Progress on Turn-Signal Jacket & Glove Controller

I am happy to report that I am very close to fabricating a functional prototype that I can take to the streets for beta testing! For now, I have some less-than-functional, but working, prototypes:


On the left is a sample arrangement of neopixels for testing turn-signal code. On the right is a temporary glove controller for testing touch pad buttons. As of now, the two do not communicate or interact with each other. Before delving into too much detail, here are some videos of what the prototypes are capable of:

The big challenge of this project is the wireless connectivity between the glove controller and the turn-signal jacket. I naively purchased two bluetooth modules before doing much research (adafruit Bluefruits designed for Flora) and found that they will not connect with one another. They are both considered “slave modules” and can only pair with a “master module” such as a computer or cellphone. Obviously this would not work for my purposes so I purchased two HC-05 modules, which can be assigned either master or slave roles:

I spent the day yesterday learning about these modules and how to program them. The trick was getting them into “command mode”, which entailed controlling the power level feeding into the module’s KEY pin, and using AT commands to assign roles and initiate pairing. This was sort of advanced stuff, so I enlisted help from some programmer friends of mine:

By the end of the day, we managed to get the modules paired and communicating with one another over the serial port. Unfortunately accomplishing pairing was the “easy part” and I still have a lot of problem-solving to do as far as applying this connectivity to my project. I must integrate the modules into my project–assigning the jacket module as master and glove as slave–and program the glove and jacket microcontrollers to read and respond to the data sent over the Bluetooth serial channel. Luckily I do have some help with this complicated coding stuff so I can focus more on fabrication, which presents a whole other can of worms!

In the interest of keeping this post relatively short, I’ll forgo the individual details of the design, fabrication, and programming issues that I am facing for the glove and jacket here. I’ll make a separate post for that.

In conclusion, I have determined that for the purpose of this assignment, my end product will be 1) a jacket prototype with integrated turn-signals and taillights and 2) a single glove controller prototype (for the left hand) with switches that will toggle the jacket’s turn-signals on and off as well as display indicator lights for the corresponding signals. The jacket and glove will communicate wirelessly over Bluetooth (hopefully low-energy BLE) and be powered by rechargeable li-poly batteries. While I have many other ideas for furthering the product’s design and enhancing its functionality for “hardcore use” by bicyclists and motorcyclists (integrating a 9DOF sensor for brake-light and turn-signal auto-cancel functions, a light sensor for automatic day/night brightness settings, heated elements, ability to connect to alternate power sources), those will have to be explored in the future outside of class. Although I will not have time to include all the cool ideas I have for this project, I do plan to integrate the needed sensors and data-logging devices (SD card) into the prototype in anticipation of further development!

One final note: at the recommendation of a friend, I consulted an intellectual property attorney seeking to patent my idea. While there are many DIY turn-signal jackets out there, I felt my design was unique with its integration of an accelerometer for auto-canceling and brake-light functions. Unfortunately I missed my opportunity by less than a year! The holder of the patent created a product that won an innovation award at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. However, I may still be able to patent the integration of a turn-signal switch into a glove (cross your fingers for me!). I bring this up to point out that while wearable tech is developing FAST, it’s still very NEW. So do not hesitate to look into patenting your great idea! You may get lucky.

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