Tag Archives: Fast Company

Your shirt may soon be able to visualize music

Created by the folks at New York-based design lab CRATED, the Sync shirt is described by its Makers as “an audio responsive VJ Shirt” that visually connects its wearer to the background music in a club. This visual connection is derived from an LED-embedded patch that is inserted into the front of the shirt, which pulses at varying degrees of intensity depending upon what music is playing.


Inspired by the emergence of visual DJs that use light and sound in their performances at nightclubs throughout New York City, London and Europe, the Sync shirt enables partygoers to become active participants in the light shows instead of just passive watchers.

As Co.Labs notes, though light-up attire is nothing new, the Sync is on the cutting-edge of visual wearable tech because of the underlying technology used to create it. Whereas fashion wearables that have visual elements likelights often have wires running throughout the fabric of the garments, the designers have done away with wires altogether in the shirt thanks to its collaboration with BotFactory.

The Brooklyn-based startup is also the company behind the innovative Squink technology, which allows Makers to create circuit boards from the comforts of their own homes or offices for less than the price of the average iced coffee. It was the same technology that enabled Crated to print uber-thin and flexible circuit boards right on the patch that powers Sync.

Most impressive of all, thanks to Squink, Crated says they prototyped Sync in just 24 hours.


“Sync was a collaboration inspired by BotFactory’s Squink,” Crated CTO Madison Maxey tells Fast Company‘s Michael Grothaus. “We had met the team about a month earlier and were so impressed by the implications for Squink, especially after we had run into come frustrating PCB troubles with an earlier project. We were excited to see BotFactory crowdfunding and decided to propose a collaboration using Squink boards in wearable technology, as they’re exceptionally flexible and really beautiful if properly designed.”

Squink prints conductive ink on specific material, such as photo paper or glass, enabling Makers to create their own functional circuit boards using conductive ink and glue. The all-in-one printer then goes one step further than just producing out the intricate designs that connect all of the electronic components on a circuit board together. Furthermore, it will then actually pick and place those components onto the board, as specified in a design you mockup on a computer. This process takes a matter of minutes and can be completed for a revolutionary low price of around $2. This makes the prototyping process easier and faster than ever before.


“For the wearables space, Squink is great as it prints boards on paper, so projects can be ultra thin,” Maxey adds. “The patch that responds to music on Sync has a battery and microcontroller onboard, meaning the patch itself could be removed, and attached to another garment without any additional wiring. Often wearable tech prototypes have wires running everywhere. We were quite pleased that Squink allowed us to make something that looks clean from phase one.”

The Sync VJ shirt may only be a proof of concept at the moment, but its creators say they’r exploring a consumer-ready version that can be worn to concerts and festivals. Interested? Back in August, Squink had successfully achieved its $100,000 Kickstarter goal, just by the skin of their teeth.

Maker Movement making a mark

With the World Maker Faire just 42 days away, the Maker Movement continues to create headlines across the globe. The drive to customize, create and innovate is becoming a modern mindset adopted by everyone, ranging from students and startups to celebrities and Fortune 500 brands.

“The next industrial revolution is right around the corner, and it’s going to be bigger than the Internet — or so says a growing army of hackers, designers, artists and entrepreneurs.” Writing for USA TodayTyler Wells penned a piece detailing the rise of DIY culture, contributing its emergence to the low-cost, high-imagination level of makerspaces popping up across the country. “These massive fabrication facilities are like a cross between a business incubator and a manufacturing plant, with sprinklings of academia and community spirit thrown in for good measure.”


The convergence of various forces — a growing community, enhanced visualization, new applications, greater access to tools and increased connectivity — is fueling Makers to create gizmos and gadgets never before conceived, many of which are appearing on display at Maker Faire events throughout the world and crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. This new mindset is enabling everyone to embrace their inner tinkerer. Today, the everyday Maker has the ability to turn any ordinary object into an Internet-connected device with platforms, such as littleBits’ recently-unveiled cloudBit kit.

