Brooklyn Public Library

Project Alava: BKLYN or Bust (T minus 3 days)

Posted on April 30th, 2019 by Tom Ball.

I’m blogging from the Brooklyn Public Library, a magnificent example of Art Deco architecture in New York City. Microsoft Research (MSR) is privileged to be working with the BKLYN Fashion Academy, who graciously agreed to let us bring Project Alava‘s web of microcontroller technology into their show On the Runway: Homage to Future Fashion.

We are in one of the library’s workspaces, filled with spools of thread, sewing machines, scissors, tech, and garments in various stages of preparation by 20 designers. Each of the designers is creating a collection of several garments, one of which must incorporate wearable technology.

MSR intern Teddy Seyed (University of Calgary, Canada) is the mastermind of this first application of Project Alava, as he has extensive experience working in the world of fashion technology (in fact, he was the one who reached out to the organizers and got this party started). Teddy has been in Brooklyn for almost two weeks, after more than four months of preparation in Redmond, Washington. Here he is, working with one of the designers:

Teddy Seyed

MSR intern James Devine (Lancaster University, United Kingdom) is sitting next to me, alternating between debugging his JACDAC protocol for plug-and-play of microcontrollers, and soldering last minute enhancements to Teddy’s prototype fashion beads:

James Devine

Peli de Halleux is using MakeCode Maker to program the light bead to control neopixel strips (very popular):

Peli de Halleux

The good news is that the software and hardware is working (for the most part - just a few pesky bugs to squash); the designers’ garments are taking shape. Until tomorrow, when I’ll tell you about all the different threads that had to be woven together in this effort!