What Does Fashion Lack? "Microcontrollers" I always answer - and it's TRUE! It makes your garments SO much more interesting, interactive and communicative as soon as you add some INTELLIGENCE to it.
But which ones are on the market?
I started a little research on available on some of the hottest SMALLEST boards at the moment:
If you have any recommendations - please feel free to help me with my challenge of finding the BEST microcontroller boards AROUND!
Step 1: MY CHOICE: TEENSY 3.1
Why? Because it's SUPER small, reliable, affordable and adorable. The only downside I could discover was the color green. But teensy-creator Paul Stoffenregen recently added a PURPLE one to the repertoire. In collaboration with OSH Park
The tiny board runs a full 32 bit ARM processor which is a similar architecture to what is used in many mobile phones today. It's using an adapted Arduino language called 'Teensieduino' - a software add-on for the Arduino, to run sketches on the Teensy and Teensy++. It is also possible to program this board directly with C or still use the Arduino IDE with just a small patch. Teensy 2.0 runs 5V, teensy 3.0 runs 3.3V and the newly introduced Teensy 3.1 ($19,80) runs both 5V tolerance on digital outputs as still running on 3.3V as well. Today most new chips use 3.3V signals, but many legacy products output 5 volt digital signals this was a little bit switching back and forth between Teensy 2.0 and 3.0 prior.
Also - on the Teensy 3.1 the RAM has quadrupled, from 16K to 64K. While 16K is plenty for nearly all Arduino libraries, 64K allows for more advanced applications. Icons and graphics for color displays and audio effects requiring delays, like reverb and chorus, will become possible on Teensy 3.1. Flash memory has doubled, to 256K, and provides double the memory bandwidth.
A perfect controller for more advanced projects that can make use of the power available on-board.
Teensy website: https://www.pjrc.com/teensy/index.html
Step 2: TO KEEP AN EYE ON: INTEL EDISON (released at end of year)
I am EXCITED for this BADASS board for a longer time because of multiple reasons: the first is that it features integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth* LE, memory, and storage which most boards don't have next to being a strong board regarding to processing power and reliability. The SD-card sized Intel® Edison development platform (announced at CES during January 2014) is the first in a series of low-cost, product-ready, general purpose compute platforms that will be released at the end of this year and will support for more than 30 industry-standard I/O interfaces.
But the best of it all: they focus on the fashiontech market; which they don't only see as wearable electronics, but also thinking more ahead and supporting the more experimental (and not yet proven) field of electronic textiles and electronic fashion - a risk not many company's yet take at this moment.
Th description is as followed: "Intel® Atom™ system-on-a-chip (SoC) based on leading-edge 22 nm Silvermont micro architecture including a dual-core CPU" no further specs to be found. We keep an EYE on you, Edison!...
Step 3: A GOOD PLACE TO START WITH: ARDUINO
Arduino has been around for ages: it created it's own little world, community - even speaks it's own language! - a more simplified version of C++ it's an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Intend for artists, designers, hobyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using theArduino programming language (based on Wiring) and the Arduino development environment (based on Processing). Arduino projects can be stand-alone or they can communicate with software running on a computer (e.g. Flash, Processing,MaxMSP). The boards can be built by hand or purchased preassembled; the software can be downloaded for free. The hardware reference designs (CAD files) are available under an open-source license, you are free to adapt them to your needs.
Step 4: WIRELESS choice - ARDUINO FIO
Fio seems to be the most versatile board design for more complex wearable projects at the moment and has a big interest from the fashiontech community. A big feature is that it comes with an ON-BOARD XBEE compatible slot on the back which makes your project WIRELESS CONTROLLABLE in an instant and lets you connect any device with an XBEE footprint!
The Arduino Fio is a microcontroller board based on the ATmega328P (datasheet) runs at 3.3V and 8 MHz (unfortunately). It's an 3.3 volt board compatible with the very common 3.7 volt LiPo batteries with a charging circuit when the board is plugged in via the USB port. Programming of the FIO is easy since you don't need an FTDI breakout like some of the boards (like Arduino Mini) need.
Ideal for simple wireless XBEE-based projects that don't need that much processing power.
Step 5: MENTIONABLE - smal but rusty: ARDUINO PRO MINI
A super small and cheap board based on the ATmega168 (datasheet). The downside is that it needs an FTDI breakout in order to program. If you are ok with that - totally fine. But if your system is build into a little casing like mine (and pluggable through the encasing) it's not ideal. And if using LiPo batteries it doesn’t have a built in charging circuit.
Step 6: CUTE and ROUND: LILYPAD ARDUINO
The LilyPad Arduino is a microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles it's intend was to be brought to the DIY and sewing-community back in the days and it seems to be sucessfull! I started using Lilypad's next to Arduino back in the days for prototyping and testing, but I decided that I wanted to play with the 'real deal'. Though - Lilypads are cute, especially their round form factor gives leading your wires a very easthetical approach.
The LilyPad Arduino is a microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles. It can be sewn to fabric and similarly mounted power supplies, sensors and actuators with conductive thread. The board is based on theATmega168V (the low-power version of the ATmega168) (datasheet) or the ATmega328V (datasheet). The LilyPadArduino was designed and developed by Leah Buechley and SparkFun Electronics.
Step 7: COMPATIBLE PARTS: XADOW (SEEED STUDIO)
The XADOW works with compatible parts! With that they are trying to design a new way of embedding of your system within a flexible surface while you can switch using switchable connectors in between different modules such as Main Board, LED, OLED, barometer, Xadow BLE Slave and more, within a snatch of your finger. Engineering made easy! This is a perfect choice for prototyping in where you don't want to have the burden to solder everything together before a 'proof of concept'.
Step 8: CONNECT TO ANDROID: IOIO (pronounced "yo-yo")
The IOIO is a board that provides a host machine the capability of interfacing with external hardware over a variety of commonly used protocols. The original IOIO board has been specifically designed to work with Android devices. The newer IOIO-OTG ("on the go") boards work with both Android devices and PC's (details here). The IOIO board can be connected to its host over USB or Bluetooth, and provides a high-level Java API on the host side for using its I/O functions as if they were an integral part of the client.
Level: can be HARDER
Step 9: SUPER SMALL PROJECTS - use a GEMMA!
Gemma is a miniature (size of a quarter!) wearable electronic platform designed by Adafruit and is heavily related to the Flora; the Gemma is great for really small projects that don’t require a whole lot of I/O. Drawback is the lack of a serial port which makes debugging sketches difficult.
Level: SUPER EASY
Step 10: SEWABLE MODULES - FLORA
Flora is AdaFruit's answer to the Lilypad - though it has a slightly more diverse ecosystem. There are many sewable modules available, from high end GPS antenna to colour light sensors. Though sewing in my circuits still doesn't feel like such a good thing at times - make sure you secure everything very well and don't use that much stretch on your wire.