At the beginning of this project we had to think about problems either visually impaired people, elderlies or refugees may have in their daily life. Our job was to choose one group of people and try to solve or call attention to possible problems by creating and using e-textiles and wearables.
We came up with the idea of creating a lightning badge. The concept of this lightning badge was, to make the life of visually impaired people safer and more comfortable.
Sighted people should recognize blind persons in the dark as well as in daylight to keep them safe and to be able to help in an emergency case.
We wanted to add LEDs and a light sensor to a standard badge. So when the light in the environment has a defined value, the sensor will recognize this value, send a signal, so the LEDs will turn on.
Our concept was to make the black dots glow in the dark, depending on the brightness of the environment. A photocell sensor and the Arduino Lilypad made it possible. The Arduino Lilypad is a microcomputer developed especially for e-textiles and wearables.
With the software of the Arduino you can develop your own program depending on what you want to do. We programmed the microcomputer to read the data of the incoming value of light through the photocell sensor.
Our biggest problem was to find a way to make the black dots glow. We thought of using many LEDs one after another in a circle around the black dot, but there were way too many LEDs and accordingly too many wires (for such a small badge).
After some conversations and brainstorming with friends and family we came up with the idea of using a glass fibre wire connected to a LED. But the next difficulty was to buy a glass fibre wire. It is not very easy to get a piece of glass fibre in conventional electronics store. In the end we used the heart of a visual audio wire. Holding the LED on one end of the wire it glowed quite bright. But the next challenge was to fix the LED to the wire while tying the beams of light all together to get the most effort. The solution was a shrink tube, a kind of rubber, which contracts if you heat it up. We coated the LED and the wire with the tube and therefor fixed these two things together.
To keep the badge small and flexible we did not want to use wires to connect the LEDs and the photocell with the Arduino. That’s why we used conductive thread. We had many problems with short-circuits, because the threads are not isolated as wires are and they are located very close to each other on the inner of the badge.
To solve this problem, to hide the electronics and to make sure the electronics don’t get damaged we made the badge multi-layered.
A big advantage of our badge for visually impaired is the USB Port of the Arduino where you can charge the battery easily. Besides this fact, it is very easy to adapt the value of incoming light manually in the programme, depending on what kind of darkness or brightness you want the badge to glow.
Our Project can be extended to many other groups of people. For example schoolchildren in the winter months or northern countries, bikers, pensioners, dogs, etc. …
There are several categories you can use this technique. Feel free to explore!
If you want to make your own lightning badge, have a look at our tutorial.
Lightning Dots Tutorial
Some more pictures of our work:
Clara Schlegelmilch & Lisa Bias