Joy Slippers Version 2




Introduction: Joy Slippers Version 2

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 electron…
These slippers have 4 analog pressure sensors embedded. They can be used to feed Up, Down, Left and Right values into your computer replacing your mouse, joystick...

Visit the JoySlippers website >>

This Instructable improves upon the previous version
It will show you how to make a pair of Joy Slippers, connect them to an Arduino physical computing platform and run a Processing application that will allow you to draw with your feet, as seen in the following video.

The resistance range of the pressure sensors depends a lot on the initial pressure. Ideally you have above 2M ohm resistance between both contacts when the sensor is lying flat. But this can vary, depending on how the sensor is sewn and how big the overlap of the adjacent conductive surfaces are. This is why i choose to sew the contacts as diagonal stitches of conductive thread - to minimize the overlap of conductive surface. With the pressure sensors inside the JoySlippers, the initial pressure from simply wearing them, brings the resistance down to about 2K ohm and then when fully pressured by standing on the foot it goes down to about 200 ohm.

The next step (for me) is to find better applications for the Joy Slippers. The videos of the drawing application show that certain motions create certain patterns, meaning that they can be tracked.
I'm experimenting with some ideas for applications that make use of this and would appreciate any feedback, comments, ideas...

For more videos visit the YouTube Joy Slippers playlist

For more pictures visit the Flickr Joy Slipperes set

The materials that you will need are simple, but it's probably not all stuff you have lying around your house. It comes cheap if you plan on using the materials for future projects, especially if you are interested in wearable technology or soft circuits.

So, how does it work?
The layering of conductive and ex-static in the slipper's soles creates very very simple variable resistors that are pressure sensitive. The layer of ex-static plastic between your conductive thread patches allows for more current to pass through, the harder you push the conductive layers together. I'm not 100% sure why it works, but it does, and it is amazingly stable. So by shifting your weight from left to right and tiptoe to heel you can generate pretty much every direction.

For up-to-date information visit the project website >>

Step 1: Materials and Tools

MATERIALS for the Joy Slippers:
- Conductive thread - 117/17 2ply (17USD from
- Ex-static - plastic from the black bags used to package sensitive electronic components
- 6 mm thick neoprene with jersey on both sides (ask at a local surf shop for leftovers, or if you live in Europe and plan to use neoprene for other things, get a sheet from
- Stretchy fabric (you can also use a pair of old socks if you don't feel like sewing so much)
- Regular thread
- Perfboard with copper line pattern (7x3 holes 6.25USD from
- 50ft Spiral telephone wire (1.99USD at 99cent store)

MATERIALS to make Arduino connection:
- 4 x 10K Ohm resistor
- Perfboard with copper line pattern (6x6 holes)
- 15cm of rainbow wire with 6 cables
- 2 telephone jack outlets (5 for 1.50USD at 99cent store)
- Tupperware box or similar
- Solder
- Superglue

- Arduino USB Board (35USD from
- USB cable (4USD from
- Laptop or computer (hopefully you have one, or can borrow one)
- Processing installed on your computer (download free from
- Arduino software installed on your computer (download free from

TOOLS you will need:
- Sewing needle
- Scissors
- Cutter
- Ruler
- Pen and paper or cardboard
- Your feet

- Multimeter for checking your work
- Soldering iron
- Third hand
- Pliers or some kind of wire cutter
(- Bread-board)

SKILLS required:
You will need to be able to solder. Soldering is not hard and there is a nice Instructable right here:

You will need to know how to use the Arduino software environment, in order to upload following code to your microcontroller. It will read the first 4 analog inputs and receive them via USB.

Following Processing application will read the incoming values from the Arduino's inputs and use the information to draw a line.
Input will be read as follows:
Analog INPUT [0] = Right foot TOES
Analog INPUT [1] = Right foot HEEL
Analog INPUT [2] = Left foot TOES
Analog INPUT [3] = Left foot HEEL

Step 2: Pattern Making and Tracing

Making a stencil
Because everybody's feet are different you are going to have to decide who to make these Joy Slippers for.
This Instructable will only go through the steps of creating the right slipper. The left slipper is exactly the same, except you will have to turn the stencils upsidedown.

