Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Creativity Labs: Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute

Creativity Labs: Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute:

South Fayette School District in the Pittsburgh area has been a hub for educational innovation for several years now, pioneering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Studio model and hosting the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute to train educators to spread these innovations to their own classrooms. The Creativity Labs has worked with them before (links) to provide professional development in e-textiles. This summer, we were happy to do so again as part of our summer service activities.

To learn more about the awesome e-textile projects pictured here, read the rest of the post below!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A brief history of yarn in video games

A charming game called Unravel stood out at E3 2015. But before that, there was the Nintendo Knitting Machine, and you've been missing out.
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that he would rather take up knitting than review video games—as though the two were mutually exclusive. Lately, it seems like that couldn't be further from the truth. 
At E3 this week, Electronic Arts unveiled a lovely game called Unravel, where you play as a tiny yarn character that slowly unravels as it moves through the level. Although that sounds a little like a metaphor for the slow but inexorable march that we are all taking towards death, in Unravel this thread is a versatile tool you can be use as a climbing rope, grappling hook, trampoline, fishing line, and whatever else the game can imagine. Enjoy the earnest trailer that produced many wistful sighs and misty eyes:
There have been more than a few yarn-based video games over the last several years, from the Little Big Planet series (which stars a knit doll called Sackboy) to the recent rash of Nintendo games like Kirby's Epic Yarn and the upcoming Yoshi's Wooly World. And while this uptick in might be partly attributable to the more recent popularity of amigurumi, yarn and knitting has made their way into video games since the very beginning. Let's take a look back.


This is surely one of the greatest gaming artifacts of the 1980s: a magazine advertisement for a device that would allow you to knit sweaters with your Nintendo Entertainment System. In it, Nintendo claims that video game knitting is "just one more example of the innovative thinking that keeps Nintendo on the cutting edge of video technology," noting that no other game systems—not one!—have knitting peripherals. This is indeed true. Ultimately, the Nintendo Knitting machine was sounique that it was never actually manufactured.


The Nintendo Knitting Machine should not be confused with I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater, a game designed for a Japan-only '80s console called the Famicom Disk System. It allowed players to create pixel art patterns for sweaters, although you still had to knit them by hand.


Created by LucasFilm Games and Brian Moriarty back in 1990, Loom was one of the great works of the early adventure game era—and it revolved entirely around weaving. Rather than a text parser or a traditional inventory system, you solved puzzles by playing magical four-note tunes that weave "subtle patterns of influence into the very fabric of reality." There's a giant and all-powerful loom at the heart of it all, and at one point it tears apart the world and everyone turns into swans and flies into space. It's weird as hell, and I love it.

More at

Monday, June 15, 2015

Impressive Crocheted Leaf Sculptures by Susanna Bauer

To truly appreciate the delicacy of Susanna Bauer‘s leaf sculptures, think of crunching a dead leaf in your hand, how it disentigrates into dust with the slightest effort. To work with dry and fragile leaves as a medium for crochet seems nearly impossible, but Baur somehow manages it with ease, turning leaves into cubes, tunnels, and geometric patterns with techniques that might be more appropriate for durability of leatherwork. She shares about her process:
There is a fine balance in my work between fragility and strength; literally, when it comes to pulling a fine thread through a brittle leaf or thin dry piece of wood, but also in a wider context – the tenderness and tension in human connections, the transient yet enduring beauty of nature that can be found in the smallest detail, vulnerability and resilience that could be transferred to nature as a whole or the stories of individual beings.
Bauer has a new exhibition of work at Lemon Street Gallery in Cornwall, England through June 27th, and you explore a bit more on Facebook

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Three-Dimensional, LED-Lit Dance Costume that Exposes the Performer — Or Hides Her

