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A Wearable Meter That Actively Monitors the Continuity of E- Textile Circuits as They Are Sewn

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A Wearable Meter That Actively Monitors the Continuity of E- Textile Circuits as They Are Sewn

Abstract and Figures

The e-textile landscape has enabled creators to combine textile materiality with electronic capability. However, the tools that e-textile creators use have been adapted from traditional textile or hardware tools. This puts creators at a disadvantage, as e-textile projects present new and unique challenges that currently can only be addressed using a non-specialized toolset. This paper introduces the first iteration of a wearable e-textile debugging tool to assist novice engineers in problem solving e-textile circuitry errors. These errors are often only detected after the project is fully built and are resolved only by disassembling the circuit. Our tool actively monitors the continuity of the conductive thread as the user stitches, which enables the user to identify and correct circuitry errors as they create their project.
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A Wearable Meter That Actively Monitors the Continuity of
E-Textile Circuits as They Are Sewn
Chris Hill
Christian.N.Hill@colorado.edu
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, Colorado
Michael Schneider
Michael.J.Schneider@colorado.edu
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, Colorado
Mark D Gross
mdgross@colorado.edu
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, Colorado
Ann Eisenberg
eisenbea@colorado.edu
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, Colorado
Arielle Blum
amblum@colorado.edu
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, Colorado
ABSTRACT
The e-textile landscape has enabled creators to combine textile
materiality with electronic capability. However, the tools that
e-textile creators use have been adapted from traditional textile or
hardware tools. This puts creators at a disadvantage, as e-textile
projects present new and unique challenges that currently can only
be addressed using a non-specialized toolset. This paper
introduces the first iteration of a wearable e-textile debugging tool
to assist novice engineers in problem solving e-textile circuitry
errors. These errors are often only detected after the project is
fully built and are resolved only by disassembling the circuit. Our
tool actively monitors the continuity of the conductive thread as
the user stitches, which enables the user to identify and correct
circuitry errors as they create their project.
CCS CONCEPTS
Human-centered computing Human computer interaction
(HCI) • Interaction devices
KEYWORDS
E-textiles, debugging, debugging tool, augmentation, wearable
device
ACM Reference format:
Chris Hill, Michael Schneider, Ann Eisenberg, Mark D Gross, and Arielle
Blum. 2020. A Wearable Meter That Actively Monitors the Continuity of
E-Textile Circuits as They Are Sewn. In FabLearn 2020 - 9th Annual
Conference on Maker Education (FabLearn ’20), October 10–11, 2020,
New York, NY, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA
, 4 pages.
https://doi.org/10.1145/3386201.3386217
1 INTRODUCTION & MOTIVATION
Over the past decade, embedded computing has expanded to
include a new landscape of computationally enriched materials,
commonly called e-textiles. This e-textile landscape blends
electronic capability with textile materiality and provides a new
method for beginners and experienced engineers to create
microcontroller projects [1]. Through e-textiles, traditional rigid
hardware components, such as insulated wire, LEDs, and the now
nearly-standard Arduino, have been modified to accommodate the
materiality of textiles. Those rigid components have now found
commonplace as conductive thread, sewable LEDs, and the
LilyPad, where they benefit the strengths of e-textiles. This
strength lies primarily in the flexibility of creation; no longer are
engineers restricted by static terminals on printed circuit boards or
breadboards. Instead they are free to stitch freeform paths that
connect the microcontroller to other components. However, this
flexibility sometimes leads to circuitry errors that are unique to
e-textiles [3]. Although hardware components have been modified
for use in e-textile projects, the tools used to diagnose circuitry
errors have not. An example is the multimeter, an essential
electronic measuring device that has no established equivalent in
the e-textile domain [4]. The multimeter is designed for a different
making context, rendering its form mostly incompatible with
e-textiles, with the probes too big and rough to make good contact
with the conductive thread [2]. Additionally, most beginners lack
the expertise to fully utilize the device’s electronic measuring
features [4]. Our tool is a wearable voltage meter that allows
engineers to recognize and address common e-textile errors as
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FabLearn '20,
October 10–11, 2020, New York, NY, USA
© 2020 Association for Computing Machinery.
ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-7543-6/20/04$15.00
https://doi.org/10.1145/3386201.3386217
FabLearn ’20, October 2020, New York, New York, USA
C. Hill et al.
they stitch their project's circuitry. The goal is an e-textile tool
that bridges the gap between the electronic and textile world, and
in doing so utilizes the unique affordances that e-textiles offer.
While the multimeter is used as inspiration, the device created is
different in form and use. It is a wearable device that augments
the user’s abilities, alerting them if they have made a sewing error
as they stitch by detecting the loss of continuity. Not only does
this device utilize the voltage readings typical of a traditional
multimeter, it also benefits the user by assisting during each stage
of e-textile circuitry creation and actively helps the user as they
stitch freeform paths.
