This weekend I was at Maker Faire with my maker space Hive76, of Philly fame. We had a kickin’ booth with karaoke, a giant Connect 4 game, hacked instruments, the FLORAbrella and other fun. By the end of the weekend, we had earned 7 Editor’s Choice blue ribbons for our booth, and I’m quite sure one of those belongs to member, Peter Perreault. He designed what is now known as The Hivelord costume, and you can see that’s me taking in the image on the screen attached to his head. The idea originated from a book, according to Pete.
I got the idea from the book A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick, where the undercover agents have what’s called a “scramble suit”. The suit anonymizes its user by displaying a constantly changing image of different people over them so you can’t tell who is wearing it. This project started out as a mask version of that concept, but I suppose the central idea changed a bit as I added features.
The headpiece takes an image of whatever is in front of it, and then displays it on the screen. It can even create a gallery of images, further blurring the idea of identity. Considering this piece is capturing photos, you may already have a lucky guess as to what is inside — a Raspberry Pi and its camera. The screen is actually from an old laptop found at our maker space. Apparently Pete needed a special piece to bring them all together.
On Ebay, you can buy a converter board to take the proprietary pin configuration and get an HDMI and VGA output, so that’s what I did. It’s a great idea for a project if you have a spare laptop screen laying around, and don’t mind taking it apart to make something useful out of what would otherwise be junk.
That covers most of the electronics, so let’s look at the frame. The box is copper tubing and foam board, attached with some yellow EL wire, which glows nicely at night. It’s a bit chunky, so a military frame backpack was used as a stable rig, which also holds the 12V battery. You might wonder how Pete is able to see out of this contraption, but he created a periscope, just for this purpose. Check out more details in this video, as well as Pete’s Facebook.
The best part was watching the reactions of people walking around Maker Faire; Pete really engaged people of all ages.
Kids tended to love it, if they weren’t afraid of it. They always hammed it up when they saw themselves on the screen, so it was a lot of fun seeing that through my periscope and then timing it right to take their picture. I was worried that people wouldn’t understand the picture taking/slideshow function, but it was pretty intuitive when I got out to interact with people. A lot of the adults tried to take a picture of the costume, and then were surprised to find out I was taking a picture of them in return.
The real fun in this project is the idea of identity and surveillance, a theme I’m often attracted to as I research what’s going on with wearables. Pete plans on wearing this costume to Burning Man next year, as well as more Maker Faires. I think we all may be wearing something similar one day, so why not get started on your civilian clothing now. You can get acquainted with the parts by checking out our SnapPi CAM tutorial. Have fun and start snapping!
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