The dancer Emily Smith demonstrates several of the many possible ways of wearing the artist Elizabeth Tolson's performance-art dress. Smith will perform a work titled "In the Presence of Myself" that incorporates the dress tonight at a show in Bushwick.Credit Michael Kosciesza
There are more than seven different ways to wear the artist Elizabeth Tolson’s new performance-art dress, which features a stunning three-dimensional, expandable LED-lit attachment. At the debut of “In the Presence of Myself,” a performance premiering this weekend at Bushwick’s Open Studios, the dancer Emily Smith will demonstrate them all. Tolson built the costume’s focal point by crafting rings with plastic boning. When Smith pushes the exoskeleton out, the viewer is forced to see how it juts out, like a tiered wedding cake; but when she pulls it back in, it collapses flat against the body. Tolson also tucked a hundred lights inside the sack dress’s silver and white sheer cotton, and the layers of fabric diffuse the battery-powered LEDs and illuminate Smith with a fuzzy white-yellow glow. “I wanted the lights to shine toward the body instead of out,” Tolson says.
Tolson and Smith, who met at Alfred University, have both since moved to New York, where they now regularly swap critiques of each other’s work; when it came time to bring her dress design to life, Tolson turned to Smith. “We have similar thoughts about making the body the centerpiece in different atmospheres, and that’s where our voices cross over,” Smith says. At the show, Smith will be changing the dress’s shape in slow motion as she navigates through the audience. “It’s instinctual,” Smith says. “We talked about how having the light on my stomach feels vulnerable, but when I move it onto my head, it’s almost like I absorb the light so I make more powerful movements.”
The piece, Tolson explains, explores self-image; though it’s certainly innovatively designed, to simply call the dress “wearable tech” doesn’t capture its expression of the inner conflict between self-acceptance and shame. “I keep thinking of it as the elephant in the room,” Tolson says. “By using the dress as an object to discuss how you become obsessed over a certain aspect of yourself that makes you self-conscious, it shows the beauty behind those imperfections.” Tolson and Smith discussed how to transform the dress into a tool for self-exposure — or as a shield, albeit one that still lets you glimpse the woman underneath in a flesh-colored bodysuit. It even stretches enough for Smith to crawl inside and cover her whole body — “like a turtle shell,” Tolson explains. “If people are staring, the dress can convey that need to hide.”
“In the Presence of Myself” takes place Friday, June 5 at 7 pm at The Loft Show, 248 McKibbin Street, Apt. K, Brooklyn,


Friday, June 5, 2015


BMBF-Projekt „MediaArt@Edu“
Eine Ausstellung des Institut für Berufspädagogik am KIT
11.06.2015 OUTER SPACE
12.06.2015 OUTER SPACE
13.06.2015 OUTER SPACE
Interaktive Textilien, auch als „Smart Textilien“ oder „Wearables“ bezeichnet, bilden eine neue Generation in Kleidung und Accessoires eingebetteter Mikrocomputer. Sie bieten viele Möglichkeiten der kreativen Auseinandersetzung mit so genannten „intelligenten“ Medien, die ihre Umgebung mit Hilfe von Sensoren wahrnehmen können. Verwendet werden z.B. leitfähiges Garn und Stoff, Sensoren, Motoren, LED und einnähbare Platinen (Arduino LilyPad - Technologie). Smart Textilien stellen eine Verknüpfung zwischen sinnlich-haptischem Material, präziser Computersteuerung und kreativem Konzept her. Neue Schnittstellen – genäht, gewebt oder gestickt – werden zwischen Körper, Bekleidung und Umgebung erlebbar. In der Ausstellung haben Sie die Möglichkeit, diese Textilien kennen zu lernen und mit den anwesenden Projektbetreuerinnen zu diskutieren.

11.06: 15.00 - 20.00 Uhr (Vernissage)
12.06: 18.00 - 20.00 Uhr
13.06: 17.30 - 19.30 Uhr

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Project Jacquard

Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms. Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.
Read more here

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Creativity Labs: Summer 2015 Service Kick-Off!