2 BACKGROUND & RELATED WORK
Our work draws upon the Debugging by Design work by our
collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania which focuses on
the development of e-textile debugging tools for students. We
have identified several electrical problems that students encounter
as they construct e-textile circuits using their E-textiles Technical
Guide
[3]:
Short circuit: A short circuit occurs when two threads of
opposite polarity come into contact with each other.
o Fix: Remove stitching, isolate wires, then
restitch the e-textile project.
Reversed polarity: Reversed polarity is an error that’s
caused when electricity won't flow through a component
due to the positive and negative terminals being
connected to opposite terminals on the microcontroller.
o Fix: Cut loose the component and rotate until
the component’s terminals are at the
correct polarity. Then restitch component to
the microcontroller.
Incorrect pin usage: A common software or hardware
error that occurs when the wrong pin is either initialized
or sewn onto the microcontroller board.
o Fix: Modify the program to include the
correct pin, or cut thread connected to
the microcontroller and reconnect to the
correct pin.
The guide doesn’t rely on the use of electronic tools to identify
potential errors; instead it relies on the user to visually identify
whether certain components do not work as expected after they
finish stitching the project’s circuitry. The guide also suggests
potential solutions for the various errors that may occur. Most of
these solutions require the user to disassemble their e-textile
circuitry to further identify and isolate the problem, and then
restitch portions of their project.
Current literature on e-textile tool development has worked
towards a similar goal of creating tools that benefit the
affordances of e-textiles [2, 5, 6, 7]. Most of these tools have been
developed under the concept of taking traditional textile tools and
augmenting them with electronic capabilities. Posch and
Fitzpatrick have designed three tools that allow for continuity
testing. Two of these tools are the eTextile Tester and the
eTextiler’s Tape, which are respective examples of tools that
enhance a traditional textile tool with electronic capabilities and a
tool that is specifically designed to benefit the materiality of
e-textiles [5]. Additionally, tools have been developed by Posch
that focus on creating e-textile friendly probes that can connect
directly to a multimeter [2], although these tools have been
developed primarily to assist in the creation of e-textile crocheting
rather than stitching circuitry.
Perner-Wilson, et al. have theorized and created potential tools for
e-textile creation [8, 9]. These tools are openly available at the
websites MAKE TOOLS, NOT PARTS
and TOOLS WE WANT
.
These websites were created to house the theoretical and
functional tools designed by that team. The tools created by their
team had focused on helping creators identify resistance and
continuity in their projects. More recent research has focused on
redesigning the multimeter to make a “low-floor” version that is
more ergonomic and usable by beginners [4]. The device is
targeted towards K-12 students with the intent of reducing the
learning curve associated with the traditional multimeter.
3 RESEARCH APPROACH & UNIQUENESS
This paper reports on the development of a device that will help
the creation and problem solving of e-textile projects. The main
function of this device is to allow for the user to identify the
creation of errors as they actively stitch their e-textile circuitry.
The device is a wearable conductive wristband that measures the
voltage that is passing through a needle and conductive thread as
they are used to stitch. If the user creates a circuitry error that
causes the voltage to drop below a threshold the device will alert
the user, via an audible sound, that will allow for them to
immediately identify and correct the error. This novel approach
not only allows the user to live debug their circuitry as they stitch,
but also utilizes the user’s hands as the device’s probes. By
utilizing the user’s hands to gain voltage measurements, this
eliminates the difficulty associated with placing traditional
multimeter probes on e-textile stitched circuitry. This device
recontextualizes the voltage readings of a multimeter by allowing
for immediate debugging and problem solving, rather than
debugging after the creation of the e-textile project.
The device’s design currently has two features that can identify
common e-textile circuitry errors:
Voltage meter: The device can identify voltage at a
A Wearable Meter That Actively Monitors the Continuity of E-Textile Circuits as They Are Sewn
FabLearn ’20, October 2020, New York, New York, USA
specific point of contact.
o This feature can alert the user if the pins set in
their code do not match their circuit design.
For example, the user can touch the pins on
their microcontroller to verify which pins are
powered. This feature can also be used to
check the polarity of threads that are
connected to the microcontroller.
Continuity meter: The device can detect when a short
occurs in a circuit.
o This feature can be used to alert the user if
they have made a stitch that causes a loss in
continuity.
Informal testing was conducted for our tool by having a student
create an e-textile circuit while wearing the device. The initial
feedback was positive, with the user using their hands to explore
the microcontroller’s pins to identify which ones were ground
before stitching. While stitching, the device alerted the user that
they had created a short circuit and they undid their stitch to
correct the error. The user described the immediate feedback
during stitching as helpful as the user had no previous experience
with embedded computing, and if unassisted by the wearable
meter, wouldn’t have been able to identify the circuitry error.
Limitations did arise during the informal testing of the tool. The
conductive wristband was unable to get accurate readings at times
due to the poor connection it was making with the user’s wrist,
and the user had initial troubles identifying what the device was
measuring without a display.
