’s a picture of one kind; there are more in the Inventables site.
It looks like you can’t control individual LEDs, but it would be cool if you could. Get out your sewing machines.
People have been experimenting for some time with wearable pixels. For instance, Moritz Waldemeyer in the UK has become well-known in digital fashion; he also has an interesting blog. Another example of his work is in the video below that goes back several years.
Vega Wang in China experimented with electroluminescence in clothing.
There was even a ‘wearable’ version of the arduino controller called the lilypad that was available in the past for experimentation with wearable electronics. On the whole, though, it seems this field of digital light is in a holding pattern. Problems that need to be solved are power, weight, resolution, wiring, bulk, to name a few. Maybe a reflective technology based on ePaper (eCloth?) will be part of the solution. Someday. Until then, Pixels On Us may have to wait.
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