Originally posted here: Creativity Labs: Summer 2015 Service Kick-Off!

 A post by Tony Phonethibsavads, Sophia Bender, Anna Keune  

This past Friday, we hosted a hands-on exploratory workshop at Clifty Creek Elementary School’s STEM Fair in Columbus, IN. Given the drop-in and walk-by atmosphere of a fair, we wanted to offer a project that is easy to create but at the same time offers all of the circuitry learning benefits of the electronic textiles toolkit. We offered one of the many e-textiles activities documented in our colleague Leah Buechley’s book Sew Electric, the light-up bookmark, and another project we made up on the fly while preparing for the workshop, a light-up bow. However, much of the preparation was done in coordination with the Clifty Creek Elementary School teachers, who also provided materials for the workshop, including electronic components and crafting supplies.

E-textiles are electronics embedded into clothing, accessories, or other wearables. In the Creativity Labs, we like to use the LilyPad Arduino toolkit, which includes sewable LEDs, battery holders, and microcontrollers that can all be connected with conductive thread. This provides opportunities to combine both high- and low-tech, both crafting and electronics, and represents an unusual and very powerful approach to learning circuitry and programming that tends to be more inviting to girls. The Creativity Labs is always happy to share e-textile workshops with our partners!
The Clifty Creek STEM Fair was an informal after-school field day, kind of like an open house, for families and people of all ages to enjoy the pre-Memorial Day Friday. Throughout the fair, barbecue grills, face painting, and moonbounces gave the festival a true Mini Maker Faire vibe, that was sprinkled with science explorations at every corner of the schoolyard and house. The focus of the Fair was many science-themed activities, such as our e-textiles workshop.
E-sewers hard at work!
Our workshop was set up in Ms. Lucas’s 3rd-grade classroom. To create light-up bookmarks, we provided various materials to the visitors of our table. These included fabric strips, felt stickers, bows, conductive thread, sewable LEDs, sewable battery holders, and batteries. Many children gathered at various tables with their parents and embarked on highly imaginative creations, which included various patterns with stripes, hearts, and happy animals. The children were captivated by the lights sewn into the fabric, but naturally, many lacked experience with sewing and needed assistance from adults. Thus, parents were highly involved; while children focused on the imagination, decoration, and connectivity of the circuits, any parents who were present primarily helped with the stitching and knot-tying.

The classroom setup
The drop-in nature of the workshop provided many interesting facilitation challenges. For instance, our workshop was very popular and attracted more youth than the two facilitators could address at the same time. Many participants were excited by the prospect of bookmarks that lit up, so they got ahead of themselves before one of the facilitators could provide instructions on the next step, and even made some mistakes when connecting the circuits. Backtracking was necessary, but this simply led to even deeper circuitry learning. Excited about the decorative possibilities, but confronted with limited time towards the end of the day, some of the children did not finish their e-textiles projects at the table. We provided them with little take-home bags filled with samples of conductive thread, a battery and some decorative craft materials. One of the mothers said that this might be a fun evening at home finishing the project together with her children. We hope to further explore how to improve facilitation of drop-in e-textile workshops.

Given this great start to the Creativity Labs' summer service activities, we are excited about the other upcoming opportunities to interact and share our learning with the local community in and around Bloomington, IN, and, in fact, throughout the country. Here is a list of some of the events we are looking forward to:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Announcing the DML Commons Connected Courses! Get involved!

We here at the Creativity Labs have been collaborating with folks from the DML Hub to design the DML Commons ( info below. We are excited to announce that the DML Commons are officially kicking off this week! Now is a great time to get caught up before the first units start!

DML Commons is an new open online course that is designed for graduate students, postdocs, junior scholars, and early career professors figuring out a professional pathway and/or delving into design-based research. We are hoping to unearth the kinds of stuff that graduate school does not commonly explicitly teach!

