Tilt Sensing Quilt





Introduction: Tilt Sensing Quilt

About: My work combines conductive materials and craft techniques to develop new styles of building electronics that emphasize materiality and process. I create working prototypes to demonstrate the kinds of electr...
This quilt is made up of an array of 41 textile tilt sensors. Each sensor demonstrates a unique construction variation, showcasing different materials and techniques that can be used to create fabric tilt sensors.

The Tilt Sensing Quilt took roughly a year to complete. It is a great demonstration of how the process of crafting e-textile technology requires handwork, patience, and concentration. The work is repetitive and soothing, yet frustrating if you aim to complete too much in one go. It proved a much better decision to work on the quite a bit at a time and to enjoy the process, rather than seeing it as a means to an end.

Techniques for making the tilt sensors include: fusing, machine and hand embroidering, felting, etching and painting.

The quilt as a final artifact can be seen as decorative and a display of e-textile technique but can also wirelessly connected to a computer (via bluetooth) and function as a human-computer input device. Currently i have programmed no useful applications with which the quilt can interact, but i did write a very basic visualization application that displays the tilt direction of each quilt square as a different colour, depending on which direction it is tilted. You could also imagine mapping this information to a 3D visualization that renders a rough height-map of the quilt, just in case you wanted to... you could also use the tilt information to recognise distinct states of the quilt and have certain states trigger different events. For example if the quilt is being shaken maybe the volume of your stereo goes down, or if the quilt is folded then the lights all go off, and if you drape it over the couch then it plays a certain song... but really it is up to you:-)

The quilt is made up of 3 layers (with an additional isolation layer between layers two and three):
1) Tilt sensors: 41 total
2) Rows: 9×6 rows connecting all 6 tilt sensor petals
3) Columns: 41 individual columns connecting all 41 tilt sensing beads via five 8-channel multiplexers

Along one edge all tilt sensor petals are interconnected. Along another edge all tilt sensing beads are connected via five 8-channel multiplexers. All traces finally connect to a LilyPad Arduino, which parses the array of 41 tilt sensors and sends the data via serial communication over Bluetooth (wireless) or via a USB connection (wired).

Videos of the quilt visualizationapplication

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    I don't get it. ? It sounds like it is very cool, but I'd really love to see more explanation.

    "Current applications visualize the tilt of the quilt and convey a super rough height-map so that you could detect what kind of object the quilt is currently draped over or what state the quilt is in (hung, folded). "
    To me, that makes no sense. Why would you want/need that when you can already obviously see what the quilt is laying on and what state it is in?

    Please don't take this in a rude or mean way. I'm actually curious, and don't understand. I'm not technical at all, so I'd really love to see an explanation in lay terms for us non-tecchies. :P


    3 replies

    great reply. you're right that it sounds super confusing and i should really re-write the text to better explain it. i have some videos i will try to link too.
    of course it would be obvious to anybody in the room with the quilt how it is situated/oriented/lying, but imagine if you were not in the room. or imagine if you were a computer and could not see. then you could sense what state the quilt is in and use this information to say.... play a specific song or turn off all the lights in the house....

    Or even as a baby's blanket as well as the usual baby monitor ; perhaps together in a kit. Not all baby's show distress in sound only, but in movements too.

    hospitals as well for monitoring for excessive restlessness. not enough nurses around to watch al 24/7 but this can be routed to the computer to set off some alarm if it is excessive behavior or reaction detected by blanket.

    Same application for old folks in their own homes; a kind of "I've fallen and I can't get up" detector, except you can include other actions as well as falling.

    So many potential uses. it just takes imagination.

    wow - I like all your ideas!!!
    : )

    Plusea, well done again!
    Heated Blanket Quilt: I like the idea of using the tilt sensors to trigger (on and off) an electric blanket attached to the underside. I am careful to not sit on an electric blanket for fear of fraying the wires inside. So a "HELP I'M BEING SAT UPON!" squeek would be a usefull feature for me. When folded or fully flat no heat is required, blanket turns off. Only power the heating element when the signals show a body is beneath the quilt-electric-blanket combo. Then it would be nice to program it to warm up because it has detected that a person is using it.

    Lighted Outdoor Quilt: LEDs are an obvious choice for safety, convience, and possibly mood lighting. Let the LEDs light up when walking. They could flash red while a person walks. This is good for camping, and sidewalk forays in the city. We have a night parade of Christmas lights every year in our area, a lighted quilt would be great on the sidelines.

    Camping uses- If quilt senses a basic "sitting down" shape, and movement occurs within 10 minutes, assume the person is awake and display mixed colors of lights. If no appreciable motion is detected for 10 minutes, display dim red lights with a fade-in-fade-out pattern to indicate the person is not to be disturbed and is possibly sleeping. A "laying down" shape should also indictate sleeping, "do not disturb" with red glow fade in and out.

    As a mom of a kiddo who has had to be in the hospital for various issue related to his ASD, this could actually have some application in hospitals, during long-term evaluations.

    I thought the point of instructables was to give instructions, ie enough information to make the project yourself. This would mean, in this case, adding circuit diagrams and programming notes, and probably links as to where to download the programs at least. Without these, it's really more of a progress report than an instructable. Are you planning to add these? I for one would be interested in how you executed the multiplexing part :-)

    1 reply

    that is a good point! i haven't found a good way to add code and step-by-step instructions to the photo-instructables yet. but i would like to post more details somewhere. probably i'll just repost it as a step-by-step. hopefully soon:-)

    I am thinking specifically in the quilt mode, but if you wanted to see if your baby is awake and kicking this would work. While I am certain that this is not designed to be baby proof, and wouldn't mix well with wet nappies, the possible applications for this is just stymied by our own imaginations. Very interesting!

    Given that my iphone is supposed to track my sleep, I wonder what applications there are for movement tracking and environment augmentation and waking up more rested.

    Conversely, there is the "if this square turns red, the poodle gets it..." angle -- but I like waking up more rested. :-) good work!

    Imaginative, beautiful, and beautifully crafted. I'd also love to see how you use this!

    2 replies

    Agreed - it would be really interesting to see a full step-by-step of this, and I bet the code-monkeys would love to see how the sensor-data is turned into the height-map.


    I imagine that it works out something akin to a normals map (not sure if that's a good allusion, it works by encoding information about the angle of a surface into RGB values), knowing the distance between the sensors and assuming that the tilt sensors give the angle off "flat " horizontal, it becomes a game of Join the dots, start from one end, draw this distance at this angle, read new angle, draws same distance at new angle.. repeat..
    I could be talking out my arse though I'm afraid, I'm an amateur code-monkey at best and 3D maths makes my brain melt into a gooey puddle of confusion.

    One idea I like though, is if something like an array of muscle wires could be woven in so that micro controllers contract the wires until the sheet takes the shape of a fed-in height map, using the sensors to calibrate or check the angle:

    Un-roll a map, activate it and you have real, 3D topographic information in front of you!

    I'm not sure i see many commercial applications as a quilt... but as a jacket or coat...tons! I can imagine using as a video game controller, or for people with disabilities. Great job!

    Very impressive. The quilt looks great and the movement is facinating to watch, I can't say what i would do with it but I think i would be "tilting' it all the time because it is quite hypnotic. Well done.

    Wow that's very cool! Please add a video so we can see it in action!