Last week a major hurdle was taken for this project.
1) I held my presentation for a very interested audience of around 200 students from the Design Academy in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. I was very nervous but once I got started things went OK. I only had 10 minutes so I focussed on the design process. The audience was also design orientated so I didn’t want to bother them with too much technique.

Presentation at Design Academy

Presentation at Design Academy

Opcacity and outline change depending on data

Opcacity and outline change depending on data

2) I finished the website I’m still amazed by the swiftness with which I realised this project. I’m very happy with the Flash app. Even though the data is fake (for now) it does give a good insight into the power of the app. I think I’m most proud of the icon and the way in which the outline colour changes to indicate good, bad or neutral smell. It’s just so easy to work with the Google Maps for Flash API. Great job, good documentation too! You can just use all the build in functionality in a very simple way by using the classes. Also check out the check boxes with which you can select all the days of a month, not as simple as it looks to program…
3) I’ve edited the video and put it online as a Flash flv file and you can play in from the homepage using the simple player. There wasn’t very much useful material for the motorway scene, so I’ve had to improvise a little. I think the rest of the video runs smooth enough. It gives a good impression of how to use the wearable.

There are still some things to be done: the displays don’t light up more then four rings per gas at the same time, I’ll have to change that for more pollution.  Maybe just light up the smallest and the largest. The Nickle Cadmium don’t supply enough power either and I don’t want to use more batteries. I’ll have to work on the Bluetooth connection. And I’ll have to interpret the Arduino values and recalculate them to ppm for every gas.

So keep an eye on this blog. All announcements will go through the website, the five most recent entrees of this blog are listed there as well.

Win some, lose some

I’ve been working really hard the last weeks. I’ve started to develop the Flash web application. I started with the calendar part which gets all the different days from the database and presents a nice, scrollable and selectable list of days. The user can choose from which days she wants to see data. They are grouped by month and presented in a visual hierarchy. As you can hear I’m pretty happy with it and especially happy with how smooth the coding is going.
I must confess I’m very happy with ActionScript 3. What a robust language! Once you get the hang of it (and it is quite a difference from the first handful of methods and from AS1 too) it’s great to work with. So now I’m ready to start with Google maps and the projection of the data.

Design for the web application

Design for the web application

Onto the part where I lost some… I’d already done quite some work on the communication between the Arduino and the Nokia. Except for the formatting I could receive data from the Arduino on my phone. As I needed to  fill the database for my web app I tried running the old (working) scripts on my phone. I could make a Bluetooth connection but the communication didn’t work and I often got the message error(13, ‘Permission Denied’), a dreaded message which I thought I’d solved. So I tried installing a new version etc. No luck. As I’m running out of time for the presentation on the 19th I decided to fake the data so I could at least continue with my development.
So now I’ve manipulated the data from my collecting silence database. I wrote a Processing script which loops through all the lines of my database dump and creates new SQL queries from the existing data and writes them to a file. I could then import the queries and now I have a nice database on AQAb filled with almost 1000 rows of data. I do feel a little naughty but it’s the only way I can continue with my work at the moment. My knowledge of Python on mobile devices is too limited. And now I can’t even run the Scriptshell without errors, *sigh*

Oh yes, I’ve also done a video and photo shoot with Hans, my model. Pfff, filming is a true profession. I hope I’ll be able to make something presentable of the shots when editing. It’s a challenge to keep track of everything when you have to be director, producer and cameraperson at the same time.


Now the biggest part of building the wearable is done it’s time to work on presentations. Two weeks ago we did a video and photo shoot of all the pieces. I brought my model Hans to make sure I get consistent documentation.
After some discussion we decided to film and take pictures outside. As my piece is made to be worn outside and only has a function outside this made the most sense. Just outside there was an interesting and attractive urban landscape. A mixture of trees and flats. This is exactly the sitting in which the vest shall be worn. So we took the pictures there.
For the video we stuck to a very simple script of Hans stepping outside and interacting with the vest. Demonstrating a way in which it can be used.
As there was some delay it started getting darker and colder at the end of the shoot. This made the displays function less well because I haven’t yet set up the temperature dependant heating times. I haven’t seen any of the results but I think it will give a nice impression of the piece.

I’ve also started building the website. The design for the interactive maps with pollution isn’t ready yet but the rest of the design was. It’s good to see all the information collected in one place. I’ve integrated a nice PHP feed renderer in the website. The five most recent items of this blog will automatically displayed on a webpage. The main colours are black and pink (I never used them before) as you can also see in the logo I designed. logo

Display hell

I’ve been working my ass of this weekend to get the displays working for the video shoot. I had to moderate my goals where the coding is concerned. I couldn’t get it to work the advanced way for three displays. So I chose just to light up an equal number of rings for every display, using the same amount of heating time for every three similar sized rings.

Wiring of the three displays

Wiring of the three displays inside the vest

Full of expectation I switched on all the batteries, pressed the demo button and… nothing. Not a thing happened. After some fiddling I got the smallest of one of the displays to heat up. Paul gave me some testing tips so I could test each ring separately. I got the two smallest rings of one display working. No matter what I tried the third or forth ring just wouldn’t light up. As it has become very cramped inside the vest with all the wires I asked my model, Hans, to help me on Sunday with the testing and we would do the video shoot later, when it was fixed.

The cooperation went very well. We tested and re-soldered some of the rings until we had the two smallest rings working for every display. But when it was time for Hans to wear the vest and press the demo button again nothing worked. We went back to just lighting one ring per display and after applying some pressure on the solder points three small rings light up feebly.
By then it was dark and I had to put up a very big lamp to light the room. With the utmost difficulty we got some reasonable shots. But alas the result is very poor.

The innermost ring of the NO2 display lighting up

The innermost ring of the NO2 display lighting up

Conclusion: this is not the way to go with the displays. These are the problems that have become clear:

  • The soldered connection between the hard wire and the soft fabric isn’t stable. Often it doesn’t seem to provide enough power
  • The fabric doesn’t conduct the power evenly. On some parts I can’t measure any current
  • Often I do measure current everywhere but the fabric isn’t heated, *sigh*
  • When turning on more rings the current seems to go the ring that is most conductive leaving the other rings with little or no power
  • The more rings I try to heat the harder it gets to get even one working

Stepping into bed and removing my electric blanket I got a brain wave. Why not use this technology? I already had tips from Syuzi on this forum but I wanted to test my own set-up first.

After doing some research yesterday I’ve discovered there’re quite some producers of heated clothing. Some of the garments even work on 7 volt batteries. So that must be the way to go. Now I just need an electronics wizard to help me make the right choises.

It’s alive!

I’ve almost got the whole application working. Yesterday I managed to animate the map and the heart icon. Because I keep moving around (and the GPS logger isn’t always exact) the map is continually shifting a little. Together with the moving heart-beat ‘snake’ you really get the feeling this work is alive. And of course the work is about life and the way it’s changing constantly. So I’m rather pleased with the way it’s turning out. Watch a little video about the living map (a Windows media file.)