In March, we celebrated the 5th anniversary of our workshop “Sketching with Hardware”. In 7 days, 12 students learnt to use electronic components, to create new creative user interactions and realized their own physical computing projects. The overarching topic for this course was ”Bionics”. Again, at the final presentation the crowd had the chance to experience five extraordinary experience prototypes. During the following days, all projects will be presented on this blog. Today: Part 2, Like a Bird!
by Marion Koelle and Marius Hoggenmüller
The bionic paradigm?
Birds have a sophisticated technique to survive the frigid temperatures of winter. They possess a dense coat of feathers which can be puffed out to trap little pockets of air close to the bird’s body. These airpockets insulate the bird’s body and protect it from excessive heat loss. With this technology birds can sustain their body temperature of approx. 40° C even at extreme frost! At chilly temperatures they therefore often look like small fuzzy featherballs (see figure 1).
[Daniel Lingehöhl: Vogelwelt im Wandel – Trends und Perspektiven. 2010. Wiley VCH Verlag GmbH.]
[Image source: http://www.sxc.hu]
What is it?
For our project we adopted the birds‘ anti-freezing technique and integrated it in an environment-aware interactive headpiece – at first glance: a simple, every-day bobble hat.
The basic principle is very simple: if the ambient temperature drops below a certain value or the user feels cold the heat-insulating functionality of the hat is activated and the ‚feathers‘ of the hat are puffed out. The hat’s control system involves two modes, one based on the sensing of the ambient temperature and another one which is based on user-input via a touch-slider located at the hat’s brim . It is possible to switch between modes by turning the hat’s bobble.
How does it work?
The skeletal structure of the headpiece consists of two rows of inflatable ‚feathers‘ made from a customary air mattress, which are comprised by a cover made from felt (see figure 2). If the compressor is turned on the air takes its way through a system of flexible plastic tubes located at the hat’s back and bloats the inflatable pieces which causes the hat to puff up.