Detect Devices With This Beacon Shirt #WearableWednesday


As a Masters student at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, Matt Martin was curious about technology and it’s effect on people, particularly wearables.

Wearables can not only work like the nervous system, but also become a discreet part of the body, hidden to everyone else. The difference however is that not all humans can relate to a technological nervous system. As someone is not able to relate to this technology, especially as they do not know about it, there will be dissonance between each person’s mediation of the world and to each other.

So he designed a Wearable Beacon, a shirt that would be able to appear normal, but detect different devices in the area. The shirt design was only one part of the puzzle though, Matt really wanted to get down to public reaction.

It is to provoke the viewers to see technology as an influence to us like our own nervous system, but without others being familiar or knowing of it.


The shirt was designed with 31 NeoPixel strips of varying lengths, for a grand total of 1,056 pixels. We are talking interesting illumination pattern possibilities here! Matt fastened them with thread and wired them to a sandwich of Arduino Yun, Mega and a Bluetooth Mate Silver. The controllers have different roles.

I have the Arduino Yun connected to the Bluetooth module to pick up the bluetooth devices (hoping to do the same for wifi) and it identifies each device by their name. This information is sent from the Yun to the Mega. The Mega then creates a light animation for each device detected.

In action, the shirt illuminates a nervous system pattern as it comes in contact with active Bluetooth devices. The organic pattern definitely creates a sense of mystery for the purpose of the shirt, as seen in Matt’s experiment filmed at a nearby skating rink.

Being that it was hard to know what people were actually saying at the rink, I asked Matt about their reactions.

I would say most people were curious as to how it was working and would either approach me or discuss among themselves about it. Really it was just great to see people look away from their phones for a few seconds, although I am not used to that sort of attention! Haha.

Matt’s shirt is another example of “making the invisible visible”–check out his blog for more details. If you have an interest in doing the same, you should invest in the one thing that every maker should have–some NeoPixel strips. Go linear or make up your own fun LED patterns that will get everyone curious. What will you make?


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