Packlight

Key skills: Programming, Prototyping, Wiring/Soldering

This was a project for a class in Multimedia Programming for Art and Design. The purpose of this project was to create an electronically wired creation using an Arduino and Processing technology that fulfilled some sort of constructive purpose. We chose to create a wearable technology prototype for pedestrians and bicyclists. It is a safety light that activates in low light conditions to make the wearer more visible to cars.

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Elements included in the project and their relative locations. Sensors were present on the backpack while output was displayed on the wrist.

Summary

The wiring sensors included a light sensor, thermometer, and accelerometer for measuring ambient sunlight, temperature, and movements. The movements from the accelerometer are calculated and put through an algorithm to produce a rudimentary pedometer for counting steps. These sensors are mounted on the back of the backpack, along with a rear-facing red light. Inside the backpack, the Arduino board and battery pack are safely mounted. The information output by the sensors and translated by the Arduino board was displayed on a wrist-mounted configuration screen along with a button which turns on a front-facing shoulder-mounted light for added visibility. Pressing this button also have a haptic (vibration) feedback.

9
Two iterations of the Processing application. Changes included simplifying the text and reducing distractions.

In addition to this, we had to create an app using Processing that allowed for 3rd party control over the device. Ours allowed you to set the running lights on the backpack to a custom colour. We first sketched out the user interface for our idea, then implemented it in code. A number of iterations were made to simplify the design and make its function easily identifiable.

My Responsibilities

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Two illustrations of the virtual circuit.

I was tasked with the job of creating the virtual circuit using online software. We had to connect three sensors (light, temperature, movement) to an LCD screen on the wrist, plus a button with haptic feedback and three LED outputs. This proved to be a very daunting task, as the LCD screen had 16 attachment points and a single mistake could easily create a short circuit and destroy it.

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Interaction model showing the output responses and interface located on the wrist

 

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User interaction model illustrating the connection of the inputs and outputs on the device.

I was also tasked with outlining and elaborating on the user interaction in the project. This was challenging due to the sheer number of variables, as we had to simplify the interface as much as possible. In the end, we decided to cut a number of functions from the final project, citing difficulties communicating them to the user.

Takeaways

I learned valuable information in circuitry and logic gates, and our team was approached by a stranger in a cafe where we were working that encouraged us to pursue funding with the project, saying that it was a promising idea. Although we did not go through with the commercialization of the idea, it served as a functional and convenient prototype and an inspiration for future projects.

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