There are many ways to get involved, e.g., by joining all units, joining one unit, blogging, tweeting etc. The best way to get started would be to set up a blog and to connect it to the DML Commons >>

We are looking forward to an exciting few months ahead. We would love to have people from all across the world join the fun! Come join and invite your friends to participate too!

This coming week, the Design-Based Research strand will kick off with "Purposes/Argumentative Grammar of DBR", and the Professional Pathways will get started with live events on "How to Fund, Launch, and Collaborate on a Research Project"!

Looking forward to seeing you online! More info can be found in the press release after the break below.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Electronically-Enhanced Cosplay

Last semester, for my final project for my Introduction to Digital Arts and Humanities class, I decided to combine e-textiles, Maker technologies, and cosplay all in a single artifact. As a fan of many different media properties, cosplay--making a costume and dressing up as a character from a story--is something that I'd been interested in for a long time but that I'd never taken the plunge to actually try before. And with so much media starring characters with special powers and technologies, it makes sense to use electronics to enhance a cosplay.

If we think of the broader implications, technologically-enhanced cosplay is another possible way for technology to reach a wider audience than it normally would. We talk a lot on this blog about how women tend to feel shut out from techie fields. Well, what if female fans got a chance to add techie enhancements to their cosplays? (I would love to help run a workshop like this one day!) This would allow them to build on a preexisting deep interest in a fandom. Adding technology to that equation might help spark a lifelong interest in tech to go alongside the interest in fandom, in a way that may have a stronger long-term impact than one-time workshops typically do.

The cosplay item I decided to make was the brooch and bow of Sailor Moon. When I was a kid, the Sailor Moon anime inspired me with its tale of an ordinary teenager who, with the power of this brooch, could transform into the super-heroine Sailor Moon and save the world from evil. She was joined by several other female friends who also could transform into Sailor Scouts. It felt really empowering to watch a show in which, unlike most other superhero stories, all the heroes with the strongest powers were female.

Sailor Moon's transformation brooch
Just like Sailor Moon's brooch allows her to transform into a magical girl, cosplay allows fans to transform into their favorite characters. Here's how I accomplished my own "transformation."

To make the bow, Gail Hale from Discardia helped me to tie a red ribbon into an elaborate bow.

For the main part of the brooch, I used 3D modeling software Rhino and a 3D printer. Dr. Nicole Jacquard, a professor of Fine Arts at IU and an expert at using computer modeling and Maker technologies to enhance her art, helped me to model the brooch on Rhino.

Then she was kind enough to let me use her department's 3D printer to print the brooch in PLA plastic. A 3D printer extrudes layers of plastic to form a 3-dimensional shape that has been modeled on a computer. This was my first time using a 3D printer, even though it's the quintessential Maker technology. It was very exciting!

This particular shape required a support structure in order to print properly.

Here's what the brooch looked like once I broke off and filed down the supports.

I also used a laser cutter (another common Maker technology that I'd never used before!) to cut small circles out of plexiglass to go over the circles on the brooch.

I then spray-painted the brooch gold.

Then I sewed it onto the bow, along with four LilyPad LEDs and a LilyTiny microcontroller to make the LEDs sparkle and flash.

Here's the final product:

And here's my complete cosplay!

There are still a lot of things missing from my cosplay, including the skirt, gloves, and tiara. I hope one day to be able to finish it, and perhaps add some more techie embellishments!

Fans may wish they could have the magic that their favorite characters have. In the real world, one form of "magic" is technology. Learning how to harness it can be very empowering. Technology-enhanced cosplay is one possible way to get fans--especially female ones--to experience this empowerment. Cosplay really can be transformative and magical! If I ever do get a chance to do an e-cosplay workshop, this blog will be the first to get the full report!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#TechTuesday: Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in the Wearable Industry? | Women 2.0

Originally posted here:
#TechTuesday: Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in the Wearable Industry? | Women 2.0

The founder of a new tech bracelet touches on why women are needed in the wearable tech industry to make products more appealing for women. 