Figure 1: The wearable meter.
Figure 2: The meter worn on the wrist of a user.
Figure 3: An example of an e-textile circuitry error where the
wearable meter will alert the user to undo their stitch.
4 RESULTS & CONTRIBUTION
In this paper we present the first prototype of a wearable e-textile
debugging tool. This tool takes advantage of the flexibility that
e-textiles affords by enabling creators to recognize and address
common e-textile errors while actively creating their project’s
circuitry and can help the user avoid disassembling their project to
problem solve. By helping users avoid disassembling their
projects we hope to mitigate the frustration factor that is
associated with problem solving e-textiles. This tool is also
designed to allow the user to augment their hands as the device’s
probes to increase usability. By using the user’s hands as part of
the device they are able to make reliable connections with their
project’s conductive thread. For future work, the device will be
tested by students in a beginner wearables course as they create
e-textile projects. The feedback received from the students will be
used to iterate on the tool to improve ability and design, as well as
classifying what other circuitry errors our device can assist in
identifying. In addition, we are developing the tool as part of an
effort to create a suite of debugging tools for e-textiles, and we
plan to integrate this device with a dedicated Arduino library.
FabLearn ’20, October 2020, New York, New York, USA
C. Hill et al.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was supported by grant #1742081 from the National
Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science
Foundation or the University of Colorado, Boulder. Special
thanks to the PI's Ann Eisenberg and Mark Gross, colleagues at
UPenn, as well as the other members of the Craft Tech Lab -
Michael Schneider, Arielle Blum, and Rona Sadan.
REFERENCES
[1] Leah Buechley, Mike Eisenberg, Jaime Catchen, and Ali Crockett. 2008. The
LilyPad Arduino. Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual CHI conference on
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[2] Irene Posch. 2017. E-textile tooling: new tools—new culture? Journal of
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
6, 1 (2017).
DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13731-017-0067-y
[3] Deborah Fields, Tomoko Nakajima, Janell Amely, John Landa, Jane Margolis,
Pamela Amaya, Yasmin Kafai, Joanna Goode, John Ottina. (2018). Stitching
the Loop: A Resource Guide for using Electronic Textiles in Exploring
Computer Science. Exploring Computer Science. Available at
http://exploringcs.org.
[4] Rona Sadan. 2020. A “Low-Floor” multimeter: supporting e-textile debugging
by revealing voltage and continuity. Proceedings of ACM SIGCSE
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[5] Irene Posch and Geraldine Fitzpatrick. 2018. Integrating Textile Materials with
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[6] Irene Posch. 2017. Crafting Tools for Textile Electronic Making. Proceedings
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[7] Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak. 2016. CRAFTED LOGIC Towards
Hand-Crafting a Computer. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference
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Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI EA 16
[8] Hannah Perner-Wilson, Mika Satomi, Ebru Kurbak, and Irene Posch. TOOLS
WE WANT. Retrieved December 28, 2020 from http://toolswewant.at/
[9] Hannah Perner-Wilson. MAKE TOOLS, NOT PARTS. Retrieved December
28, 2020 from https://www.plusea.at/?category_name=make-tools-not-parts
... The typical novice strategy of trial-and-error is time intensive and frustrating with the regular unstitching and restitching of circuits. While some tools have been suggested to assist with locating errors in e-textile circuits, either during [3] or after the sewing process [14], we instead advocate for helping students iterate over their circuit's design before sewing, in a manner similar to the traditional solderless breadboard where the user can quickly disconnect and reconfigure hardware components and a microcontroller. ...
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Stitching the Loop: A Resource Guide for using Electronic Textiles in Exploring Computer Science
  • Deborah Fields
  • Tomoko Nakajima
  • Janell Amely
  • John Landa
  • Jane Margolis
  • Pamela Amaya
  • Yasmin Kafai
  • Joanna Goode
Deborah Fields, Tomoko Nakajima, Janell Amely, John Landa, Jane Margolis, Pamela Amaya, Yasmin Kafai, Joanna Goode, John Ottina. (2018). Stitching the Loop: A Resource Guide for using Electronic Textiles in Exploring Computer Science. Exploring Computer Science. Available at http://exploringcs.org.
  • Hannah Perner-Wilson
  • Mika Satomi
  • Ebru Kurbak
  • Irene Posch
Hannah Perner-Wilson, Mika Satomi, Ebru Kurbak, and Irene Posch. TOOLS WE WANT. Retrieved December 28, 2020 from http://toolswewant.at/
Stitching the Loop: A Resource Guide for using Electronic Textiles in Exploring Computer Science. Exploring Computer Science
  • Deborah Fields
  • Tomoko Nakajima
  • Janell Amely
  • John Landa
  • Jane Margolis
  • Pamela Amaya
  • Yasmin Kafai
  • Joanna Goode
  • Fields Deborah