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Things We Sell ! Wearable Electronics : Adafruit Flora, Gemma & CPX

July 20, 2018

Things We Sell ! Wearable Electronics : Adafruit Flora, Gemma & CPX

A new regular Blog series.
Featuring quick overviews of the various platforms Elmwood offers.

Intro to Wearable/Sewable Electronics aka 'e-textiles' : Adafruit.

Common Elements:

  • Conductive thread instead of copper wire or circuit board traces.
  • Sewing
  • Fun !

Different Product lines:

  • [Adafruit's evolving wearable ecosystem explained with Starbucks Sizes.]
CircuitPythonExpress aka 'CPX' ( Venti )
Flora ( Grande )
Gemma m0 ( short )
Trinket m0 ( tiny ! )  m0 uses Circuit Python Language. 


    Older models, aka 'counting all the chickens' :

    There were non-CircuitPython ArduinoIDE 'C' based versions of most boards in the past.

    Flora is still ArduinoIDE based.  Adafruit has slowly moved it's product line to be programmable with CircuitPython (a smaller subset of the Python language targeted to small microcontrollers).
    Also slightly confusing, there are a handful of previously existing (& still amazing) Trinket Boards : 
    The Circuit Playground Express  Board (CPX) is the most versatile learning tool, as you can start with Microsoft MakeCode block-based tool, then move to Javascript , or Circuit Python and for the low level coders,  ArduinoIDE. 
    CPX is quickly becoming a favorite in North American schools, giving the Micro:Bit a run for it's money. 

    Important People in wearables from Adafruit :

    Adafruit's Wearable World :

    Adafruit originally went big with wearables with the FLORA arduino based product line. They have been slowly transitioning to CircuitPython based boards such as the Circuit PythonExpress, Gemma m0 and Trinket m0.

    However, if you WANT TO, you can still flash the firmware on those & use good old Arduino 'C'. 

    CircuitPythonExpress is flagship board which can hold all the CircuitPython Library Functions at once. Gemma m0 is a similar board with a smaller set of features & onboard memory for specific use smaller wearable projects. 

    Ideally, learn & prototype with the larger CircuitExpress first, then for build-specific-use projects switch to the smaller Gemma m0 which can hold one or two libraries of code.
    ( Libraries are pre-written code that utilize expanded features of the boards.)

    'Neopixel' is the most commonly promoted library which can drive LED strips to make things like the FIREwalker sneakers
    or the Flora RGB Neopixel button sized lights.

    One could as easily start with Gemma and work with that for quite a while before needing the expanded feature set of the Circuit Playground Express. 

    Adafruit Kits

    Circuit Playground Express Educators Pack


    Gemma v2 Starter Pack 


    Gemma sensor starter pack


    Gemma talking toy guts sound pack

    Flora v2 (ArduinoIDE  / not python based)

    Flora budget pack

    Flora sensor pack

    Getting started with adafruit flora book pack

    Suggested Companions Out of the box:
    • Many scraps of practice Fabric
    • Sewing skills
    • Clear Nail Polish for sealing ends of conductive circuit knots.

    Recommended Viewing:

    Intended Use :
    Learning & creating wearable electronics.
    CPX start with Blocks visual language, then move on to Javascript or Python or even C. 

    If you want to make more out of the box ideas with many lights or UV sensors or larger projects, choose CircuitPythonExpress to prototype.
    Then miniaturize to Gemma m0.
    Or begin with any of the Gemma starter kits.
    Adafruit has a vast library of tutorials over many years with a huge selection of projects to learn from. No (reasonable) upper limit on what you can eventually build. 


    Performance :

    These devices seek to be as low powered as possible, so integer performance isn't really a valid measure here. CircuitPythonExpress and Gemma m0 have very snappy processors for the purpose.

    Hackery Tips :

    Good generic platforms for about anything soft & flexible you can imagine.
    Avoid water.

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