anthrolume

Experiments in wearable electronic art.


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Getting ready for animation

I’ve got a pile of things to do still before Burning Man, including both hardware and software. Tonight I wanted to get three things done:

  • Update my old PointCollector program to have “snap to grid”
  • Create the point map for the trench so I can start rendering animations
  • Determine all the physical locations of the power taps I need to wire into the suit

PointCollector’s job is to create a file that describes the (X, Y) locations of all the LEDs in their own coordinate space. This lets me use them like pixels in a big video display. Also it describes the order of the LEDs which is just as important as their locations.

As a reminder, here’s the final layout schematic of the LEDs in the trench. This updated image shows all the through-holes I had to cut in the suit, as well as the locations of all the places where strands of 50 LEDs hook together. Half those spots are marked with a yellow square, which means there’s no power there, and the other half marked with a purple square, which means I have to feed extra power into the strand at that point.

Final layout schematic

Final layout schematic with power tap locations

For my sanity, I’ve sort of spread out the arms so I can see the serpentine path easier. But when you look at the actual photographs of the suit (such as those in my last post), you’ll see that really, the arms are a sort of visual continuation of the torso. As a projection surface, I want the suit to act more like a huge cylinder of LEDs, with the arms as integral parts of that. To create that effect, I made a synthetic rendering of the LEDs that tries to smash them together so the front and back of the suit become more or less one big rectangle, an unrolled cylinder.

PointCollector 2.0

PointCollector 2.0 with the trench’s point map


In this mage, the yellow squares represent LEDs that art part of the arms. You can see the (X, Y) coordinates of every LED in the list to the left. That list also indicates the order of the LEDs. Now I can use my Animaker program to re-render all the Anthrolume 3.0 animations for the trenchcoat, and see how they look. That’s a task for later in the week.

Next up is wiring those power taps that I identified in the first image. Wiring those to a central power source will allow me to run the entire 1,000-LED trench for a full system test. I’ll definitely post a video of that once it’s working.

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Milestone – all LEDs mounted!

Last night I mounted the last of 1,000 LEDs into the trench. It’s a project milestone for sure. I also donned the trench, which I’m happy to report is a one-person operation, and while it is definitely heavy, it is manageable and relatively comfortable. (I didn’t even have the lining in it, which will likely make it even more comfortable.)

1000 LEDs!

1000 LEDs!


In this photo, the front of the trench is not clasped because I haven’t done that work yet. I cut the buttons off so it only hangs open right now.

I absolutely suck at sewing, but yesterday I did some of that anyway. I had to reinforce one hole that weirdly coincided with one corner of the pocket, and sew a little bit of the pocket opening closed to protect that LED. I also sewed closed all the front button holes for strength. I was going to put anorak snaps into the front of the trench, but now I’m starting to think about using “hook and eye,” skirt hooks, or other hooks if I can find some that fasten positively rather than passively.

The next week is going to be all software work. I’ve invented a new mode of musical interaction for this year, and I’m going to start implementing that. Also I’m going to try to synthesize a “points file” for the trench that describes to my animation software the location and order of all the LEDs. Then I’ll be able to re-render all my Anthrolume 3.0 animations for the trench’s 1,000 LEDs.


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Progress: 800 LEDs mounted

I’m continuing on my relentless LED-mounting spree, consistently adding 100 LEDs a day. The recent additions included the left arm, which took about twice as long as other parts of the trench because it is difficult to reach both the front and back of the fabric at the same time.

I now am testing the strands of 50 individually before I put them in because I don’t have enough power to run the thing anymore. More batteries will show up next week, and I will probably press and old PC power supply into service, which can deliver 16A at 5V.

800 LEDs mounted

800 LEDs mounted


In this image I don’t have Bob’s arms through the sleeves – it’s hard to put on him that way due to the weight of the suit, and there’s too much risk that his hands will hook a wire inside the sleeve. I think I may temporarily “disarm” him soon.


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Half way!

Tonight I mounted the 500th LED on the trench. It’s a pretty exciting milestone.

Incredibly, I can still run the trench off the two Tekkeon MP3450I batteries I have. I don’t have any power taps installed in the coat to distribute power yet – I’m only powering it on the two ends of the LED strand. If I make the lights particularly bright, the LEDs in the middle get pretty reddish because they’re not getting enough juice. That’s a temporary thing until I build the power distribution network inside the coat.

I have to say these batteries are kicking ass, so I’ve gone ahead and ordered four more of them. I’ll have a total of six running in parallel, capable of delivering 24A at 5V continuous, and a total of 69.6 Ah of capacity on my belt, weighing in at just under six pounds.

I’m on a roll now…it takes two hours to put a hundred LEDs into the trench…I want to get them all in there by the end of the week.


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Trench progress – the first 200 LEDs

I’ve been slowly working on the trench – a combination of software and fabrication. I’ve now got 200 LEDs installed and I can drive them with the computer from last year. In the video below, I’m sending animations from the old 250-LED suit to the 200 LEDs in the trench. Since the LEDs aren’t arranged in the same pattern as the ones in my old suit, the animations are all messed up. The point is just to ensure the LEDs work and that my new Anthrolume software works. (Remember that I now conglomerate all the animations into a single file – that was a big change to the software.)


Also you can see a “missing” column on the front of the trench. That’s intentional – that’s where the strand makes its way back up from the bottom of the trench, so that space will get filled in with LEDs later. Another happy observation is that the translucent nylon washers I’m using actually transmit some light from the barrel of the LED out through themselves, which is a pretty cool effect. I was afraid I’d miss the reflectivity of the heavy metal washers I used on AL3.0, but these nylon washers are great too.

Washer Sorting

A super fun way to spend an hour

Speaking of washers, I also discovered that about 500 of them were not exactly the same as the rest, and not in a good way. They are 1/10 mm thicker, which makes them both heavier, and worse, yellower. I’ve returned those to Fastenal to get them replaced. But of course…they were mixed in with the other 1,100 good washers. That means, you guessed it, I had to sort those 500 out of the rest. What fun that was. Take a look at the picture below…can you tell the difference? The picture shows one handful at the bottom – I sorted about 10 handfuls. Ugh.