Most of the electronic objects that we interact with every day have screens or buttons or LEDs or all of those things, but wouldn’t it be more fun to interact with them in a more intuitive, tactile way? That’s what one design student, Yen Chen Chang, thought when he knitted some special smart yarn and hooked it up to an Arduino microcontroller.
The conductive smart yarn consists of material similar to what we’re already familiar with in touch-display friendly gloves. It’s made from 80 percent polyester and 20 percent stainless steel. Chang crocheted and knitted a variety of objects with the yarn, and set them up to respond to pulling, squeezing, or stroking. When touched, the yarn’s conductivity changes, and the Arduino measures the change and tells the gadget what it’s supposed to do.
For example, Chang created a knitted ball that operated a juicer. When you squeeze the ball, the juicer starts turning your orange into orange juice. The faster you squeeze it, the faster your orange juice gets made. Chang also created a small patch of carpet that turns on a fan when you stroke it. A lamp Chang made dims itself when you pull on a knit rope. Chang also discovered that knits which are looser are better for manipulating objects by stretching them and squashing them. Knits that are tighter have a less limited range, but can still be used to turn objects on or off.
It’s safe to say that you’re probably not interested in changing out your juicer to work only if you squeeze a knitted ball. But that wasn’t the point of Chang’s research. He said, “when you integrate different sensing technology into today’s electronics, you can make something look totally different.” In other words, it’s important to keep thinking outside the box, even with technology that’s already familiar to us.