Simple & Modular Wearable Lights

Build fabulous, futuristic, and adjustable wearable lights with just a few inexpensive (and deliverable) parts! Attach to to all sorts of accoutrements and swap out colors to match outfits/feelings/holidays/all the things!

Difficulty: Beginner+

Read time: 5 min

Build Time: 30 – 60 min

Cost: ~ $5

Materials

Tools

  • Safety Goggles!
  • Soldering iron and accessories*
  • Waterproof epoxy or superglue
  • Wire strippers
    • Scissors will also work just be careful to avoid cutting the wire.

*Unable to solder? Follow instructions but instead of soldering, tightly wrap and twist bare wire connections together, then wrap tightly with ​​conductive nylon fabric tape.

Setup!

  1. Turn on the soldering iron.
  2. Remove about 1/2″ (1cm) or the plastic coating on each of the female JST connectors.
  3. New to LEDs? Test ’em out!
    • Grab your coin cell and one of your LEDs.
    • With just those two pieces, explore how to make the LED light up!
    • Hint: Read the coin cell battery. How many sides does the battery have? How many legs does the LED have?

Make the first connector!

For all steps, be sure the coin cell is NOT in the battery holder.

Step 1: Solder your first resistor to the negative ( – ) hole on the coin cell battery holder.

  • With the switch facing you, use the negative hole on the left side of the holder.
  • Pro Tip: Wrap the resistor wire around the hole, getting the resistor body as close to the hole as possible. Use the soldering iron to heat the joint for about 3 seconds, then add solder to fill in the hole.

Step 2: Grab your first JST connector and solder the black wire to the other end of the resistor.

  • Pro Tip: Wrap the JST connector bare wire around the resistor leg as close to the resistor body as possible.

Step 3: Solder the red JST connector wire to the positive ( + ) hole on the battery holder.

  • With the switch facing you, use the positive hole on the left side of the holder.
  • Pro Tip: Wrap the JST connector bare wire around the hole Use the soldering iron to heat the joint for about 3 seconds, then add solder to fill in the hole.

Make the second connector!

Repeat the same process as for the first light, but using the right-side holes on the battery holder.

More details:

For all steps, be sure the coin cell is NOT in the battery holder.

Step 1: Solder your second resistor to the negative ( – ) hole on the coin cell battery holder.

  • With the switch facing you, use the negative hole on the right side of the holder.
  • Pro Tip: Wrap the resistor wire around the hole, getting the resistor body as close to the hole as possible. Use the soldering iron to heat the joint for about 3 seconds, then add solder to fill in the hole.

Step 2: Grab your first JST connector and solder the black wire to the other end of the resistor.

  • Pro Tip: Wrap the JST connector bare wire around the resistor leg as close to the resistor body as possible.

Step 3: Solder the red JST connector wire to the positive ( + ) hole on the battery holder.

  • With the switch facing you, use the positive hole on the right side of the holder.
  • Pro Tip: Wrap the JST connector bare wire around the hole Use the soldering iron to heat the joint for about 3 seconds, then add solder to fill in the hole.

Test and Secure Joints

Step 1: Trim any excess wire.

Step 2: Insert the coin cell battery into the holder and move the switch to the “ON” position.

Step 3: Insert LEDs into the JST connectors so that the longer (positive) LED leg plugs into the red wire of the JST connector.

Step 4: Check to ensure that the LEDs light up! If it does, proceed to Step 4. If not, follow the troubleshooting guidelines below.

Step 5: Remove the battery, then thoroughly cover all exposed solder joints with epoxy or super glue and let dry in a safe, out-of-the-way spot. Remember to glue the back of the battery holder!

  • Be sure to glue the connections between the JST connector and resistor. Coat the positive and negative solder holes, but DO NOT cover any other parts of the holder or it may be impossible to insert the battery or use the switch.
  • Check the dry time for your glue (mine was about 60 minutes until fully dried). Be sure to avoid bumping or getting hair on your project, as it will be hard to remove after (as a dog owner this is a constant challenge!).
  • Pro Tip: Use a fine-tipped brush or skewer to add the glue.

