new materials

In the spirit of super hero transformations, we got a shiny black fabric for this prototype, similar to Batman’s cape. That was the most creative material acquired. The rest were purely about logistics. We found extra large twist ties and are going to try those out for the hoop support system. We also have the DC motors to try out for this task. They are surprisingly small! I suppose we shall see how the actual skirt work now. We need to sew the fabric on before we can test the mechanics this time.

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post-high fidelity prototype

After the presentation of the mechanical skirt-belt and the pulley mechanisms on actual fabric, the group was a little disheartened when we saw the flashiness of the other groups. We did feel revitalized, however, after speaking with our professor. Our spirits were raised with the reminder of the challenge that we took on with a project based on physical output. Due to the nature of the class and the nature of our project, our professor requested that we focus on the mechanics of the outfit more than the interaction of the user with the outfit. Specifically, that we table the user over-ride controls as well as the sensors.

Our professor also suggested some very reasonable changes in focus and design for the project. Because the outfit is so futuristic and it is aiming towards TEI the super hero contest, it is valid to scrap reality and pragmatism. It was suggested that we consider a bubble skirt as a fix for the current bulk problem.

With this in mind, we ran without creative reigns! We completely revamped our audience and application. The new outfit does not yet have a name but there are strong concepts and features we plan on implementing.

First and foremost, the physical movement, we will implement the skirt with hoops that will have it extend over the motors in a victorian-esque style. The skirt will start out long, at around the ankles. On command, the skirt will be reeled in to knee-length, maybe shorter. Ideally, the skirt will be able to reel in asymmetrically as well as symmetrically; this way we can create a more eccentric party look. Second, we will implement similar sleeves. The sleeves would transform from cap sleeves to a futuristic-take on the spaghetti strap. Though we have been working with Lego Mindstorms, we want to try DC motors, because we are sure this will help with bulk and make the transitions snappier.

Sketch of Lady Gaga's hoop dress

Here is what the asymmetric sketch might look like based on one of Lady Gaga's outfits

puffy sleeves sketch from Lady Gaga

Here is a sketch from one of Lady Gaga's outfits that has puffy sleeves similar to the ones we want

The next priority is LEDs. We want the outfit to look futuristic and lively. The LEDs don’t have a particular purpose other than lighting up in our conceptual design. This ties closely to our complete design revamp. We are aiming at a futuristic look and feel for the outfit with a nod at the past. The outfit will have details from the past, such as the hooped skirt and potentially a raised victorian collar with lace trim, but the whole outfit will shimmer, giving it that futuristic-metallic look. With LEDs, the outfit will look more flashy, the trick is to get the right rhythm and colors for it. In addition, addition to the collar, there are plans for a cape for the outfit as well. The idea is that the cape will go with the initial regal look of the outfit only to transition into a funky hood. Below, you can find some images that relate to the ideas and concepts we have in mind.

dress and bowl hat with embedded LEDs

Possible take on LEDs


funky dress with LEDs

Another take on LEDs


futuristic suit with lasers embedded

An alternative approach to lights

Higher fidelity prototype: the belt-skirt

For the past week, we have been toiling to find the right mechanics and set up for the mechanical skirt-belt. The concept is that a skirt can be pulled up to a ruffled belt and a belt can be extended into a skirt, mechanically.

We chose this to be our fully developed prototype because the rest of our outfit follows the same mechanics, if we can master it for a short bit of cloth, the others should be relatively easy. Unfortunately, we’ve found this to be false. The mechanics of the skirt proved to be a challenge due to our materials at hand. We were initially going to use phidget servo motors, but found that the motors we had did not complete a full rotation. Because of this, we moved on to the next motors we had available, Lego MindstormsNXT motors. Although powerful, these are very bulky. In addition to the bulk of the motor, we have had to construct a gear train for the wheels that we attached the skirt pulleys to. This added to the bulk of it all so that the skirt currently has a 6 inch gear train coming out from the back of the user’s skirt.

Back view of skirt-belt with NXT brick and wheels

Back view of skirt-belt with NXT brick & pulley wheels

In addition to the bulk, we have found that the angle of the motors and the gears now make it such that the pulleys do not wind about the wheel, but get tangled. This basically means that we need another motor for our current design.