The key to the MODA system is that components are joined to the micro controller via pluggable cables. This facilitates building wearable prototypes where components may be spread out across the body.

No soldering means components are more easily reused, and greatly speeds up workshop sessions and hackathons. MODA facilitates creation of ideas where electronics are embedded and movable, not just sitting in an enclosure.


Research and Design Process

"My main annoyance at the moment is uploading new software without having a big set of pins sticking out of the module...Maybe it'd be nice to have some readymade visual software for showing IMU data like google did in their Jacquard video."

--Melissa C.

I talked with artists and designers working in wearable tech about how they felt the prototyping process could be better and especially how the experience could be easier to understand for creators who are new to electronics.

I also assessed all the current hardware prototyping boards and kits available on the market, and researched online community sites to see what types of projects people commonly made and what common technical questions arose.

Domain research revealed several genres of wearable projects:

  1. Fashion (The technology as a creative aspect of fashion design.)
  2. Performing arts (Dance costumes and sound-reactive concert wear. Often has LEDs.)
  3. Game Interfaces (video game controllers as well as next gen laser tag ideas)
  4. Haptic and Tactile Interfaces (new concepts for interacting with devices off screens)
  5. Sports and Athletics (i.e. bike signal jackets, helmets, measuring a golf swing)
  6. Health (The usual activity and sleep tracking product ideas. Daily biometric tracking at the consumer level, as well as consumer applications for conditions like diabetes.)
  7. Medical, Bionics and Assistive Devices (more specialized medical biometrics for patient use, prosthetics and body augmentations for the disabled)

Notably, LED projects are popular, but there was general murmurings of wanting a system that encouraged people to “go beyond LED clothing”. From the genres above, there is a significant divide between the functional, more engineering oriented wearable applications (like health and medical), and the more artistic projects undertaken by fashion designers and artists.  Many of the practical applications could definitely benefit from the creative insight of a designer to make the device more wearable. Thus an ultimate goal in creating a new prototyping platform is to bridge the divide between more complex engineering concepts and an easy to use kit, which would then encourage more cross-pollination between disciplines.

 

Arduino with breadboard
Lilypad Arduino with sewn LEDs

I discovered several stumbling blocks that could be readily addressed:

  1. Breadboards that are commonly used to teach electronics result in prototypes that are a mess of wires. Their brick-like form factor is not well suited to wearable projects.
  2. People are intimidated by needing to code in order to get electronics working.
  3. Existing kits for wearables focus on sewing with conductive thread, but makers who create advanced projects rarely use this technique since it is time consuming and unreliable. (The thread has high resistance over long distances.)
  4. Existing wearable kits will often have compatible sensor modules and simple examples, but there’s a sudden threshold in difficulty if you want to connect many sensors at once.

Additional product iterations would be made after user testing of initial working prototypes.