Troubleshooting:

  • Check the power. The battery should be inserted so that the positive side (with the writing) is facing up.
  • Double check the LEDs are inserted in the correct orientation: longer leg to positive (red) wire, shorter leg to negative (black) wire.
  • Gently wiggle your solder connections. If you notice the LED flashes on, it is likely a poor solder connection.
    • Remove the battery and add more solder to your joint.
  • Check that the solder joints are not shorting the battery holder. If you feel the battery getting warm, this is likely the culprit
    • Check that the solder is contained to the positive and negative holds ONLY. It should not be touching any other parts of the holder, especially any exposed metal.

Finish & Flaunt!

Finally, grab your attachment mechanism and, if needed, glue to the back of the battery holder and let dry (I used a magnet for mine so no glue necessary!). Insert your preferred LEDs and attach your light-up accessory to your clothes or hair for some futuristic flourish!

Going Further

  • Sew somethin’ pretty to go over the lights!
  • Aside from hair, explore different options for diffusing the LED light. Some quick, inexpensive options are ping pong balls, a dab of hot glue around the LED bulb, or white fabric.
  • More lights!! Test before doing this as the brightness of the lights will change depending on whether you connect them in series or in parallel.
  • Add a dark detecting circuit so your lights only turn on in the daytime!
    • You can harvest a dark detecting circuit from a solar path light.
    • Or search online for the circuit!

Questions? Ideas? Let me know! I’d also love to see your finished creations, so please share!

Anti-Facial Recognition Wearable No. 1

Every time we leave our homes, we are photographed and videotaped in public and private spaces. Facial recognition software identifies our unique facial features and can be used to tag us in photos that are taken with or without our consent. This tutorial is about exerting our right to control our personal privacy. It is our choice and our right to decide if we want to be identified by cameras that photograph us in public and private spaces.

There are many approaches to anti-facial recognition makeup/wearables. This is my first approach based on some background research, chatting with fashion-minded friends, and my own personal artistic and electronic interests.

The purpose of this project is to make it more normal (& fun!) to wear privacy enhancing fashion so that if/when it is needed, folks who are using it for legitimate protection are not targets.

Follow along or use this as inspiration for your own anti-facial recognition wearables! If you design your own, pleasepleaseplease share it in the comments so other folks can learn from and be inspired by you!

Difficulty: Easy

Build Time: 1 – 2 hours (+2 hours for glove controller)

Cost: < $15

Quick Overview of Facial Recognition Software

Computer Vision, or “CV” for short, is a software method that breaks down images into a series of black and white pixels, and then attempts to extract meaning from patterns in the pixels. Since human faces have the same characteristics (two eyes, nose, mouth, & chin), these characteristics can be broken down into patterns that a software program can look for.

For example, pupillary distance, or the distance between the pupils of each eye, varies from about 54 to 68 mm for adults – a CV program would look for black pixels separated by that distance range and log those as one layer. There are tons of patterns that a CV program can search for and locate, then go back and analyze the layers together to ensure they match up. All of these values are stored as variables that can be used for comparison with other images.

The more images a CV program analyzes, the better it gets. By comparing CV-found patterns to patterns in existing photos tagged on social media, CV programs may also tag an individual regardless of where that photo was obtained. CV programs are incredibly accurate, can select a face from multiple angles and backgrounds, and can identify a person’s emotions.

Check out CV Dazzle to learn more about anti-facial recognition makeup and other styles!

 

Materials & Tools

Materials

Optional glove controller:

Tools

  • Liquid Latex
  • Scissors
  • Wire Strippers
  • Soldering Iron (recommended for glove controller)
  • Hot glue gun (or other fabric-safe glue)

 

Step 1: Attaching the Flowers

Use the flowers to cover up distinguishing facial features. Eyes, eyebrows, and nose bridge are three primary regions of the face that are used by facial recognition software to identify and tag a face.

