Ah, Maker Faire. Each May for the past 6 years it's become a tradition to head out to San Mateo Fairgrounds and mix with all the other lovely, obsessive DIY-ers for a weekend of play, show and tell. This year, I got a new perspective as I got a chance to go as a Maker - and got a great view of the setup and the people behind the scenes.
In the past I've been lucky to go as a Media person, interviewing Makers for my friend Alexa Smith's artfuture YouTube channel. Maker Faire is the perfect place to find people working in the intersection of art and technology and you should definitely check out some of the previous year playlists - so many cool projects to explore (MF 2008, MF 2009, MF 2010, MF 2010 eTextile, MF 2011). The emphasis has always been finding out more about why the Makers do what they do, as well as getting a tour of the project they've brought. So many fun stories and tips to help inspire you to try out your own projects.
This year, I was excited to MC the Wearable Technology Showcase where we tried something new - doing short interviews in front of the crowd to introduce the Makers and then sending them out so people could see their projects up close. In the past we've had a fun fashion show but we want to keep evolving so more people can get inspired by talking with the people who are already wonderfully obsessed. Intel was very kind to donate their sound system and booth up to the cause this year.
Wearable technology is an interesting sub-culture in the DIY and Maker space. It crosses through adaptive technologies that help the wearer to navigate the world in ways they wouldn't otherwise be able to (PointLocus, hugging vest, wearable cane), light up clothing using LED and el wire, and communicative/responsive wearables. It also includes traditional fashion-focused garments extended with sensing or expressive technology and all of the materials used to create the wearables - traditionally called eTextile.
One of the easiest places to start your journey into circuits and wearable technology is to learn how to create soft circuits - a simple setup of a battery, connective thread and an LED light.
You can find a whole treasure trove of information, videos and inspiration at Lynne Bruning's site. Recently she created an entire video "how to" series that takes you through the basics and beyond in wearable computing. We interviewed Lynne a couple of year's ago about the eTextile Fashion Show she's planned and run the past 3 years - definitely a wonderful person to know if you're intrigued by eTextiles and wearable technology.
You can also search sites such as Instructables and find books for soft circuit, wearable tech and eTextile projects. If you prefer hands-on and in-person style learning, see if you can find any hacker or Make spaces in your area as there are communities all over the world who co-create and teach each other about all the aspects of wearable technology including Arduino programming, sewing, powering your project and how to use connective mediums such as conductive thread, paint and meshes.
In case you need some inspiration, here are a few of the amazing wearable technology Makers from this year's SF Bay Area Maker Faire.
Ruffletr0n - Lara Grant and Cullen Miller
Not simply wearable but playable, Lara shows me how the Ruffletr0n is built and Cullen gives me a peek into the software working behind the scenes to produce the sound as it is played on the garment.
Annika (8-year old Maker) - YoungMaker Soft Circuit Group
If this doesn't inspire you to get out and try your own projects, then DIY isn't for you.
Alex Glow - Hologram-enabled hat & bracelets
I love holograms and was excited to get a chance to talk with Alex about these "old-school" meets wearable tech projects.
Kristin Koch - Haptic Biomorphic Jewelry
A recent graduate of CCA, Kristin gives us insight into her adaptive technology project that cues the wearer to anxiety episodes and helps to break the cycle with haptic feedback.
Jeff Saltzman - (F)Light Suit
Definitely a crowd favorite, Jeff shares the details behind his fun full body wearable project.
Threadwitch - Volcano Coat
I'm so inspired by the stunning quality of sewing on Threadwitch's very first wearable project. A really good example of taking one skill and maneuvering it into lifelong learning.
Chung-Hay Luk - Vibrato Skirt