Recently, here at DIY Life, Ian Lesnet has written some tutorial posts dealing with microcontrollers: devices that essentially act as the "brain" of a small electronics project.
Now Annie Scott, of our sister site, Styledash, has written about a microcontroller called the Lilypad Arduino. On the Arduino site, the 2" wide flower-shaped board is described as "a microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles. It can be sewn to fabric and similarly mounted power supplies, sensors and actuators with conductive thread."
This is all very technical, but in practical terms, what does it mean? Among other things, it's a (relatively) simple way to make hand-washable t-shirts that light up or sing when you go into a dark room, or when you move. Read more about the Lilypad Arduino, including where to purchase it and how to use it, after the break.
Because it's meant to be wearable, the Lilypad Arduino has several applications. For example, you can buy a variety of boards to use with it that allow the finished item to sense light or the wearer's motion, and to give off vibration or LED-based light.
Leah Buechley, who was instrumental in developing the product, has a tutorial page dedicated to the Lilypad Arduino. After discussing ways to program and connect the various components, she demonstrates how to make an accelerometer shirt that lights up based on arm motion.
A Lilypad Arduino starter kit, with mainboard, power supply, a light sensor, LEDs, conductive thread, and the rest of the required equipment, runs about $90 from its manufacturer, Sparkfun Electronics. However, individual components are much less expensive, running from about $15-20 each.