1. Cut flower stems off (unless you want ’em on for aesthetic purposes).

2. Pour a small amount of liquid latex into a container.

3. Figure out where you want to put the flower, then dab the base of the flower into the liquid latex. Let it dry for a few seconds, until it feels sticky and less liquid.

Be sparring with this stuff, it can be kinda painful to peel off, especially after 30 flowers.

4. Attach the flower to your skin. BUT FOR REAL THOUGH avoid your hair!! It is a huuuge pain (literally) to get out.

5. Repeat 2 & 3 until your face is adequately covered.

You can check your progress using a Snapchat or Instagram filter: If the filter can’t find your face or looks wonky (like sunglasses on your forehead instead of your eyes) then you’re all set!

 

Step 2: Adding LEDs!

To add freestanding LEDs, grab a coin cell, and push the two LED legs over the coin cell battery sides (longer LED leg on the positive battery side). Dip one side in the liquid latex, let dry for a few seconds, and then smoosh onto your skin just like with the flowers (again, avoiding precious and sensitive hair).

If you’re using the glove controller (see next step), run the LED wires up your arm to behind your ear, holding them in place with rubber bands or hair bands. Arrange how you want the LEDs to point, then pin the wires in place with bobby pins. That should be sufficient to hold them, if not add some liquid latex to the ends of the LEDs.

The LED + coin cell combo should last ~ 12 hrs.

 

Step 3 (Optional): Make a Glove Controller

This is a good option if you want to save battery life or to be able to turn on/off the LEDs. The thumb is the battery case, with conductive thread on the top as the positive connection. The fingers are the positive connections for the LEDs.

This takes ~ 2 – 3 hours to build.

1. Attach wires to the LED(s).

Measure out two (2) wires per LED to span from your head, down your neck, and to your wrist. Add 3″ to this measurement to allow for movement. Cut wires and strip both ends.

Mark the positive side of the LED with a pen, then twist one end of each wire around the LED leads. Solder the LED leads to the wire. Use a red wire, or mark the positive wire with a pen.

If available, use heat shrink tube to make a poke-less connection. Or just coat it in epoxy or hot glue or some other liquid adhesive.

Repeat for each LED you want to add to the glove.

2. Using conductive thread, make the negative side of the circuit: a negative connection for the coin cell and a “ground bar” for the LEDs.

Put on the glove, and mark where the center of the battery will go. Sew about 10 layers of conductive thread over your mark — this is the ground connection for the coin cell battery.

With the thread still attached, sew down to the base of the glove and stitch back and forth until there are a few layers of conductive thread in a line — this is the negative connection for the LED connections.

3. Make a coin cell battery case on the thumb of the glove.

Cut out 1 square of regular fabric, and 1 square of conductive fabric.

Cut a small hole in the regular fabric and then stitch the conductive fabric square over the hole (with regular thread). Run over this a few times since the conductive fabric tends to fray.

Using normal thread, sew 3 of the 4 sides of the regular fabric over the negative connection for the battery, so that it makes a lil’ pouch for the coin cell. (You might want to sew down the 4th side a bit to hold in the battery, or use a safety pin).

4. Attach the positive side of one LED to a glove finger and make a conductive pad.

Sew the positive LED wire onto the glove (regular thread)

Still using regular thread, sew a square of conductive fabric over the stripped end of the wire.

5. Attach the negative side of the LED to the glove ground pad.

Wrap the stripped end of the wire to the conductive thread ground pad and/or use conductive thread to secure it.

6. Repeat 4 & 5 for all LEDs.. or until you run out of fingers.

7. Epoxy or use fabric glue to adhere all of the connections.

 

Step 5: Test & Deploy!

Test your privacy enhancing getup by opening Snapchat or another filter app and check that it can’t identify that there is a face in the image. At the very least, if it does identify a face, be sure that the filter it adds is hilariously broken.

