Introduction: Brainwave-Controlled Paper Garment

My project, Self-portrait is an experimental interactive wearable paper garment for performance, which uses thermochromic pigment, soft circuits, and Arduino connected to my vital signs such as heartbeats or brainwaves.

My concept is all about self-esteem, self-portrait, aesthetic emotions, and human connection. I express my internal feelings and emotions in front of audiences through the garment which means to reveal my true self as the second body instead of myself sealing, faking or hiding behind the technology. Ultimately, I aim to find ways to reach healing moments with audiences through empathy.

Photo by Juno


1. Chipboard

2. Conductive Thread

3. Thermochromic Pigment

4. Acrylic Paint & Brush

5. Small Pieces of Paper

6. Arduino

7. Jumper Wires & Alligator Clips

8. Paper Tape

9. 9V Batteries

10. Heating Circuits (Transistor TIP120, Resister 100K-Ohm, Resister 100Ohm, Diode IN4148, Copper Tape)

Step 1: Initial Idea

At first, I wanted to create a dress form using thermochromic ink connected to soft circuits and Arduino. However, I realized that thermochromic pigments are not easy to integrate into a wearable garment because they need a lot of voltage (over 18V) to heat up large areas of a paper. The ink normally requires a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius to activate. So, if the ink is set up on a human’s body, they might be dangerous or unsafe to a person who wears the piece. But, the most interesting part is that the thermo ink can draw dramatic effects or lyrical expressions like traditional paintings.

Step 2: Conductive Thread Length Tests

First of all, I tested out the thread lengths according to the power. I painted thermo ink on paper and attached conductive thread on the backside of paper. If it had around a 9volts battery power, then the ink disappeared up to 25inches. When it was connected to two batteries over 16volts, then the ink receded up to 36inches.

Step 3: Finding a Solution

How could I create a large surfaced garment? The thermo inks on a paper garment need a lot power to heat up and finally would burn up. I found a solution, which makes a thermo paper on small pieces of chip boards.

Step 4: Heating Circuits

I made 10copies of the heating circuits for lower power and longer threads.

The Heating Circuits include Transistor TIP120, Resister 100K-Ohm, Resister 100Ohm, Diode IN4148, Copper Tape.

Step 5: Décalcomanie

I focused on small shapes and the idea of decalcomania popped up.

Step 6: Laser Cutting & Paints

Then, I did the laser cutting using chipboards and painted acrylic colors on them.

Step 7: Setting-up on a Dress Form

I set up chipboard on a dress form. I painted 4 different colors on thin papers. (Later, I fixed a bit on different colors of thermo ink because audiences could not see the color changes well.)

On the first layer, I painted on normal acrylic colors and on the second layer, I covered thermo ink. When heating up, the bottom layer showed up. When Cooling down, the thermo ink covers the normal acrylic ink again.

Step 8: Circuit Designs

I taped conductive threads on a paper as condensing coil style and inserted circuits on the backside of feathers.

Step 9: Blink Test on Arduino

I tested out the blink example on Arduino. For heating up, the ink needed twenty seconds at least and for cooling down, they took thirty seconds at least. Even though it took a while, I thought that the thermo ink expressed warmer and more dramatic emotions than LEDs.

Step 10: Connecting to a Neurosky (Brain Wave Sensor)

In this semester, I focused on materials and power tests. Originally, I wanted to connect a Pulse sensor. But, I realized that I needed to figure out more specifically emotions and human vital sensors. So, I tried to test out a Neurosky of the meditation Journal that could be concentrated on myself.

In this part, my friends, Birce and Fito supported me fully. (Thanks a lot, guys! I really appreciate your help!)

The threshold of the Neurosky was 50. If the number goes above 50 with the electric current, the colors show up black to bright ones. If cooling down, they were covered by black colors again.

Now, I am still figuring out which sensors are practical for this project, and I need to build clear circuits for aesthetic wearable designs. I learned a lot of weak points and limitations to wearable technology through this project. In my next steps, I will go deeper, and I wish to develop a beautiful paper garment next semester.

Thank you for your interest. :)

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