Tag Archives: Engadget

JöLLY Tracker is a shockingly awesome way to spread holiday spirit

This Santa-like beard uses sensors to gently zap your face as a reminder to turn that frown upside down.

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, the JöLLY Tracker is why. Truth be told, the holiday season can be a stressful one. Between deciding what to get loved ones to navigating your way through crowded malls, sometimes all that happiness can get lost in the hustle and bustle.


Developed by creative ad agency McKinney, the JöLLY Tracker is a wearable of a different kind. It’s not a fitness tracker. It’s not a smartwatch. It’s not even a hat. It’s an embedded Santa Claus beard that has one job, and one job only: to monitor how much you smile. Should you frown, it’ll emit a friendly little reminder in the form of an electric shock to your face. Ho, ho, how about that?

A team of creatives and hackers wanted to devise a wearable concept that would skip the normal metric tracking and go straight to helping spread some cheer.

“We wear devices on our wrists, pin them to our clothes, carry them in our pockets, each one sending us data about our well-being in hope of improving our lives,” McKinney’s ECD Peter Nicholson explains. “JöLLY is a spoof on our obsession with wearables and data. It is, simply, a joyful reminder that the holidays are the happiest time of the year.”


The setup is fairly simple, and resembles that of a recent project from our good pal Simone Giertz. A set of five electrodes are attached to the wearer’s face: two to monitor muscle movement, two to give off the shock, and most importantly, one for ground.

Hidden behind the white facial hair lies an Arduino, a Muscle SpikerShield, a battery pack and a TENS unit that gently jolts the nerves in your face. The JöLLY Tracker is controlled by an accompanying Android app that communicates with the beard over Bluetooth. It counts how many times a minute your smiling, measures the intensity of your smile and displays real-time changes in jolliness over preset intervals. If you’re too grumpy, JöLLY will send electric pulses to your cheeks and jaw. Safe to say, you’ll turn that frown upside down in no time — albeit nervously.


So in the words of Clark Griswold, just “press on and have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny ****** Kaye.”

[Images: Engadget]

Wearable Knitgadget controls your (musical) devices

Royal College of Art student Yen Chen Chang recently debuted the Knitgadget, a wearable glove that allows users to control various devices, musical or otherwise.

As Engadget‘s Mariella Moon reports, the glove is comprised of conductive yarn that’s 80% polyester and 20% stainless steel (and 100% pure awesomeness). Chang knit and crocheted a series of objects that control devices by rubbing, pulling and stroking. When manipulated, the overlap of the metal fiber causes the textile to change conductivity which is then measured by an Atmel powered Arduino and communicated to the gadgets.

“[The glove is] wired so that it [also] functions as a wearable musical instrument that’s both a keyboard and a guitar. This glove is but one of Chang’s unusual creations designed to control devices without the use of buttons and touchscreens,” Moon writes.


The objects’ sensitivity to change in conductivity is contingent upon on how the textiles are constructed. For instance, a knit which is looser because of its looping is better suited for stretching. This provides objects a bigger range of motion. Whereas something like a weave, which Chang used to produce this pair of conductive gloves, means the fibers are much tighter together thus limiting the range of resistance and giving the textile a more precise function.

“The differences of sensing abilities in each textile sensors are determined by the the level of skill that constructed them, and are suitable for different kinds of motion sensing. This forms a new way to control and interact with electronic objects, and encourage people to reimagine how we use them,” the Maker explains.

This glove is but one of the Maker’s recent projects designed to control devices without the use of buttons and touchscreen — ranging from a ball that can power a juicer to a mat that turns on a small electric fan when you pet it.


Chang believes his yarn could potentially revolutionize wearable computing, and one day dreams of working with clothing companies that in the knitted footwear space.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Wired’s coverage of the KnitgadgetEngadget’s write-up, as well as the project’s official page. Not a big fan of reading? Watch the glove in action below.

Engadget talks flexible batteries for wearables

Mat Smith of the Engadget crew recently went hands-on with ProLogium, a manufacturer of flexible batteries for wearable devices.

“[The] flexible-battery manufacturer reckons its thin, flexible lithium-ceramic cells, shaped into wristbands, could offer as much as 500mAh of extra power, with existing models already offering an extra 300mAh,” Smith wrote on the sidelines of Computex 2014 in Taiwan.

“The lithium-ceramic batteries used are solid-state, meaning they avoid the volatility of other lithium-powered power sources. Other safety boons include non-flammable materials and the fact that it won’t explode or set fire if cut into pieces.”

According to Smith, the three- to five-cell layers measure (roughly) 1.5mm thick, making them a perfect fit for a wide range of wearables, including smart glass headsets, illuminated clothing, heating elements and smartwatches.

As Smith reports, the company is already making the bands in various configurations, offering a two-piece that connects to the end of a watch face, along with a chin design that connects and overlaps an existing strap.

Engadget and TechCrunch talk LittleBits Arduino

Yesterday, LittleBits debuted a programmable ATmega32u4-powered Arduino at Heart Module – allowing Makers to easily incorporate sketches into their littleBits circuits. The stand-alone Arduino module can be snapped up for $36, although LittleBits is currently offering an $89 starter bundle that includes a total of 8 prototyping modules.