“With the right motivation and time on your hands, you can now go through your own personal industrial revolution in 90 days, and can launch a company or product within those 90 days,” explained TechShop CEO Mark Hatch. Furthering the Techshop CEO’s belief, Gartner’s Jim Tully recently projected that by 2018, nearly 50% of the Internet of Things solutions would be provided by startups which are less than three years old.

The speed at which today’s Maker’s can go from idea to prototype is absolutely thrilling. “The skill level required to produce a usable prototype or usable object has dropped precipitously just in the last five years,” Hatch added. Even more so, the shared makerspace is enabling for innovation to occur at an incredibly low cost. Wells elaborates upon Hatch’s comments around the movement, writing that “most entrepreneurs are able to cut their development costs by 98% through use of a shared space platform.”


Though, it must be said that the Maker Movement would not be garnering so much attention without the loyal and devoted DIY community. Hatch tells USA Today that the Maker Movement was a “community on steroids,” and the devotion to the ideal is something to behold. Of course, this bond between creator and craft will be on full display at next month’s World Maker Faire in New York City.

“The catalog of success stories is proof enough: The Square credit card reader, Pebble smartwatch, Coin all-in-one credit card and the MakerBot 3-D printer all came from makerspaces in different parts of the country.” The thing that makes the Maker Movement a real revolution, not just a passing fad, is the confluence of cheap manufacturing, cultural entrepreneurship and simple economics.

“Collectively, these forces are democratizing innovation,” the USA Today article notes. This convergence has paved the way for a number of Atmel-powered gizmos and gadgets to hit the market, several of which have even been successfully funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. In addition, the market has seen the emergence of lesser-known projects, ranging from battery-powered skateboards and low-cost irrigation systems for impoverished farmers to DIY smartphones and 3D printing pens.

But it’s not just about startup costs. Innovation itself is undergoing a fundamental shift, as major corporations like Disney, GE, Ford and even Atmel are now sponsoring Maker Faire events, collaborating with existing makerspaces or building their own to cultivate new ideas. In addition, a number of universities and government agencies are also getting into the action, which was evident by this year’s White House Maker Faire.

To further attempt to ingrain the Maker Movement within society, Noha El-Ghobashy of Fast Company believes the Maker Movement is reenergizing our youth to enter into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The author writes that newfound “curiosity about how the world works and an appreciation of how determination and excitement can help solve real-world challenges.”

Lo’ and behold, the Maker Movement is clearly beginning to take hold within certain portions of our culture. With a creative and determined mindset, the possibilities for invention are boundless. Mark Hatch concludes that the Maker Movement community is making a serious impact and, “we’ve only just started.”

A delayed echo of human activity

Writing for Fast Company, Carey Dunne describes Space Replay as a giant ball that constantly records and replays the sounds of public spaces, creating a delayed echo of human activity.

“It’s sort of like a scary sculptural interpretation of the playback in your head of that stupid thing you said, only on a grander, more public scale,” writes Dunne.

Space Replay is the brainchild of designers Francesco Tacchini, a Royal College of Art grad student, as well as Julinka Ebhardt and Will Yates-Johnson of Design Products. 

The trio designed the orb using a latex balloon filled with enough helium to be able to lift a battery-powered, Atmel-based Arduino board, an Adafruit Wave Shield and a small speaker.

The components were neatly packed into a plastic cone, the shape of which helps project sound and protect the balloon from being popped by wires. 

The final and lightest prototype – which weighs 120g – includes the above-mentioned electronics, packaging and the balloon itself.

“The designers unleashed this hovering black ball in public spaces,” Dunne explained. “They filmed it lurking in elevators and awkwardly freaking out passengers, floating down the stairs like a terrible omen, replaying people’s conversations and making industrial clanking noises like the soundtrack to one of David Lynch’s student films.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page here.