The "deck" in the pic is Kerry Scharfglass's Commute Deck! (Picture by Jason Kridner.)
This armor runs light animations using any Arduino-programmable controller to power NeoPixel LED strips. I started out with a DigiSpark, but ended up using a Teensy because it'll be able to handle more current.
The armor itself is made of carbon fiber, incorporating spikes that I made a couple of years ago, as well as a shoulder piece (pauldron) that was done patchwork-style. My current approach to carbon fiber is pretty loose and organic: using the proper protective equipment (mask + gloves + long sleeves), I cut small pieces from the fiber fabric sheet.
To make these, I cover the pattern object in plastic wrap. Then I spread down a layer of either 5-minute cure or "2-ton" DevCon epoxy resin, press a piece of fiber mesh into it, and smoosh some more resin into it. By patching together and layering shapes, I can construct a curved form without worrying about drape or adhesion – since the fibers don't like to bend much. The end result is rigid. If you're doing this, look up a real tutorial (or learn in person) and be safe.
There's a wide piece that covers my solar plexus, which was made by molding long strips of carbon fabric over a cast of my torso. Since these strips are bigger, they have more flex, and the piece allows me to move comfortably.
And there's a carbon fiber mask that matches the set. Remarkably, since it's a woven fabric, I can see through the holes between strands; it sharpens my vision via the pinhole effect. However, it does cut out a lot of the light (which is where the light-up arm comes in handy). The social effects of this mask are fascinating: people stare, people are nervous because they can't tell where I'm looking or how I'm emoting, people can't tell whether or not I can see. It makes a huge difference.
I employ used rubber bicycle inner tubes ("
bike leather "), Velcro, and brass grommets to bind everything together, along with knotted black yarn for cable management.
All the components so far, mix-and-match:
- Pauldron (shoulder piece) + 3 finger claws, with animated underlighting
- Custom 3D-printed battery holders, buckle, and pockets (for cash, earplugs, etc.) on bike-leather belt
- Carbon breastplate and solar-plexus guard with bike-leather harness
- Carbon mask
- Bike-leather arm weave with LED strip inside: that's the "reptilian" bit with the glowing slits.
- Carbon knee guards (poleyns)
- Coming soon: greaves and tiara.
Disclaimer: Some of these pieces were made during my Autodesk artist residency. (Description) The set has grown a lot since then!
The circuit is as shown in my NeoPixel tutorial. The strips are:
- 1 x 11-pixel strip, in the shoulder (probably will add more) – splitting into
- 3 x 1-pixel pieces, in the claws
Each piece (3 claws + Pauldron) has NeoPixels attached to the bottom with hot glue. They face toward my skin, creating an under-lit effect. I have big plans for these: the armor is designed as a war-walking interface, to house an ESP8266 or Photon and interact with WiFi networks with red effects and a button to broadcast to unsecured networks. However, for now, they're just running on a Teensy 3.2 with a pretty animation created by Moheeb of Octoblu. At Defcon, they pulsed purple; now I've got them going green/cyan, to match my new shirtdress from the conference.
One section of 3-wire audio cable runs up from the Teensy to the shoulder piece, to the 11-NeoPixel strip there; from the other end, another section of cable runs down my arm, splitting into 3 cables for the fingers, which are all in parallel.
The Teensy is plugged directly into a 5V USB phone charger. I accumulated a few of these during our hardware hackathon series, so they're easily swappable. This module sits on my waist. At Defcon, I dropped the battery and controller into a thigh holster, which worked well – but the cables weren't quite long enough, so the Arduino Micro we were using kept being pulled out of the circuit. The animation would freeze in its state at that point, since it still had power but wasn't receiving any further data.
How do I make this look good? I have a method based on friendship bracelets that uses yarn to bind all the cables together, cover joints, and keep the wires soft, flexible, and organic. It's perfect for wearable tech, with a hint of an umbilical look.
I've designed three types of 3D-printable pockets that thread onto a belt.
- One of them holds the cylindrical battery packs, though it needs something on top to hold the battery in securely: running with this on is pretty annoying!
- A vaguely trapezoidal one intended to be the "buckle" / center, which doubles as a secret stash for earplugs or cash. It has a slot in the bottom edge, where you can attach more pieces if need be.
- A triangular one that faces up, as a multi-purpose pocket. For example, for GlowCon I wore two triangles, each holding an LED block, powered by two of the chargers. It gave me some dramatic underlighting! These can also hold the controller, if it doesn't plug directly into the power bank as the DigiSpark does.
Finally, the belts holding the armor on are what I call "bike leather": rubber from bicycle inner tubes. The stuff isn't super fun to work with, as it smells for a while and has a white powder in the middle that gets everywhere when you cut it up. But it looks great! People make bags, wallets, and more out of this rubber. I've used it to make straps.
The Pauldron is held on with a couple of elastic-and-velcro straps, which loops around the opposite arm. It's made from a Cardboard headset-strap that I got at Maker Faire.
Check out Moheeb's NeoPixel code below, which is currently modded for the green/cyan version.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next generations of armor!