tshirtOS: I Want One, and I Want to Hack on One!

by Joey deVilla on August 2, 2012

I’ve given some thought to buying one of those geeky-yet-cool t-shirts lit up with flat LEDs or EL wire, but tshirtOS is the first one that I really want to buy…and hack on. It’s a project created by electronic clothes company CuteCircuit and sponsored by Ballantine’s, and it’s a “wearable, shareable, programmable and 100% cotton tshirt”. It’s also proof of a theory I’ve been espousing for a while: when whiskey and geeks get together, wonderful things can happen.

It features “a small brain in the t-shirt”, which is then controlled by “a big brain in your phone”, in the same spirit as the Pebble smartwatch. In their promotional video (shown above), they suggest a few possible applications, including a constant display of tweets tagged with your favourite hashtag. Perhaps a display that shows to the world how far you ran or walked today? A mood shirt? Magic 8-ball?

Here are tshirtOS’ known specs:

  • Processor: CuteCircuit has been experimenting with two types, both from Atmel — an 8-bit one (which, while sort of old-school, probably consumes very little power and should be relatively easy to program) and a 32-bit ARM Cortex chip (presumably from the same family as Atmel’s SAM4SD32).
  • Display resolution: 32 by 32 large pixels, driven by 1,024 ultra-thin RGB LEDs.
  • Other output: A pair of headphone sockets
  • Networking: USB and Bluetooth. Communication with iOS 4 and 5 is supported.
  • Sensors: Camera (tiny, with 32-by-32 resolution), microphone and accelerometer.

The shirt is currently a prototype, and has the price tag of a one-off. However, if there’s enough demand, they plan to take advantage of economies of scale and mass produce them at a more reasonable price. They’re monitoring the YouTube hits (and presumably other online sources) for that demand, so if you want one — and wow, I do — make some online noise!

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