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[personal profile] chebe
In times gone by, when you caught a cold or got a cough, one of the things you could do to try and cure it was to tie a red flannel around your neck, under your clothes. Did the extra layer of warmth actually help, or was it just superstition? I'm not in a position to answer that, but it sparks some interesting questions.

For all its vibrant colours, traditional torque design, and dynamic nod-to-Newgrange kerbstone spirals, this piece strikes me as something futuristic, or interstellar. How Niki massaged the felt into these shapes I've no idea but, except for the torque clasp, this is one solid piece.

Mannequin wearing black tshirt, and a red felted torque piece

Red flannel neckpiece at Dublin Maker
Photo by chebe

When you're sick and feeling miserable, what makes you feel better than having someone look after you? But these days we're busy, or far away from our loved ones. So we have provided a way to bring them with you. This piece detects when you cough, and then plays an audio clip of the stereotypical Irish mammy, with such soothing and helpful sayings as; "Didn't I tell you you'd catch your death of cold if you went out without a coat."

Tree provided her excellent accent and own experiences, for the recordings, which without fail made people laugh and instantly feel better. Job done!

Tech-wise this piece went through more design revisions than all the others put together. I tried multiple audio boards but couldn't get any of them to actually function. I ended up using the Lilypad MP3 with trigger sketch, salvaged from an unfinished winter jumper project. Trigger sketch, you say, why not use it more as a fully featured microcontroller? Well, I'll tell you something that took me days to figure out; the ftdi/serial communication on this board is broken. The IDE kept saying "Upload complete", reporting no errors, but the uploaded sketch never once changed. *sigh*

Okay, okay, but I'm using an electret microphone breakout to detect the sound and a tilt switch to pick up on the movement of bent-over-coughing. These inputs need correlating with a microcontroller. And then the microcontroller will need to trigger the inputs on the Lilypad MP3. That's 6/7 pins, we're going to need a Lilypad Simple as well. Yes, it's getting ridiculous, but it's less than 24 hours to DM, ahhhhhhh!

Back of red felted torque piece, showing all the electronic components

Back view of the electronic parts
Photo by chebe

I soldered snaps to the microcontrollers, so they can be easily replaced later. The matching snaps are soldered to wires, and then stitched on to the back of the felted torque. The microphone (thoroughly hot glued) has just the three wires; GND, V+, Audio signal (analog read). The tilt switch (digital read) has an external pull-up resistor. And finally there is a speaker hidden under a red pocket. (Initially all the components were to be hidden away in the same manner, but time was short, and makers tend to want to see what's going on.)

The speaker was another one of those things that just didn't work out. Initially we were going to try a custom fabric speaker. Then a thin flexible speaker, but it required a separate amp (another board was not desirable), and even then it wasn't as loud as the thin speaker. And then *exhale, relax*, then, halfway through the day, the speaker stopped working. A wire probably came loose, but with the covering I couldn't tell. Funny how things work out, because I was able to scrounge a mono headphone (from Tree) and plug it into headphone jack on the Lilypad MP3. The show must go on!

But for all the set-backs and frustrations, this piece turned out to be many peoples favourite. Everyone who tried it laughed, some almost split their sides. Niki has some good ideas on improvements for the next version, and at the very least there will be fewer microcontrollers involved! So keep an eye-out for the next revision.
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