Touch Activated Glove

Reimagining Bicycle Safety Gear | Projects

  • Riding a bike at night can be very dangerous without the right safety equipment or gear. A common problem amongst night bikers that isn't widely addressed involves turning. Bikers use hand signals to indicate when they need to turn, however these signals aren't always visible at night. This is where the Turn-signal gloves come in.

    The gloves are modifided biking gloves that are equipped with LED lights on the back. The LEDs illuminate when the index finger and thumb of the glove make contact and they Darken when this contact is broken. The user has the option to make the illumination constant or strobe depending on the frequency of contact.

    The gloves are very simple to operate. The user simply inserts their hand into the glove and tightens the velcro strap at the wrist of the glove to keep it snug. The user then turns on the battery compartment on the back and they're ready to go.

  • From the beginning, designing the pair of Gloves was a challenge. I knew from the start that I wanted to have the gloves act as turn-signals and that I wanted it to make the user's intentions clear while being simple to operate. After a couple days of brainstorming, I decided that the way to achieve this was to attach lights on the back of the gloves. I wanted them to illuminate when two fingers made contact, so the user had full manual control over the frequency and duration of the illumination.

    My first iteration was very basic, sloppy, and hardly functional. It was made from loose-knit woolen gloves, a single LED light, conductive thread, and a AAA battery with a small holder. Conductive thread is a kind of thread that can conduct an electrical current. I began by sewing little patches of thread into the fingers and worked it down the length of the fingers, passing through the LED, and eventually connecting with the battery and holder. My initial sewing technique was very poor, inefficient, and often problematic. The stitch I was doing is called a running stitch and which is a simple technique where the needle is passed over and under the fabric. This technique unfortunately left the stitches inconsistant and loose. So loose in fact, that the user's fingers would get caught on the thread and often would ruin the circuit. Despite the flaws with this design, the LED would still occasionally illuminate, proving that my basic concept was on the right track.

     In order to improve the glove's overall functionality, I began testing different elements of the glove to see if they could be improved. I was testing things like the light source and I explored the possibility of using LED tape and an arduino as opposed to simply sewing on small LEDs. I found that the Arduino and LED tape would be too complex a setup and wanted to keep my design reletively simple. Another thing I tested was new kinds of stitches to see if they were more efficient. Tess showed me a technique called an overcast stitch which is essentially sewing in a small, tight spiral pattern. This in turn made the stitches more abundant, secure, and conductive. 

    I then began to assemble my second and final version of the gloves. In this design I opted to use 5 LEDs, a thinner conductive thread, and better gloves while using the same AAA Battery holder. A problem I encountered while sewing the prototype was that I would sew through both sides of the glove. In order to avoid this in the second version I cut a small piece of PVC and wedged it underneath where I was sewing. This fully resolved the problem and it never happened again. In my testing, I realized that the initial patches I sewed into the fingers of the prototype wasnt covering enough surface area on each tip and made the lights not illuminate to their maximum brightness. This made it hard to get the LED to light up. The solution was to sew little patches using reflective fabric and a lot of conductive thread. Unfortunately he material on the palms of the gloves and the front of the fingers was very durable and tough, so much so in fact that it was really difficult to pass a needle through it. To work around this, I glued the patches to the fingers using fabric glue. All of these changes proved to be very effective as the final version of the gloves were far more functional than the prototype.

  • On wednesday, I conducted a final experiment before commencing the assembly of the finished gloves. Due to the durability of the fabric on the palms and fingertips of the gloves, sewing the little conductive patches on would be too difficult a task. I opted to glue the patches on instead. Because the fishbowl had two kinds of glue I ran a simple test by gluing 4 small pieces of fabric to a larger sheet of fabric, two for glue number 1 and two for glue number 2. One of the samples for each kind had an abundance of glue applied and the other had a much smaller amount applied. After letting each sample dry overnight, I determined that the sample that had a large amount of glue number 2 applied was the best choice for the gloves. I then began sewing the components to the gloves. I first sewed on the battery holder with conductive thread and then sewed one of the - ports to the - sides of 5 small LEDs using the same thread. Next, using a new piece of thread, I sewed the + sides of all the LEDs down. Once I this was finished, I sewed up from the back of the glove and up the back of the index finger. Throughout this whole step I was using a newer sewing technique that involved sewing in a spiraling motion making small stitches. This proved to be far more effective than my previous technique and held the thread in place better than before.Once I had reached the tip of the Index finger I used the rest of the thread and sewed into a small patch of conductive thread that Tess was kind enough to make for me. Once the patch was threaded I sewed from the + port on the battery holder up the thumb of the glove just as I had done with the index finger. When I had reached the tip I threaded another patch. I then applied glue number 2 to both patches and adhered them to the tips of each finger. I then repeated that whole process on the other glove and after leaving the gloves to dry overnight, I was done.

  • My initial plan for the gloves involved utilizing several LEDs as the light source which would be powered by a AAA battery. However, It became apparent that the AAA battery could not power more than a few LEDs. As an alternative I opted to utilize Two LEDs attached to Fiber Optic Cables which would conduct the light and thus increasing their overall brightness. Yesterday I began to test this by sewing two fiber optic cables to a small but rigid piece of scrap fabric. In order to properly secure it, I had to use something stronger than thread, Fishing Line. After the cables were secure, I sewed a couple of small LEDs to each end and attached them to a AAA battery. This proved to be effective with the Fiber Optic Cables conducting the light beautifully. Today I ran a similar test in which I sewed a strip of LEDs to a similar piece of fabric with fishing line. I then attached a lilypad arduino to the fabric and sewed the appropriate connections to eachother. The - port on the arduino connected to the ground connection of the LEDs, the + port on the arduino connected to the 5V connection on the LEDs, and the 3 port on the arduino connected to the Digital-in connection of the LEDs. After downloading an LED code off the web and syncing it with the arduino software, I ran an strandtest and changed the parameters to my specific situation which proved successful. The LEDs are now lit and change color at random. When a Fiber Optic Cable is held up to each light, it produces a bright, colorful, and a perfectly visible effect. While this test was interesting, I don't think it's entirely practical to incorporate an arduino into the final product. I think that the lights in the glove will be much more similar to the setup used in the first test.

  • When asked to brainstorm ideas about reinvented bicycle gear, I came up with the basis for my project, gloves that function as turn signals. The idea was to have a glove wired so that when the index finger and thumb touch together, lights around the wrist illuminate, signifying that the wearer intends to turn. I have designed a partially working prototype that is displayed in the attatched images. I began by sewing a little pad on the thumb utilizing multiple layers of a conductive thread. I then sewed down the length of the thumb with the same thread, down to the wrist, and around to the back where I sewed on a AAA battery holder. I then used more thread to sew on the holder from the other side. At this point I switched to a smaller thread that proved to be much easier to work with. The original thread I was working with proved difficult to thread through the needle, often splitting and fraying at the end. I used the thinner thread to connect the + side of the battery holder to the + side of a small LED light also located on the back of the wrist. I then sewed a small pad of conductive thread on the index finger of the glove, and like I had done with the thumb, I sewed down the length of the finger and to the wrist. From there I sewed around to the other side where I connected the thread to the - side of the LED. The LED now illuminates when the two fingers touch, however it doesnt always work. I hope to expand upon this and use fiberoptic cables to add brightness to the glove, thus making it easier to see by motorists. For future versions of this project, I would use a tighter knit or a woven glove. The problem is that the conductive threads I was using weren't as flexible as the material of the glove, the threads came loose in multiple places on the glove as a result and could lead to lack of functionality altogether.