How It All Began:
In this world there a great variety of people, with vastly different skills, interests, backgrounds, and futures. But for the sake of this post I will concern myself with only two kinds. Those who know cool electrical stuff, and those who don't. I fall into the latter category. But when a friend told me about these pre-assembled circuit boards, that are used to rapidly prototype gadgets and inventions, that are so simple to use that artists with no technical background are able to pick them up and realize their visions, well, my first thought was, 'that's kinda cool'. So idly I browsed the interwebs, for this strange thing called Arduino
, and discovered it's sleeker, purple-ier, sibling, the Arduino Lilypad
. It offers a subset of the range offered for the Arduino, but washable, and redesigned for use on clothing. My imagination immediately filled with visions of me dancing, trailing swirls of colours. *ahem* And other less girly things. And I just knew I had to get my teeth into it. Afterall, if it was so simple to use then I could hardly fail.( This is long, and has two photos, and two videos )Things I Learned:
- The Lilypad is more expensive than the Arduino, so unless you want wearable tech specifically, stick to the Arduino.
- The Arduino works in a three-dimensional space. You can build flat circuits, or giant cubes. The Lilypad, although it has to shape and conform to the 3-D form of the body, works primarily in flat planes. You are fairly limited to above the fabric, and below it.
- If you don't know much about electronics the Lilypad is easier to use and understand. As you learn more you start seeing how your projects would translate to the Arduino, and just how neat and clever (both intentionally, and coincidentally) the Lilypad is.
- I have installed the Arduino IDE on both Fedora 11 and Windows XP. Both are similar and very easy. Windows does have the disadvantage of offering you many COM ports, and you just have to try them all to find the one that's connected to your Arduino. Whereas on my Fedora machine I have to launch it from the terminal, and as root.
- When using the Lilypad you may notice a complete lack of resistors. This is because the power sources readily available are about 3-5V, which is the range the Lilypad likes. But also, despite it's name, conductive thread, while being conductive relative to ordinary thread, is a quite poor conductor with regards more traditional electrical items like wire. So in essence the thread is
your resistor. If you need a greater resistance, simply create a longer path of thread between the power source and your components. Adding other pieces, like clasps and such can also add a decorative touch of resistance if needed.
- Conductive thread is like unshielded/uninsulated wire. It is very important not to cross the positive and negative strands. And seeing how easily the thread frays you will need a way to seal away the knot-ends at the very least. I currently use fabric paint, and find it very good, despite a quite long drying time.