IM BLANKY is a self modeling blanket exhibiting primitive cognitive capacities.
IM BLANKY is a self-positioning and representing blanket. Its ability to know and represent its state in time and position in space approximates the most primitive and essential form of cognition, the awareness of one’s own body. By draping it over an object the blanket reproduces digitally and in real time that which it covers. This ability constitutes a foundation for multiple functionalities employing myriad sensing capacities that may be implemented in future generations of the e-blanket.
The project takes on the techniques and figurative traditions of embroidery, by stitching an array of soft and hard sensors with conductive threads onto a base fabric.The electronic components and their circuits constitute figurative patterns: decorative by-products of their functional logic. When arrayed in larger configurations they yield complex designs that echo traditional themes of embroidery, vegetal and animal such as flowers, butterflies and other natural morphologies.
The (soft) Hardware
The blanket measures 7’7” x 4’2” and is composed of a distributed field of 104 soft tilt sensors. These familiar soft sensors form the most basic motif: the flower. The flower consists of 6 conductive petals, linked by resistors, and a conductive tassel in the center. The flowers are grouped together into 14 larger configurations or clusters and 2 half clusters. Working as a directional marker, the tassel’s contact with a petal registers a specific orientation or tilt of the blanket. The flowers are arrayed around the circular double power circuit, and their stems plug into a computational hub (Multiplexer). The clusters are then linked together, into a larger network of clusters, each relaying the position of its flowers to a micro-controller stitched to the back of the blanket. (Arduino LilyPad)
The distribution of sensors is based on an underlying hexagonal structure. Each flower occupies a hexagonal cell, surrounded by six neighbors. As the software receives directional (N,S,E,W) input from a cell, it is able to reconstruct a slope based on the position of that cell and its immediate neighbors, generating essentially a surface of peaks and valleys. (Processing)
IM BLANKY was conceived as part of a submission for the exhibition STICHES Suzhou Fast Forward, organized by WORKshop in Toronto, and curated by Larry Richards. The show explores modern digital processes in relation to the traditional craft of Chinese embroidery.