BP LAB reimagines ballet.
It's about innovation - coming up with smart, surprising, technology-driven solutions to help the 21st century dancer perform better than ever before. It sees these athletes as something other than dancers: it sees them as users.
And in reimagining the dancer as a user and in striving towards design innovation, BP LAB aims to understand not only what ballet dancers use, but why they use it - understanding both the design and functionality of ballet apparel and equipment. We ask, Why this specific garment or piece of equipment for this specific activity?
In short: Why does ballet need X?
(...And how can we design a better X)
Through answering this question of Why X?, BP LAB explores how technology can enhance the existing functionalities of ballet apparel and equipment and allow ballet dancers to gain greater insight into the status of both their own body and what is on top of it - their clothes and equipment.
BP LAB consists of a collection of concept prototypes, each using sensor-based technologies in order to provide feedback to dancers about their performance, technique, or equipment status. Some act as learning tools for younger dancers, others act as a means of monitoring both technique and equipment in order to prevent injury.
However, all reconsider the longstanding conventions of ballet, demonstrating a potential area of discussion and research in design and technology, and calling attention to how innovators in these fields have overlooked an entire population of athletes worthy of innovation - namely, ballet dancers.
THE DANCER AS USER,
BP LAB AIMS TO UNDERSTAND
NOT ONLY WHAT BALLET DANCERS USE,
BUT WHY THEY USE IT.
INNOVATORS IN DESIGN AND
TECHNOLOGY HAVE OVERLOOKED AN ENTIRE POPULATION OF ATHLETES WORTHY OF INNOVATION - NAMELY, BALLET DANCERS.
PSTN creates a new way for young dancers to learn one of the key foundations of ballet:
the five foot positions.
A simple wooden floor mat embedded with proximity sensors to detect user movement, PSTN has two different modes:  the first signals to the user their current foot positions via lighting the corresponding number of LEDs on the PSTN tile in the upper right corner;  the second "quizzes" the user on the different positions, adding new positions to the sequence until the user guesses incorrectly.
Both functions serve as learning tools designed to make ballet training a more interactive,
PSTN prototype #1, finished view
Each tile is embedded with a photoresistor and three 5mm white LEDs. The photoresister senses user proximity based on changes in light level input. When a user is standing on a particular tile, that tile then lights up based on the photoresistor / sensor data. This is a simple analog circuit that uses a voltage divider mechanism to vary the amount of current sent to the tile LEDs.
PSTN prototype #1, detail view
The PSTN tile serves as both a feedback mechanism and a way to "quiz" users. The tile lights up one, two, three, four, or five LEDs to indicate the user's current position. In quiz mode, the tile will first light a certain number of LEDs, indicating which position the user should go to. If the user is correct, the LEDs will flash once and their left/stationary foot will receive a vibration. The tile will then add a new position to the sequence. If the user is incorrect, the LEDs will flash three times, they will feel three vibrations, and the sequence will reset. The longer the user continues to be correct, the more positions in the sequence.
flx / pnt
FLX/PNT shoes bring ballet dancers back to the basics.
A hacked version of the traditional ballet slippers, FLX/PNT tells users how far they have pointed their feet, receiving input from embedded flex sensors that run along the sole and sending corresponding output through a 12 LED ring in the toe of the shoe. The greater the point, the greater the number of lit LEDs.
By providing a real-time, visual feedback mechanism, the shoes support active stretching and allow users to track their progress over time.
FLX / PNT prototype #1, detail view, Adafruit Gemma Microcontroller & conductive thread circuit
Detail view of FLX / PNT showing connections from microcontroller to the flex sensor within the shoe's insole and to the neopixel ring at the toe of the shoe. Circuit connections are made via conductive thread.
FLX / PNT prototype #1, finished view
Finished view of FLX / PNT – when the user points his or her foot, the LED ring at the toe of the shoe lights up. The greater the point, the greater the number of LED neopixels that are lit.
FLX / PNT prototype #1, detail view, Neopixel ring (off state)
Detail view of the toe of FLX / PNT that contains an embedded neopixel ring. Current view shows how the shoe looks when idle.
FLX / PNT prototype #1, detail view, Adafruit Gemma Microcontroller
Detail view of FLX / PNT microcontroller. Adafruit's Gemma microcontroller allowed the shoes to receive input from the flex sensor (pin A1/D2) and send output to the neopixel ring (pin D0), while also supplying controlled power to these components.
Using the data recieved from an accelerometer/magnetometer/gyroscope sensor, our RPM skirt measures how many full, consecutive turns, or fouettes, have been completed in a given period of time. This turn count is visualized by the number of LEDs illuminated along the side of the skirt.
Once it detects that the user has stopped turning, the skirt resets the counter and LED outputs back to zero.
In ballet, it is particularly significant to complete thirty-two consecutive fouettes - a feat first accomplished in 1893 and subsequently incorporated into many 20th Century ballets such as Swan Lake.
RPM prototype #1, finished view
RPM consists of a basic Bullet Pointe Ballet Apparel Skirt modified with the addition of an Adafruit Flora microcontroller, a 9DOF (accelerometer/magnetometer/gyroscope sensor), and 14 sewable RGB neopixels.
RPM prototype #1, detail view, Adafruit Flora Microcontroller, accelerometer / gyroscope / compass, RGB Neopixels
Designed to visualize how long a dancer is spinning and/or how many consecutive fouettes they have achieved in a given amount of time, RPM measures this specific, time-based movement and outputs the duration over time via the LEDs that run alongside the skirt. The longer the dancer continues to spin, the greater the number of LEDs that are lit.
RPM prototype #1, detail view, Adafruit Flora Microcontroller
Detail view of RPM showing the conductive thread connections between the microcontroller and components.
Updating typical studio class attire, we have created insulated shorts with integrated heating elements that target key joints and muscle groups to prepare the user's body to perform its best.
As the interior heating components begin to activate, the exterior thermochromic embroidery changes from black to white, signaling the change in temperature.
WARM UP prototype #1
Finished view of WARM UP heating shorts. When connected to a power supply, heating elements within the shorts warm the user's hip joints – key areas in a dancer's body that require preconditioning like stretching and heating prior to performance.
WARM UP prototype #1, detail view
As the shorts heat up, their internal temperature is signaled via two outputs – one digital and one analog. (see next slide)
WARM UP prototype #1, detail view, thermochromic thread
The analog temperature data output consists of thermochromic thread. Embroidered in a linear design over the heating elements, the thread changes from dark gray to white as the internal temperature increases.
WARM UP prototype #1, detail view, Neopixel LED temperature output
Three neopixel LEDS are used as the digital temperature data output. The LEDs are lit based on the internal temperature readings via a temperature sensor within the shorts – with one LED meaning "warm", two meaning "warmer, and all three meaning "hot".
Interested in testing out some of our prototypes?
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- BP LAB
Jane McDonough © Copyright 2015