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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg and Yasmin Kafai

Textile Messages focuses on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles – computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of clothing, home furnishings, or architectures that include embedded computational and electronic elements. This book introduces a collection of tools that enable novices – including educators, hobbyists, and youth designers – to create and learn with e-textiles. It then examines how these tools are reshaping technology education – and DIY practices – across the K-16 spectrum, presenting examples of the ways educators, researchers, designers, and young people are employing them to build new technology, new curricula, and new creative communities.
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3 Traveling Light: Making Textiles Programmable “Through the Air”



This chapter is about a “new look” for programming, especially appropriate to wearable devices and e-textiles. My name for this type of programming is ambient programming, and it is enabled by a device that I created called Schemer.

Schemer is a small, button-sized “ambient program reader” that can be embedded into clothing, furniture, artwork, and many other types of interactive artifacts (Figure 20). Its major strength is that it can be programmed in a number of ways: by holding it up to a computer screen, by passing it in front of paintings, by whistling to it, and so on. It was born of the frustration that I had to lug around a laptop, wires, USB port connectors, and other paraphernalia just so I could reprogram a tiny glowing pendant I had made as an exercise in miniaturizing an e-textile artifact.

The different ways of programming Schemer exhibit varying levels of complexity and expressiveness. At the high end of complexity, one can program the device with a computer-based interface; this, in fact, is where the vast majority of Schemer programs are written. There are other, simple methods that rely on such tangible means as barcodes, color, and musical notes. These simpler methods are typically used, not to create complex programs but rather to communicate short programming ideas and expressions and to gather data for running programs. All these methods will be described shortly in this chapter, but we can begin by summarizing the various methods...

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