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Email Counting T-Shirt


So we've all been there - you open up your email after not checking it for a few days (hours or minutes) and you have dozens of emails to slog through. Just when you are starting to work your way through them, someone comes up to you and asks, "Are you busy? I had a question about..." Not wanting to be rude, the emails continue to pile up as you listen to your coworker. But what if there was an easy way to show (not tell) that you were, in fact, quite busy? Well, check out this nifty email counting t-shirt.

This project from Boston-based developer Chris Ball and his wife Madeleine uses a LilyPad Arduino, some LilyPad LEDs, a Bluetooth connection, and a simple t-shirt design to create a shirt that will display to everyone around you how many unread emails you have sitting in your inbox. The LilyPad Arduino communicates with an Android-based phone, and then lights up the corresponding LED. The shirt maxes out at 127 emails, which should be plenty for most of us.

Check out this article from Launch to see more information on Chris and Madeleine and their e-mail counting t-shirt. Great work!


Comments 26 comments

  • Thanks everyone!
    I should mention (as I do in the blog post I made announcing the video) that this is thanks to Free Day 2010 – I had no experience with Arduino before my Free Day order, and wouldn’t have been able to justify spending >$100 on electronics to tinker with without the added incentive of Free Day. So, thanks very much!
    Chris.

  • This is just lovely. The things that impress me most aren’t crazily complex, they’re creative combinations of simple things.
    How comfortable is it to wear? I worry that the battery + dongle + lilypad would create a real tug down the left side of the shirtfront.

    • I second that. It’s never the technology, it’s how you use it. Simple but awesome project.

  • Can you find a smaller battery (like a watch battery) that could do this?
    I think it would also look good if you sewed a pocket over the electronics parts.

  • Ok,… your crazy.

  • Interesting idea :) But I especially love the part that says “shows people you’re too busy to talk” :)

  • you could also use it to display binary numbers inputted into a phone’s calculator, if you have the right software.

  • If you guys do Freeday again.. (PLEASE PLEASE!) It would be fun to initiate a year long contest for projects built with freeday parts. Maybe 10 lucky winners get a free day grand prize the next year.
    You could open the contest for like 8-10 months before free day. Then use the entries for posts advertising free day.
    Part of the free day checkout could be voting for a champion.

    • I found sparkfun AFTER they did freeday, and I can’t wait to see how great it will be! Methinks I’ll get the SF inventors kit!

    • Well, I imagine they will definitely do Free Day again. Its only a couple months away till January, when I think they have typically been doing it.

  • If I remember correctly, someone has already done a project like this. They used what they got from SFE’s first Free Day.

    • It’s the same project – the youtube video is from March 2010, but it just went through another round of being picked up by news sites for some reason. :)

  • not even a rounding error on my inbox :)

  • Better install a spam filter (or at least a 16-bit counter) or that shirt will be useless.

  • I must say that is very creative and a great use of multiple unique technologies. I would only consider a Lipoly that did not require a boost converter and could be sewn flat.

    • Don’t know that I’d want to sew or machine dry a lipo!

      • He meant that the lipoly would be flatter than the AAA battery used in the video, and would not require a boost converter. I imagine it would be sewn into the garment by just wrapping it with thread, rather than piercing it.

  • Gosh do I hope I meet a lady who would make things with me =)
    You’re a lucky man, Chris!

  • Last I looked I had 3000+ “unread” emails. I would need at least 12 LEDs!

  • I’m not too familiar with the whole “wearable electronics” thing. I know what a LilyPad is because I’ve read about it on SparkFun, but there’s always been one question on my mind.
    Can you wash your clothes with all the electronics on it? If so, do you need to hand-wash and air dry everything or is it sturdy enough for the washing machine and dryer?

    • Hand washing and air drying is recommended. If you use any input devices, like buttons or dials, make sure they are sealed and rated for getting wet. If you dryer has one of those removable shelves for dedicates, you could probably use that on the delicate setting. I wouldn’t use any fabric softeners or harsh soaps though.


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