These Arduino-powered shoulder pads make Wi-Fi visible

Hertzian Armor is a piece of shoulder armor that visually illustrates the ubiquity of Wi-Fi networks. 

In today’s constantly connected world, there are an infinite number of wireless signals being sent to and from the gizmos and gadgets around us. However, they cannot be seen. As a way to better oberseve these invisible interactions, UC Berkeley design students Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby have created what they call Hertzian Armor — a wearable device that visualizes the ubiquity of Wi-Fi.


The duo first coined the term “Hertzian space,” as a way to best describe the interfacing between electromagnetic waves and human experiences, which served as the basis for the project.

“Our initial approach to this assignment was to create an object that allows us to see the unseen. In this way we could begin to explore how we interact with the invisible world around us, and start a conversation about something we may come in contact with everyday, but not fully understand,” the Makers write. “We initially started looking at alcohol sensors and pollution sensors, two things we are affected by but never see. While brainstorming how to implement this technology in the wearable, we stumbled on a larger goal, how can we make Wi-Fi visible?”

The wearable itself is comprised of cyberpunkish shoulder pads that are embedded with an Adafruit Wi-Fi breakout module with an on-board antenna attached to a LilyPad Arduino (ATmega328P) tasked with scanning for nearby networks. Aside from that, the piece of armor is powered by a 2000mAh polymer lithium-ion battery, while a LilyPad LiPower supply converts the 3.7V from the battery to the necessary 5V to juice up the entire unit.


Meanwhile, a few overlapping pieces of neoprene are equipped with NeoPixel strips underneath each flap that are used to signify the strength of the received wireless signals. The color-changing RGB LED output represents the security or openness of each particular network: red for highly-secure, restricted networks (WPA2), green for less sure, open networks (WPA, WEP), and blue for open hotspots.

“We decided on creating shoulder armor because we wanted a wearable that would be bold enough to display at Burning Man or an event like Silicon Valley Fashion Week, but also simple enough to be worn around Berkeley,” Dunne and Raby explain.

Well, mission accomplished! Intrigued by this wearable project? Head over to its official page on to learn more, and be sure to watch it in action as their prototype illumines in red, green and blue as its wearer wanders through the campus turning heads along the way.

1 thought on “These Arduino-powered shoulder pads make Wi-Fi visible

  1. Pingback: These Arduino-powered shoulder pads make Wi-Fi visible - Internet of Things | Wearables | Smart Home | M2M

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