If you want to get real serious, you can download the OpenCV library and test it against your wearable — this is my long-term goal, but for now I’m happy with sticking flowers and LEDs on my face for V1.0.

Stay tuned for more of these anti-facial recognition wearables and please share your awesome creations!

Make a Light-Up Holiday Card!

Light-up cards incorporate two of the best worlds of making (electronics and crafts) with the added bonus of making somebody smile. Heck yes!

Here’s my approach to light-up cards and my favorite recent discoveries: pop-ups and cotton balls.

Read time: ~ 5 min.

Build time: ~ 30 min -1 hr (mostly crafting the card)

Cost: < $5

 

Materials!

Gather up the following materials:

  • One or more LEDs!
  • Copper tape (~ 20″)
  • One coin cell
  • One paper clip
  • One pushpin
  • Colored paper
  • & any other craft materials your creative heart desires!

 

Build the Circuit!

 

 

1. Cut out a pocket for the coin cell.

 

 

 

2. Add copper tape to cardstock!

Stick 2″ of copper tape just above the battery pocket, so that the bottom of the battery rests on top of it. This is the negative (-) side of the circuit.

Stick another 2″ piece of copper tape on the underside of the pocket, so that it touches the top of the battery. This is the positive (+) side of the circuit.

 

3. Add a switch!

Cut a small line at the end of the copper tape, push paper fastener through the slit and hook the paperclip under the paper fastener (it might also help to add copper tape to the end of the paperclip). This makes an “on/off” switch!

 

 

4. Connect the LED!

The longer LED leg connects to the positive side of the circuit. The shorter leg connects to the negative side of the circuit. Be sure that these two sides of the circuit do not cross, or it “shorts” the LED and drains the battery.

 

 

Design & Make the Card!

1. Plan out where the light is going to go!

This is super crucial if you want the light to be in a specific spot, like the top of a tree, as a nose, etc. It’s helpful to make a super simple drawing of what you want before you try, or at least have extra materials on-hand for second (or possibly third) versions. Check all the things before you glue stuff down.

2. Craft the card!

Since it’s the December holiday season, I’m making a bunch of holidays cards for friends, woo! I like incorporating re-used (or upcycled) materials, so for this card I cut out the cover of an old calendar and folded the edges under to make it 3D (oooohhh now we’re gettin’ fancy!).

Another fun option are pop-ups! Cut out thin strips (~ 1/2 inch) and fold them accordion-style, then use ’em to prop up your cutouts and drawings!

3. Add in the LED!

You can either hide the circuit under the cover, or inside the card. For this card, the circuit slips under the cut-out, and the LED, covered by a lot of cotton balls, sticks out the top to light up the clouds!

 

 

Final Touches & Beyond!

Close the switch to the LED and stand in awe at your awesome creation! Write a heart-felt note on the inside and give it to your favorite family member/friend/coworker/neighbor/etc!!

There are tons of other ways to make the LED circuit! The photo to the left shows a method using magnets (ohhhh magnets!). What other ways can you come up with to make the circuit? Post your creations in the comments below!! 😀

Versatile Wearable LEDs

Wearables (aka Wearable Technology) are a new & insanely awesome extension of electronics. These minimalistic, versatile, and detachable lights are designed to allow for a wide variety of creative possibilities and to be accessible to makers of all ages and backgrounds.

The process takes about an hour and materials costs are less than $10 per LED strip (not including the battery). Even the pooch can have a light-up sweater!

