Soft electronics with Atmel MCUs

In a recent ReadWrite article, Lauren Orsini notes that soft electronics rocked the spotlight during Tech In Motion’s Wearable Technology Fashion Show, with models showing off accessories and clothing that lit up, matched moods and collected or displayed personal data.

As Orsini points out, a lot of wearable activity is centered around companies like Arduino and Adafruit. Both offer wearable electronic platforms powered by versatile Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs).

“Building electronics with your hands is certainly a fun brain exercise, but adding crafting into the mix really stretches your creativity,” says Becky Stern, Adafruit’s director of wearable electronics.

“Sewing is fun and relaxing, and adorning a plush toy, prom dress, or hat with a circuit of tiny parts can make you feel like you’re some kind of futuristic fashion designer. Playing with sensors and conductive textiles breaks electronics out of their hard shells and makes them more relatable.”

Indeed, just like their IoT DIY Maker counterparts, the soft electronics community has adapted various Atmel-powered platforms specifically for wearables, including the Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328V) (developed by MIT Media Lab professor Leah Buechley) and Adafruit’s very own Flora (ATmega32u4), which can be easily daisy chained with various sensors for GPS, motion and light.

“There aren’t any hard numbers on the DIY wearables community, but it’s clear from browsing members’ projects on Instructables that this group is far broader than your typical collection of electrical engineers,” concludes Orsini. 

”Stern also noted that there are 10,000 copies of Flora in the wild, [with] the company shipping them worldwide. According to Stern, it’s simple. Make electronics touchable and watch them take off.”

7 thoughts on “Soft electronics with Atmel MCUs

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