Trace your right foot onto a piece of thin cardboard or thick paper. Before cutting out the tracing draw a tongue-shaped tab that sticks out from the heel about 5cm (see pictures). We will call this the tongue and it will be where we attach the slippers to the electronics later on.
Now cut out the tracing with the tabs. Put your foot back on the tracing and find the areas where:
1) your heel presses
2) the balm of your toes press
In these areas you will want to draw a strips of 1.5cm wide and at the toes: 6cm long and at the heel: 4cm long. Make sure these strips do not come within at least 1cm of the edge. Cut out the insides of these strips and make markings every 1cm along the lengths. In the next step these strips will make sense.

Tracing onto neoprene
Trace these stencils on to the neoprene twice for one foot. And mark everything as shown in pictures.

Tracing onto ex-static
You do not need to make a separate stencil for the ex-static, unless you plan on making more than one pair of slippers.
Trace the foot stencil onto the ex-static and cut it out about 5mm smaller all-round. Do not include the tongue.

Tracing onto stretch material
Unless your foot is exactly the same size as mine (European 39) then you will have to alter the pattern as seen in picture. You can also sew on a pair of socks and save yourself some time.

Step 3: Sewing Inputs and Vcc

Thread a needle with enough conductive thread. Take one of the pieces of neoprene, this is going to be the Vcc, the power supply for the sensor where the 5V from the Arduino will run to. Tie a knot in the end of the thread; do not take the thread double. From the back (in my case black side) poke the needle through the neoprene at one of the end dots of the toe strip marked from the stencil. Stitch back and forth in a diagonal zigzag manor until you reach the other end of the strip. From here go bring the conductive thread back to the back side of the neoprene and make small stitches on the back towards the tongue. When you reach the tongue you can stop sewing and without cutting the thread remove the needle and continue with the following.

Inputs: Toes and Heel
Take the other piece of neoprene. Essentially you will do the same here with one exception: You will sew the zigzag pattern opposite to the way you sewed the Vcc strips! This way, when you lay the pieces of neoprene on top of each other, conductive thread zigzags facing inwards, they will crisscross each other and make for a good connection. Take a good look at the pictures.

Before going onto the next step, now would be a good time to check your connections using a multimeter. Measuring from the loose ends of conductive thread, check for a connection between any of the three ends. There should be NO connections. If there are, then you probably accidentally crossed conductive threads somewhere along the way. You can quite easily pull out the conductive thread and start over again.

Step 4: Finishing Slipper

Sewing sole of slipper
Now you will want to layer you pieces as follows so that the conductive traces are facing inwards:
- Vcc or Inputs
- Ex-static
- Inputs or Vcc

Hold everything in place and stitch around the edges of the neoprene. Sewing both layers of neoprene together, not including the ex-static in your stitches. Take a good look at the pictures to see how to best to stitch. Do not sew the tongues together (yet), instead stitch back and forth at the foot of the tongue, giving it a bit of a dent and making it easier to bend later on.

Another multimeter test
You can now make another multimeter test to make sure none of your inputs and/or Vcc are touching each other. You should have some resistance between the inputs and the Vcc. And this resistance should become less when you apply pressure to the top of the layers. What you don't want is a permanent connection. Or no connection at all between an input and Vcc. Or any kind of connection between the inputs.

Decide left or right
NOW you really decide if this is going to be the sole of a left or a right slipper.
Take a cutter and cut just a very very small slit into one of the tongues. The tongue you cut the hole in will make it the outside layer of neoprene, the one the touches the ground, not your foot.

