Sometimes, wearing your heart on your sleeve — or your shirt — is a good thing.
New Media students at the University of Maine have developed technology that allows those looking for love, friendship or business connections to do just that. In last semester’s interactive Web development class, students created the electronic Friend Finder, a wearable device designed to help people make a personal connection and break the ice.
Several students involved with the project will demonstrate how the Friend Finder works at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the Department of Art Gallery, located in Lord Hall on the UMaine campus. The Friend Finder make a unique, unexpected Valentine’s Day story.
Students initially envisioned the Friend Finder as a dating service on campus, working from the premise that if a person were given more information about the personalities of the people they pass by, other then what they see, they would be more likely to break the ice and start a conversation.
In a nutshell, it works like this: Users enter their preferences and personality traits into a computer program and upload the information to a small, portable device. The user then plugs the device into a shirt or handbag wired with small LED lights incorporated into the design. When users with similar preferences come within 30 feet of each other, the clothing or bag lights up, making it easier to spot a potential match in a crowd.
“The project development was basically like running our own business,” says Sean Collins, a junior new media major from York, Maine. “We learned so much researching different hardware and how everything worked.”
The Friend Finder project continues to evolve. Junior Timothy Howe of York is researching ways to make the device smaller and more affordable, and he plans to apply for a grant to test new fabrics, computer chips and electronic ink, which changes color when exposed to different charges. It is the hope that the project will continue to present new marketable ideas in wearable technologies.
“We just established that it is possible to do it,” Collins says. “Now we have to take what we have and make it in a more compact size. Technology is going mobile now, and this could be the next step with wearable technology.”
Next Wednesday, students Katherine Amato of Hancock, Sean Collins and Timothy Howe, both of York, will be on hand to demonstrate the Friend Finder. Owen Smith, director of UMaine’s New Media Program, will also be available to answer any questions about the project, the program or the technology.
Image Description: Friend Finder