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Marielle Riley is a freshman in college pursuing the field of architecture of computer science. I recently meet her father and he told me about a cool Arduino-driven costume Marielle made that had movable antennae. I asked her to tell me about it. Here’s what she wrote:

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Making costumes has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Another favorite hobby of mine is attending anime conventions. I primarily became interested in anime conventions because of the aggregation of creative people and their collection of homemade costumes of inspired media characters. These costume gatherings are known as “Cosplays.”

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Of all the fashionable styles to emulate, I prefer generic and American media characters, such as the generic Irken invader from the popular old Nickelodeon show “Invader Zim.” Having tinkered with Arduino-driven animatronics in the past, I decided to go beyond simple blinking LEDs and by exploring the realm of flex resistor-driven servos.

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Inspired by videos of people’s theatric mechanical wings and robotics that mimic the movements of the controller, I decided to create a way to seamlessly control the antennas of my costume. To do so, I took one flex sensor for each antenna and stitched them into the fingers of my alien glove. Every time I bent one of my fingers in the glove, the associated antenna would bend in unison via a small servo affixed to a headband.

The most difficult part of the process was writing the code and determining the right mapping values for the servos to bend accordingly. Then I had to find a material light enough so the servos could move without being bogged down by the fabric. Eventually I settled on a lightweight cardboard wrapped in thin black cloth. Thankfully, my generic character has a “PAK” (kind of like a backpack) in which I could store the Arduino, circuit board and batteries. In the end everything worked out as expected.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. My next revision will incorporate lighter wires and also fine tuning of the programming and servo motion. I hope to have a renovated version available for the big annual anime convention called ACen. Even though making Cosplays is just a side hobby, I want to explore even more ways to improve my work using digigrade limbs, mechanics, audio integration, and the use of prosthetics.

Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is the editor-in-chief of Make magazine, and the founder of the popular Boing Boing blog.


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