Cutting cord
Take the 50ft spiral telephone cord and cut it in half. We will use one half for each slipper. So we only need one at the moment. From the cut end, strip away about 2cm of the thick insulation

To bring the conductive thread and wire together we need to solder three of the four wires to a small piece of perfboard. 4x7 holes with 7 strips of conductive copper pattern. I double-spaced the wires to make double sure I don't get any connections between the conductive threads. Please see illustration image for how to solder and sew. Also see the illustration for which three of four wires you should pick to solder.

Sewing up
Now that the conductive threads are connected to the wires of the telephone cord you can stitch around the tongue, enclosing it all between the two layers of neoprene.

Attaching jersey
If you choose to use a sock instead of design your own slipper then now you will be attaching the neoprene sole to your sock. Instead of socks, you can also attach straps of fabric, anything that will hold the sole firmly to the bottom of your feet. If you don't want to sew at all, you can try wearing the soles inside some socks or even shoes!

To follow the pattern shown in the pictures, take the pieces of stretch material and sew them right-sides-together to the edges of the sole (upsidedown). Follow the images to get an idea of how to sew the pattern together. Attach the tongue to the heel so that is sticks up and stays in place.

Step 5: Making Connection to Arduino

This step shows how to make the connection to the Arduino. For this you will need an Arduino, which is a physical computing platform that has a USB connection to your laptop, contains a microcontroller that we can program to read the variable resistance of the Joy Slippers from its analog inputs.

Of course, if you know what you are doing, you can hook the slippers up to any other circuit or device you have for making use of their variable resistance. So if you don't intend to hook the Joy Slippers up to the Arduino, then you can skip this step.

The connection from the slipper consists of:
- Two male telephone jacks coming from the slippers
- Two female telephone jacks that will be attached to the Tupperware box
- Inside the Tupperware box the Arduino inputs will connect to the back side of the female telephone plug socket and there will be a small circuit that puts a 10K Ohm resistor between each input and the ground.

We need two female telephone jacks. You can dismantle a telephone jack adapter for this. You might want to clip the wires sticking out at the back to about 5mm length so that they don't come so close to each other.

Cut holes
You need to cut three holes in the Tupperware box. Two for the female telephone jacks and one for the USB Arduino cable. Use a cutter or a drill and be careful.

1) Follow semantic and solder rainbow wire from headers to perfboard with resistors, to more rainbow wire.
2) Poke the ends of the telephone wire out through the hole of the box and solder them to the female telephone jacks according to the semantic.

Once the female jacks have been soldered you can superglue the jacks to the box to make them sturdy and relieve all strain from the wires.

Now the box is finished and you should decorate it if you can.

Step 6: Hooking Up to Your Computer and Running the Drawing Application

Make sure everything is soldered together correctly and all the plugs are in place.

For Arduino microcontroller code and Processing visualization code please look here >>

Because each slipper is individual and depending on all the exact materials that you use and the way you sew them together, the range of variable resistance will be different for each sensor (right toe, right heel, left toe, left heel). This is why there is a threshold function in the processing applet, that allows you to set the MIN and MAX values of your sensor. These will be between 0 and 1023.

MIN threshold should be slightly above resting state and MAX threshold should be maximum value obtained when pushing as hard as possible on the Joy Slippers.

I'm currently developing different applications and games for the Joy Slippers.
For up-to-date information visit the project website:

Although this is the second version, I'm still thinking about improving and would appreciate any feedback you can give me after having read though this Instructable.

Thanks and enjoy

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    8 years ago on Introduction

    Finds someone who can tap dance and you have art I would buy!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I just wondered if you could collaborate with a software game writer and create a game where the players use the slippers to move around the game. This could be done as multiplayer at home or via collaborative gaming among Internet players(?)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    as a disabled vet I would also suggest that this could open a new world for those that have lost limbs. Used for art, communication etc.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    normally neoprene comes either glatthaut (smooth skinned) or offenzellig (open pores). if the neoprene you have is sponge like then it would probably be best to stitch the conductive thread into a piece of stretchy fabric first and then glue it to the neoprene with a stretchy or rubbery kind of glue. if the neoprene has smooth surfaces then maybe it will work to sew directly into it (though i think the stitches might tear at the neoprene if you pull hard while sewing or through wear later on). also it is just much nicer against the skin to have jersey or some other fabric, but of course you can also just wear socks. let me know how it is working for you, i'd be interested very to see your results.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction


    Where can you buy neoprene? I have looked for it before and not been able to find any.



