LilyPad Xbee

The LilyPad Xbee,[1] Figure 5-4, is based on the LilyPad. Fauldi and Hartman created a LilyPad Xbee board from the original design of the LilyPad. This board is not a microcontroller in itself but a breakout board for the Xbee and an addition to the LilyPad.[2] A breakout board breaks out the pins of the chip, in this case the Xbee, and makes them easier to access.

lilypad-xbee.pngPhotograph provided by Kate HartmanFigure 5-4 Kate Hartman "The LilyPad Xbee"

The Xbee is a radio frequency which can wirelessly transmit data via the 802.15.4 protocol. The LilyPad Xbee paired with the LilyPad microcontroller adds more capabilities for the data transmitted to be manipulated. Fauldi and Hartman's motivation to create the LilyPad Xbee was to make performance pieces wireless. Performers (often dancers) would get tangled in wires and choreography was sometimes limited to wire lengths. The LilyPad Xbee allows performers more freedom with their movements without the hindrance of carrying large chunky electronics glued or Velcroed in their costumes. Faludi says having wearables accommodating data from the body makes it physically and psychologically a closer space, like an extender body of data around performers.

The performance piece Spin on the Waltz[3], Figure 5-5, uses the LilyPad Xbee so that there are no prohibitive wires. Sensors were sewn into Viennese Waltz costumes and data from each sensor is transmitted wirelessly through the LilyPad Xbee. The sensors include a compass, accelerometer, a flex sensor and two soft switches, which make a connection when the dancers touched. The music in the room is controlled by the sensor data in sync with the dancers rhythm and movement. Spin on the Waltz was created by one of Hartman's students at Parsons, Ambreen Hussian.

spin-on-the-waltz.pngPhotograph provided by Ambreen HussainFigure 5-5 Ambreen Hussain "Spin on the Waltz"

Hartman cited other projects using the Xbee LilyPad in her interview. These include Squak, Touch by Strangers, and Pajama Telepresence. Amy Koshman's Squak. Squak was a bird mask the artist wore while performing on stage to create sounds. Alexander Reader created a piece entitled Touch by Strangers[4], Figure 5-6, which also used the LilyPad Xbee. In Touch by Strangers, jumpsuits were embroidered with conductive fabric in the shape of hands. Performers wearing the jumpsuits, moved through the audience. When the audience touched the conductive fabrics, projected visualizations of flowers blooming were triggered. Reader also created a LilyPad Xbee driven project for partners over distance, entitled Pajama Telepresence.

touched-by-strangers.pngPhotograph provided by Alexander ReederFigure 5-6 Alexander Reeder, "Touched by Strangers", 2008, Manhattan

Aside from the LilyPad Xbee, Faludi, along with Daniel Schiffmann and Igoe created an Xbee API-library for the Processing language. The Xbee API-library[5] was originally created for students at ITP who wanted wireless data to be accessed easily for their artworks, but was readily adapted by artists outside ITP.[6] Faludi says: "It's an attempt to make that data more accessible, especially for performance art projects." The native Xbee firmware is unintuitive to work with, but the API-library creates an Xbee object over a serial interface. This library outputs analog and digital data in values easy to manipulate and understand.


  1. LilyPad Xbee. http://lilypadxbee.katehartman.com/ (visited on 05/13/2009)
  2. Although, it functions without a microcontroller as well.
  3. Design + Technology 09. Parsons, http://cdtproto.parsons.edu/mfadt/?q=node/25 (visited on 05/25/2009)
  4. Touched by Strangers, 2008. http://artandprogram.com/touchedbystrangers/?txt=1&img=7 (visited on 12/01/2009)
  5. Xbee API Library for Processing. http://www.faludi.com/code/xbee-api-library-for-processing/ (visited on 05/29/2009)
  6. See "Wind-Up Birds", page 57.