Prototyping Board Turns Any Electro-Luminescent Material Into A Touch Sensor

Open-source prototyping board opens a world of new applications for motion-sensitive smart clothes

 

Right up there with the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the hottest areas of technology right now is wearable electronics. Similar to IoT, sensors and sensor interfaces drive the wearables market. This was obvious by the overwhelming success of the IoT and wearable-electronics educational tracks offered as Sensor Expo 2016 in San Jose, CA this past June.

Because of the popularity of these markets, there is no shortage of products being developed and hurled into the commercial space. What there is a shortage of are truly innovative and genuinely useful products. However, now and then, something emerges that has the ability to fit a wide range of useful and entertaining applications. Such is the case of the Whoa Board.

The Whoa Board is an Arduino IDE-compatible, open-source prototyping platform for wearable electronics. The platform, as per its creator, can turn any electro-luminescent (EL) material into a touch sensor with no additional hardware.

Touch sensing is accomplished via a high-voltage-tolerant capacitive sensing circuit. The circuit is fast enough to perform measurements while the EL material (EL wire, tape, panel, or paint) is glowing and sensitive enough to detect capacitive changes resulting from motion in wearable EL elements. It is also wireless ready, enabling the development of mesh networked wearables. Also notable, it can perform capacitive measurements on ELs driven from an integrated or an external supply.  Deriving power from any 3V to 6V supply, the circuit is programmable directly over a micro-USB interface.

Current applications for the board include motorcycle jackets with integrated turn signals that can be triggered with the shrug of a shoulder, egress lighting that can be triggered anywhere with touch, fabric music controllers, and motion sensitive performance wear.  With a bit of imagination, one can easily see many other potential applications, with medical, traveler safety, and communications topping the list.

The Whoa Board is currently on kickstarter.  For more information, and to see some videos of the Whoa Board in action, CLICK HERE.

 

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