    11 years ago on Introduction

    These are so fun! They look really cool too, I like the curly cables look.

    I'm sure you've thought of it already, but I think this would be a fun controller for MIDI music or rhythm sounds. You could rig a kick drum and hi-hat to simulate a real drum kit's pedals, or just have some crazy sounds created based on the velocity and attack. I'm sure there's someone out here who can create a program to take your data and turn it into MIDI. You may also be able to trigger parts of a loop, so that the faster you step, the faster the loop plays!

    You could stomp your feet to make the beat!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Very creative. Keep inventing you make really cool stuff.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I JUST GOT THE BEST IDEA! Dance Dance Revolution-slippers! (Only thing needed is to learn to step the front and the back buttons in the game with the specified feet.)

    Think of all the cool moves you would be able to make when the only needed thing is to step on the right part of the right foot when the arrows come in the game.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    This is a lovely idea. I'm just starting out, but I would love to get to where I can make something that gives feedback (noise, vibration, etc) for a friend's son who is blind and profoundly autistic. He would be thrilled with slippers that let him jump around and "mix" his favourite house music or something. Music is one of his favourite things. Thanks for the inspiration!


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there,

    the links to the code are invalid... do you think you could re post them? thank you.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I'm completely immersed in cyberspace.
    I'm there.


    13 years ago on Step 6

    I would like to use some parts of this project to detect the shape of the foot - the movements are not as important for what I have in mind. Do you think that that is possible?

    I'm a professional athlete and I'm trying to collect information about the impact that my shoes have on my performance (later I'll deal with movements too).

    My programming skills are pretty strong but I can't claim the same when it comes to electrons and circuits. Therefore I'm trying to learn the minimal that I need to build the proto so I can cross and validate the data that the hardware you have put together will collect.

    btw - you're awesome, I love your tutorials!


    Reply 13 years ago on Step 6

    hi. yes, i think these pressure sensors would work to detect the shape of the foot in a kind of pressure/height map. the only issue will be to fine a good range, where the pressure inside the shoe matches that sensitivity of the sensors. meaning you can detect difference between the hardest and softest pressure and everything in between. i reccomend also replacing the velostat with some stretchy piezo-resistive fabric from eeonyx. try contacting them and asking for samples of their EeonTex RL-5-137 SL-PA fabric or if you can purchase a small amount at a good price >>
    and then you'll have to play with number of layers of eeonyx fabric and size of conductive stitches to get a good sensitivity/resolution. good luck! and i'd love to see what your results look like:-)


    Reply 13 years ago on Step 6

     you're awesome as usual! Great tips and yes I'll definitely ping back when I have something to share. Thx again Plusea!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Never seen this before looks very interesting. Are there any problems that I need to worry about because this ible is really creative and awesome.


    14 years ago on Step 6

    These are great. I tried to get the zip files of the arduino & processing programs but I get this message: "Sehr geehrter Besucher, leider ist ein Fehler aufgetreten: Die gewünschte Seite wurde nicht gefunden. Haben Sie sich vielleicht vertippt oder eine alte URL aufgerufen? Wenn nicht, informieren Sie bitte den Webmaster dieser Homepage per Email. Um zu der vorherigen Seite zurückzukehren, verwenden Sie bitte einfach die "Zurück" - Taste Ihres Browsers. " I'm guessing it means it can't be found...


    Reply 14 years ago on Step 6

    OH NO. this happens to me everytime i try to clean up my folders. i've updated the links in the Instructable as well as some of the instructions in the text. hope everything works now:-)