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 SoftLab is a space dedicated to the research and development of artistic projects using soft-circuits and wearable technology in the Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media (DxArts) at the University of Washington, in Seattle.


Revel Off The Grid & Wearable FM receiver antennas

Revel Off The Grid & Wearable FM receiver antennas

During the eTextile Spring Break and in the context of the focus group Revel Off The Grid Lara Grant, Nicole Messier, Adrian Freed Sam Toply and myself, developed a series of wearable FM receiver antennas based on the paper Wearable Antennas for Off-Body Radio Links at VHF and UHF bands: Challenges, State-of-the-Art, and Future Trends below 1 GHz by Paolo Nepa (IEEE Member) and Hendrik Rogier (IEEE Senior Member). The paper demonstrates an extensive study on wearable antennas using common e-textile materials such as the conductive fabrics from LessEMF, conductive threads, copper tape, neoprene etc, as well as different fabrication techniques from laser cutting and hand-crafting to machine embroidery.

The main focus of the Revel Off The Grid group at the eTextile Spring Break camp was to explore off the grid communication. We decided to use 555 timers to build FM radio transmitters (see more at eTextile Spring Break blog post) and inspired by the paper above we decided to experiment with two different type of VHF wearable antennas - a wide four-finger half-wavelength dipole and a normal mode helix.

I worked on the wide four-finger half-wavelength dipole which measures 116cm long, using copper polyester taffeta fabric cut with a Cameo vinyl cutter and bonded with heat adhesive on a soft 5mm scuba fabric. The port connector is at the middle of the antenna is connected through a shielded wire to an FM radio receiver.

Here are some photos from the making process:

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Nicole and Lara worked on two different versions of the normal mode helix, using copper polyester taffeta on cotton and nickel/copper ripstop, and designed the antennas as a wearable sleeve.

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On the last day of the camp we presented a performance at the old mill of The Wassaic Project demonstrating the use of our wearable antennas in a noisy, chaotic and full of feedback soundscape.

Wearable Soundscapes with dancer & choreographer Stephanie Liapis

Wearable Soundscapes with dancer & choreographer Stephanie Liapis

Music Glove Prototyping by Brenna Gera

Music Glove Prototyping by Brenna Gera