Materials

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  • LED strip(s)
    Here’s a link to purchase the specific LED strips used in this project: 12 white surface LEDs with a forward voltage of 7.4 – 15 V and forward current of 50 mA.
    If using different LEDs, note the forward voltage & forward current and use this calculator to determine the necessary resistance.
  • Male and Female JST connectors
    The Tarot LED strips came assembled w/ male JST connectors, so those were the easiest & most practical. They work rather nicely for this project, and I recommend using them if you are new to electronics.
  • 33 Ohm Resistor
  • Switch
    So many options for switches! For this project, I suggest an SPST (single-pole-single-throw) maintaining switch (aka toggle or on/off switch). I had a DPDT slide switch on-hand so that’s what I used for this tutorial.
  • 9V battery (preferably rechargeable)
    Any battery w/ a voltage output from 7.4 -15 V works. LiPo batteries are the best (and last the longest), but are more expensive.
  • Velcro (sticky side only)
  • Optional: Custom Battery Case
    • Version 1: Two safety pins & a 3″ x 2″ piece of fabric.
    • Version 2: Strong rare earth magnet (or two).
      This is a more expensive but simpler alternative to the fabric battery case.

    Tools

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  • Soldering iron
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Wire Strippers
  • Needle + Thread
  • Scissors
  • Recommended: Epoxy
    My favorite method to make extremely permanent (+ weather resistant) electrical connections.
  • Also recommended: Multimeter & Breadboard (for testing)

Build it! Pt. 1

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FM4N54YI5DSOCU9.LARGEPrep: If LEDs lack wires, solder the male JST connector leads to the uppermost LED pads. Coat in a dab of epoxy or hot glue.
Recommended to test the circuit on a breadboard before soldering.

  1. Attach sticky-side velcro pieces to LED strips.
  2. Solder the female JST connector leads to the switch.

FQ442PGI5BSI384.LARGEIf using a DPDT switch, as in the schematic, each set of legs can control a separate circuit. Instead of connecting ground to the switch, you can also connect the LED ground to the battery ground. This allows you to control another set of LEDs (+ resistor) on the same switch + battery.
If you’re just starting out, here’s a helpful guide on switches.

FQBATSPI5BSI3EH.LARGEBuild it! Pt. 2

  1. Solder the resistor to the middle switch pin on the same side as the positive JST wire.
  2. Solder the positive lead of the battery clip to the resistor & the negative lead to the negative middle switch pin (or connect them together).
    Clip off excess wires.
  3. F4NBVIRI5BSI3O3.LARGEConnect LED strips via the JST connectors and check that the switch works.
  4. Coat bottom of switch in epoxy and/or hot glue.Be sure to avoid getting glue on the moving part of the switch esp. if using epoxy. Check that it can move while epoxy is drying.FBYXZ9RI5BSI4C7.LARGE

Build it! Pt 3 (9V Battery Case)F1UNDDJI5BSI56D.LARGE

  1. Sew your chosen fabric square into a pocket for the 9V.
  2. Place 9V battery in case and attach the battery clip.
  3. F9YO86DI5BSI77T.LARGESew battery clip + switch to back of fabric case (face switch outward).
  4. Attach safety pins to back of fabric case.

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For magnet battery holder alternative:

Some rechargeable batteries, such as NiMH (Nickle Metal Hydride), are magnetic. For these, place battery inside clothing, then place magnet on the outside to hold the battery in place.
If the battery is non-magnetic (e.g. lithium), hot glue one magnet to the battery, place inside clothing, then place another magnet on the outside of your clothing. Be sure to keep the magnet when switching out the battery!

Test & Wear!

F19M5H9I5BSI6PU.LARGEDouble check that the switch successfully turns on and off the LEDs. Attach the battery+switch to clothing by safety pinning (or magnetically attaching) the battery to a comfortable place. The velcro adheres best to soft fabrics, like sweaters, tights, fleece, etc.

Be creative and experiment with the basic module on assorted clothing and accessories for yourself, your friends and your pet(s)!

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Simple LED Earrings

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Wearables are an awesome, relatively new extension of circuits. Conductive threads & fabrics make it easy to attach components like LEDs and sensors to clothing/accessories. Plus, they are a super fun introduction to electronics!

These LED earrings were designed b/c I wanted a wearable that was simple, unique, and could be built by-hand w/ available materials. Purchasing all materials adds up to less than $10, and these can be built in ~ 1 hour (although it does take some patience).

