🏃 The Best Controllers for Wearable Tech

This post is part of a series on the best controllers for DIY electronics.

For wearable tech, you’ll want something tiny but powerful. It’s nice to have integrated sensors and/or feedback — like accelerometers, LEDs, and haptic motors. These are pretty evenly split between working on their own or requiring wireless communication.

Tech recommendations

Hackster 101 tutorialStrandbeest robotHand signal vestDeath Star!

The TinyLily is ideal for standalone projects. It’s washable, sewable, and the size of a dime! It runs on a coin cell and takes Arduino code. It’s got a decent set of digital and analog pins. It goes for just $10 (you’ll also need one USB programmer module). This thing is nigh-unnoticeable in e-textiles, and will just slightly bulk up your jewelry. Plus, you can get tiny sewable LED modules (with built-in resistors!) to go with it. There’s a strange lack of online projects, but it takes Arduino code and will work with most tutorials.

Hackster 101 tutorialNautilus haptic pendant

The MetaWear series also deserves mention: If you’re already familiar with mobile app development, check out these tiny powerhouses. They’re ready-made hearts for an infinite range of wearable and biotech applications, including coin-battery and rechargeable options with various sensors.

MetaBeaconTweetable necklaceGaming force-feedback bracelet

If you just want something that looks pretty and can be quickly deployed (while you focus on the rest of your project), write a Pebble app. They have great tutorials. Plus, the Pebble Time Round is the first and only smartwatch that I consider beautiful enough to serve as a “real” watch. And there are inexpensive models available, as well as older ones that are still supported. New models can work with DIY “smartstraps” to add physical integrations.

NFC payments3D flying simAltimeterWearaboardLasers!

The most popular DIY wearable tech projects

  • Paired bracelets, pendants, or rings (these also sometimes show up as lamps). The Bluetooth-enabled MetaWear is small enough to hide in small places, with examples to help you build a beautiful companion app.
  • 💓 Pulse-detecting wearables: TinyLily’s got this. Small but mighty, it should pair well with a heart rate sensor and some feedback mechanism. Give it a nice rechargeable battery to draw from.
  • Wearable help alert buttons for the elderly or infirm, often with fall detection. The MetaWear was born for this; the new Hexiwear is also promising, especially once it grows up and slims down a little. (Then again, the big friendly buttons and form factor could be a plus.) Add GPS for instant location updates.

Check out our wearable tech group for useful tutorials, share your thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned for more recommendations this week.

DIY robots, music, EEG, wearables, languages. FIRST alumna. Hardware Nerd @hacksterio. She/her

DIY robots, music, EEG, wearables, languages. FIRST alumna. Hardware Nerd @hacksterio. She/her