The LittleBits Arduino module launch has been covered by a number of prominent publications, including TechCrunch, Engadget, Ars Technica, PC World, LifeHacker, TheNextWeb and Geeky Gadgets.

Jon Fingas, Engadget 

“Getting your feet wet with programmable hardware can be tricky; even if you’re comfortable with coding, you may not want to break out the soldering iron just to build a usable device. LittleBits is aware of just how intimidating these make-it-yourself gadgets can be, so it has just launched its first software-programmable module, the Arduino at Heart.

“As the name implies, it’s an Arduino core (the same as the Leonardo) designed to fit into LittleBits’ simple, building block approach to circuit boards. If you want to attach a light, motor or sensor to the Arduino board, you just snap it on — you can spend more of your time coding rather than dealing with wiring and other hardware hassles.”

Greg Kumparak, TechCrunch 

“There’s a reason why one of Google’s top suggestions for ‘littleBits’ is ‘littleBits Arduino.’ The littleBits idea is great — but once a particularly enthusiastic user hit the limits of what their kit could do, the next step (learning to use a standalone Arduino board, which meant also learning proper circuitry, soldering, etc.) was suddenly a pretty big one.

“[That is why] littleBits is introducing an Arduino module into the mix. It’ll snap right into place — no soldering required — just like the other littleBits modules, with one big difference: it’s programmable. You get the programmability of an Arduino, without having to learn the myriad other prerequisite skills. You jack into it via the onboard microUSB port, upload your programming via the standard Arduino IDE, and all of your littleBits modules fall in line.”

Agam Shah, PCWorld  

“Modules for sound and light can be plugged or swapped out in Arduino at Heart for interactive digital art. The board can also be used for input when playing Pong or to show numbers on a simple LED display. Beyond basic electronics, Arduino at Heart can also be used to prototype robots. The servo motor can help build a moving robot and LittleBits is making a robot with an animatronic hand that can play the rock, paper, scissors game.

“Another goal of the kit is to teach hardware basics, including the operation of ports, polarity of LEDs, input-output and other concepts, which are important when writing software to control electronics. The Arduino at Heart board is based on an ATMega328 microcontroller.”

Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

“The new LittleBits Arduino At Heart module, available on its own or as part of an Arduino Starter Bundle, is a simplified version of the Arduino Leonardo… Using the same ATmega32u4 microcontroller processor as the Leonardo, it pares down the number of inputs and outputs in exchange for the snap-together connections.

“Once you’ve outgrown the snap-on inputs and outputs and want to connect non-LittleBits sensors or outputs, the Arduino At Heart board also has additional breakout ‘pins’ on the board itself. The board also includes a USB connector for programming and connection to a PC as a Human Interface Device (HID) keyboard or mouse.”

Roberto Baldwin, TheNextWeb

“The Arduino has become the darling of the electronics platforming world, with its easy to use software and hardware. The littleBits magnetically connected electronics modules have made a splash of their own in the world of electronic tinkerers. So it was just a matter of time before these two came together.


“[Yesterday], littleBits introduced the Arduino at Heart module. The new programmable module connects to the entire line of littleBits magnetic modules that include lights, speakers, motors, switches, sensors and more. Like the standalone Arduino, hardware and software developers can write tiny programs for the device with the Arduino programming language. The programs are then loaded onto the module via a USB connection.”

Interested in learning more? You can find additional information about the new LittleBits module here.

ATmega32u4 MCU powers littleBits Arduino module

LittleBits has debuted a programmable ATmega32u4-powered Arduino at Heart Module. The new component will allow Makers to easily incorporate sketches into their littleBits circuits.

According to a LittleBits rep, the Arduino Module is capable of reading two types of input signals.

“The first is digital, which is a simple ‘on’ or ‘off’ signal. This is the type of signal you will get from a button or trigger. In the Arduino coding language, on is a HIGH signal and off is a LOW signal. All three inputs on the Arduino Module can read digital signals,” the rep explained.

“The other type of signal is an analog signal. Analog signals aren’t just ‘on’ or ‘off.’ They work like a dimmer switch or a volume knob. In the Arduino coding language, analog signals are given a value between 0 and 1023. If you connected a dimmer module to your Arduino and turn the knob up (clockwise), the value would slowly rise from 0 to 1023. The inputs on the Arduino module marked a0 and a1 both accept analog signals.”

As Engadget’s Jon Fingas notes, the programmable module gives Makers much more control over LittleBits’ existing modules, such as the oscillators in the Synth Kit.

“However, it also opens the door to interaction with your computer. Since the Arduino module has USB support built-in, you can create Etch-A-Sketches, Pong games and other programs that have LittleBits and your PC working in harmony,” said Fingas.

“[Plus], many existing Arduino projects should work with only a few slight tweaks to pin assignments.”

The stand-alone Arduino module can be snapped up for $36, although LittleBits is currently offering an $89 starter bundle that includes a total of 8 prototyping modules.

Interested in learning more? You can find additional information about the new LittleBits module here.