For this tutorial I’m assuming you are an electronics beginner. Regardless of your background, I hope this project inspires you to design your own wearable technology or take the basic concepts to the next level 🙂

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Step 1: Materials

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— 2 LEDs
Fun fact: LEDs on the higher end of the rainbow (red, orange, & yellow) use less power than colors on the lower end (purple, blue, & green).

— 2 Lithium coin cell batteries, 3 V
Mine are non-rechargeable and will probably last for ~20 hours. If you want to make them to last longer, use rechargeable batteries (super expensive but worth it if you want to wear the earrings long-term).

— Thread— Conductive Thread
Used to attach the LED to the battery. Alternatively, you can use wire or anything else that conducts.. like magnets!Also, since conductive thread loops tend to come undone, I hot glued all the knots to hold them together.

— 2 earring backs
— 2 clasps
These act as a switch so the LED can be turned off when not in use. I had some necklace clasps on hand which worked perfectly, but there are tons of options for switches.. all you need is a way to interrupt the flow of electricity.
–Tape
I used conductive tape, but honestly regular tape works just as well.
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Step 2: Tools

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— Hot glue gun
— Scissors
— Needle
Recommended to get a needle w/ a wide eye b/c the conductive thread has a tendency to fray.
— Optional: wire cutters
Helps w/ cutting the ends of the LEDs.
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Step 3: Build it! Pt 1: Wrap the battery.

Screen shot 2014-11-26 at 2.11.34 PM

Wrap the battery w/ 1.5 – 2 feet of (normal) thread. To make it easier, tape the beginning end of the thread to the back of the battery. Leave at least 6 inches of thread at the end.

When finished wrapping, loop the end of the thread under the band and pull tight. Repeat this a few times, then make a knot. Tape the end/thread band down.
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Step 4: Build it! Pt. 2: Attach earring back.

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Loop the 6 in. tail of the the thread band through the hole in the earring back. Use the needle to loop the thread under the band & pull tight, kind of like sewing a button. Repeat at least ten times, or until the thread runs out, then tie a knot.
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Step 5: Build it! Pt. 3: Attach the Positive LED Leg.

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Tie 6 inches of conductive thread to the positive (longer) leg of the LED. Loop the conductive thread through the bottom of the battery thread band and pull through, leaving the LED ~ 1/2 inche (in.) below the battery. Pull the conductive thread down, so it is only touching the front cover (positive side) of the battery.

Loop the conductive thread around the battery thread band at least five times, then tie a knot. Hot glue the conductive thread knots w/ the littlest amount of glue to help hold it in place.
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Step 6: Build it! Pt. 4: Attach Clasp.

Screen shot 2014-11-26 at 2.17.42 PM

Attach the clasp (aka switch) to the back of the battery w/ ~ 6 in. conductive threadin the same way the earring back was attached: thread the end of the earring back through the thread band on the battery, above the tape, and pull it tight. Repeat at least five times. Tie a knot and hot glue the thread to hold it in place.
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Step 7: Build it! Pt. 5: Attach Negative LED Leg.

Screen shot 2014-11-26 at 2.20.26 PM

Tie the other end of the clasp/switch to 6 in. conductive thread. Tie the end of the conductive thread to the negative, shorter leg of the LED, leaving ~ 1/2 in. from the bottom of the battery. Hot glue the knots.

Connecting the two ends of the clasps helps w/ finding the right length.. or you could use a ruler 🙂

Be sure that the LED legs and the respective thread/wires do not touch; otherwise the battery is shorted and the LED won’t turn on.
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Step 8: Done! Woo!

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That’s it! Clean up the mess that is hot glue, snip the ends of the conductive thread and, if you’re not going to put them on right away or take photos, unscrew the clasps.

And have fun dazzling your friends and all that good stuff 🙂
Note: The reason the green one isn’t as bright is probably because the battery was quite bit older.