By Jing Zhou (Founder, Elemoon)

In 2010, I moved back to China from New York to launch my first tech startup. Since then I have built and sold one of China’s first rich-media mobile ad companies, and developed a tamagotchi-like social app for young women to communicate with their best friends. I had two epiphanies while doing these projects. 

The first happened while I was running the mobile ad company. I reconfirmed that the majority of digital consumers are women, yet far too few products are tailored to them. This motivated my team and I to create a more emotional digital experience for women, spawning the social app, elepon. 
We saw a lot of smiles when girls were playing with elepon, but we also realized that there were limitations in the app experience. Our users wanted something tactile, something that they could touch and smell—something physical. We started brainstorming how we might marry the app with consumer products. 

A year ago, the emergence of wearable technology captured our imagination, but none of the products on the market truly inspired us. We instantly knew this was a huge opportunity. So there came the second epiphany: the utilitarian and fashion value that hardware could bring is limitless. 
We decided to combine software and hardware to evoke a truly emotional experience and make technology a bigger part of people’s lives.

Wearables made by men for men can be a problem. 

Since most of our team members are women, it’s always quite easy for us to recognize products made by Silicon Valley men for Silicon Valley men. The first time we wandered around the wearable section at an Apple Store in New York, we saw a lot of group-think. Almost all of the products were in the health and fitness category, and there was an unrelenting hype for smart-watches. But most of these products focused on function while ignoring form. They lacked personality, sex appeal and just weren’t pretty! A wearable is something we incorporate into our lifestyle—it’s not enough that something works, it also needs to be attractive and reflect our taste. One month into the design and development of our product, we saw the media calling for more fashionable wearables. 

Here’s an awesome quote from Wired Magazine’s cover story Why Wearable Tech Will Be as Big as the Smartphone. “Wearable devices—technology that people will want to display on their bodies, for all to see—represent a new threshold in aesthetics. The techcompanies that mastered design will now need to conquer the entirely different realm of fashion. And that could require technologists to unlearn a great deal of what they think they know.”

What can women bring to the wearable world? 

By being “superficial.” 

As Wired magazine pointed out, wearables have to look good first. When we started rethinking wearables, we made sure to think untech: Whatever we ended up making had to be beautiful even when not activated. We decided to stay away from things that have little emotional attachment for us, such as watches. We also didn’t want to waste effort on making things that smartphones can already handle well, like step-tracking. 

Everyone on our team is obsessed with color and Native American jewelry. We have an eclectic taste in fashion and love wearing accessories, but all we were seeing in the market were these bland rubber wristbands.

So we asked ourselves: What if we could have a bracelet that changes color and pattern to match whatever we wear? We all liked that idea, and tried to recreate the sensation of traditional jewelry with new material and interactive features. The first thing we nixed was an electronic screen. 
Thinking untech encouraged us to avoid too many features and simplify the user interaction. We didn’t want to overwhelm the user. We paid attention to how people naturally interact with a designer bracelet. Nothing beyond tapping, rubbing or shaking. 

However, our thinking untech approach also created some major technical challenges. Smart jewelry really set the standard high for design and engineering. As creative thinker Matthew E. May articulates, “Elegance is simplicity found on the far side of complexity.” Even though our hardware team had 10 years of experience in making smart devices, we found ourselves in uncharted territory. After we made our working prototype in June, our male collaborators were psyched about its tech capacity and wanted us to unlock more features. We said no. 

Innovation is born out of diversity. Engaging talent with different culture backgrounds while giving an equal voice to women is crucial—especially in such an interdisciplinary field as wearable tech. And beyond the fitness and health niche, there’s something broader called lifestyle. This is a trend particularly driven by female consumers who are willing to spend more money for something that truly speaks to them. But the only way to speak to them is to make sure that their voice is integrated into the product, from concept through completion. 

What wearable tech would you like to see in the future?

Photo via Elemoon Facebook.

Original at