If your college has a problem with T-shirts that make a statement, here is something new that they will have to deal with. A Hyderabad-based company, Broadcast, has created the country’s first-ever programmable T-shirt.
Ayyappa Nagubandi says, “We were tired with the boring options of shirts available for men. We wanted to create better fashion choices and so we started off with the idea of a digitally interactive T-shirt. One where you could put any message that you could type on your phone.”
The shirt makes use of basic technology. You have a circuit board, a set of regular LEDs, a battery and a Bluetooth chip to connect to a phone. “We toyed around with the idea for a while and after researching we started using LEDs. The thing with LEDs is that it is great for using for a product, but when it comes to wearing it, it can be quite bulky and uncomfortable,” explains Ayyappa.
So the team worked on a plan B. Instead of the regular LEDs they started using SMD LEDs, Surface Mountable Diode LEDs that are as thin as one millimetre. But the challenges were plenty.
“When we were testing out the circuit board, things worked well, but the challenge to create the same on a shirt was tricky. A circuit board is made of plastic and wearing that will cause discomfort, so we soldered the LED circuit onto a cotton cloth,” he says, adding, “But soldering a cloth is not easy as it burns, so we used a special chemical and then soldered it together. What you have now is a flexible circuit board that doesn’t cause any discomfort.”
A shirt has close to 800 LEDs and is powered by a battery that can be charged. “Currently we use a 1,500 maH battery that lasts for six hours,” he explains.
How it works
“Users will have to download the Broadcast app and then connect their phones to the T-shirt using Bluetooth. Then, whatever message or illustration they type will get transmitted onto the T-shirt,” says Ayyappa. Currently, the group manually creates everything and the plan is to mobilise funds for a manufacturing unit.
“Each circuit takes us at least a day to prepare. The shirts are from vendors in the city, but since the circuits are made by us, and the soldering process on the cloth is something that we developed, there are costs at every step. So the costs could be high,” he says.