Tech by VICE

Wave Emojis at Your Friends with Velcro LEDs

The latest wearable from MIT’s Fluid Interfaces group wants to write information on your body movements.

by Daniel Oberhaus
Oct 17 2016, 11:00am

When the calculator watch hit peak cool in the 1980s, it would've been hard to imagine that the nerdiest gadget ever made also prefigured an impending revolution in wearable tech that for better or worse is still going strong today.

But as heavily marketed, but seldom bought devices like the Apple Watch or Google Glass have demonstrated in the 30 odd years since, creating wearable tech that is both functional and fashionable is a tall order. You'll either find yourself with a digital tool that also makes you look like a tool, or a superfluous piece of gadgetry that is more trouble than it's worth. In most cases it's some combination of the two.

Perhaps that's why Fluxa, the new wearable being presented by MIT's Fluid Interfaces group at the User Interface and Technology Symposium this week, feels like a breath of fresh air.

Unlike Apple Watches or Google Goggles, Fluxa makes no pretensions to being a fashionable accessory. It's a Velcro LED strip that you attach to your arms and use to display information by waving your hands in the air like you just don't care.

The information that can be programmed to be displayed on Fluxa ranges from 8-bit emojis to actual data, like how fast or far you've run. This is accomplished by making use of a phenomenon known as persistence of vision, where the eye perceives motion when a bunch of images are shown in rapid succession. In this case, different LEDs will light up in rapid succession, and when you move your arm back and forth, it will either display a completed still or moving image.

It's kind of like light-up Velcro shoes for adults insofar as all of your real friends would strongly advise you against buying light-up Velcro shoes for adults because they'll make you look fucking ridiculous, but you know as soon as you slip those bad boys on you'll look cool as hell.

If I haven't gotten my point across already, take a gander for yourself at how cool these people look using their Fluxa:

Images: Fluid Interfaces


Although the MIT team responsible for the image has some noble use-cases for Fluxa, like visualizing real-time biodata such as your heart rate or communicating in noisy or dark environments, it's hard to imagine Fluxa being used anywhere EDM and copious amounts of psychedelics are not also present.

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