The ‘Woven’ concept transforms clothing items into ‘connected’ objects with wireless link to a smartphone-computer which react to outside events and provide physiological data on the wearer in a way that will affect the moves of the game in progress.
Is it feasible to use clothing as a games console? Two Dutch students from the Utrecht School of Arts, Christiaan Ribbens and Patrick Kersten, certainly think so. For their Masters degree graduation project, they have been working on Woven, which transforms a sweater and a pair of jeans into a software platform, with the human body serving as an interactive control-stick. All interactions between those playing the game through their smartphones are displayed on their clothing, which also serves to send feedback to the smartphone on a player’s current physical state – such as heart rate – one of the factors determining gaming actions. The programme/software application can also update and log interactions on the gamers’ social network profiles.
The e-wearable platform uses a smartphone which is wirelessly connected with the clothing through Bluetooth. A range of sensors capture data that will be transmitted to and analysed by the smartphone running the game. Bend sensors record body movement, and there’s also a heart rate sensor which is placed on the ear. The core of the platform consists of three Arduino Lilypad boards connected with each other so as to communicate and send data. The programmes for running the electronics and registering sensor input are uploaded on these boards.
Ghosts in the system
The Woven platform also incorporates small speakers located in the sweater hood, a small three-colour LED pixel screen positioned across the stomach area, and a shake motor which gives the platform haptic (tactile) feedback. The system is powered by a battery which runs for around 6 hours. Woven connects to Spooky, a role-play game which has been specifically designed to illustrate the workings of the system by making the players interact with their environment. Basically the players have to fight off or ‘capture’ ghostly beings who attack out of thin air. The basic idea behind Woven, the Ribbens-Kersten graduation project, was to demonstrate the ease and efficiency of this type of system, using cheap electronic components and simple technology and designing an app that turns a smartphone into a computer.