Wearable LED Halloween Costume
I always go a little overboard with Halloween (it is my birthday after all). This year since I had been getting really into embedded programming thanks to my involvement with Make on the Lake and I wanted to use my new interest to build a Halloween costume. Also this summer I’ve been learning how to write iOS apps in Swift. Naturally I needed to combine the two to create my Halloween costume.
Remembering Sexy Cyborg’s underlit skirt from Reddit I decided to make my own underlit clothing and phone app to control it.
In addition to my ambitious Halloween costume goals I was also going to be spending my birthday on vacation in the Netherlands. I decided to look into visiting a local maker space for a bit to put the finishing touches on my costume. Thankfully I came across the wonderful folks at Fablab 013. I shot them an email before I left on vacation telling them I would be in the area and wanted to build a really cool costume. They were more than excited about my project and allowed me to hang out in their space free of charge while I finished my project.
I spent almost every day of the week leading up to Halloween next to their soldering iron sipping coffee. Everyone at the maker space was very accommodating. From extra wires to sandwiches and coffee there wasn’t anything that I could ask for that they weren’t happy to help with.
I decided to use Light Blue Beans as the micro controller for the costume. They’re small, independently powered, and come with an integrated bluetooth module. Not to mention their iOS SDK is rather easy to use.
For the LED’s I chose to go with Adafruit’s Neopoxels. The Neopoxels are really bright and easy to program thanks to the great Arduino library. However I’ve noticed that trying to power Neopixels using the same power source as the bean means the battery will die rather quickly. So I decided to get some 3.7v 2200mAh lithium ion batteries (which are definitely overkill but at least they won’t die in the middle of the night).
I decided to solder the beans in such a way to make the wearables as modular as possible. This way Neopixel strips can be swapped in and out easily and batteries can be replaced quickly.
Wearing the LEDs
I decided to use safety pins to hold the LEDs in place. This allows for them to be removed easily so that the clothing can be washed later.
With the LEDs in place it’s easy to load some test code onto the beans to play an animation to see the vest in action.
Now it was time to get some real code onto the beans on iphone. All of the source code for the project is available here.
The app consists of two screens. The main screen allows you to activate or deactivate bluetooth scanning to find nearby light blue beans to connect to. Once you’re connected to at least costume you can choose to go to the next screen where you can choose which animation plays, a solid color for the lights, the brightness of the lights, and some other options.
The app sends strings over bluetooth serial to the micro controllers which can interpret those strings and do what they’re commanded.
Completed Project & Next Steps
The completed project came out wonderfully. The LEDs shined brightly and looked great!
This was my first ‘wearable’ project and I had a great time working on it. Going forward I would like to try to use music to control the color and brightness of the LEDs.