Wearable Technology: LED Compass Skirt
A smart piece of clothing helps in wayfinding.
Artist Meredith Scheff’s NorthSkirt is a piece of wearable smart clothing made from soft circuitry. The skirt contains 8 rows of 4 LEDs each, powered by a 9v battery and has a digital compass which lights up a particular row of LEDs pointing north. At the heart of the technology behind this skirt is a flexible soft-circuit board and a haptic compass kit called North Paw.
Meredith Scheff explains the inner workings of the North Skirt to Steampunk Workshop:
I decided to modify the components from a NorthPaw kit. It’s an anklet that senses north and turns on one of the 8 motors around the anklet, indicating north. I then made a simple circuit skirt, and carefully laid out the lines that the traces would follow. The star on StarBoards denotes positive. The boards were pre-soldered, but the Kapton (high temperature tape) substrate means that soldering/repairs can be done without damaging the fabric. The board itself is powered by SparkFun’s 3.7v LiPo- which, along with the 9v powering the LEDs, is hidden in the waistband. I added triangle accents at the bottom of the LED rows for added flourish- but they’re also functional. That’s where the conductive thread switches from outside to inside, where it meets the shared power line. When I turn, the compass chip lights the appropriate row of LEDs- the row facing north. It’s constantly on, and can change faster than I can spin.