LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus review

The LilyPad is based on the Arduino platform, but in a form that makes it easier to incorporate into wearable projects. As well as the main microcontroller, there’s a broad range of input and output add-ons under the LilyPad brand that are all designed to look good and to work with conductive thread.

The ProtoSnap Plus kit includes the LilyPad USB Plus microcontroller board (which includes six white LEDs in a bar graph, and one RGB LED), a light sensor, a button, a slide switch, eight sewable LEDs and a buzzer. All these parts come on a single PCB where they’re connected via traces and can be used with no wiring or soldering. However, the individual parts can be snapped out so they can be rearranged before being sewn into a circuit.

Alongside this PCB, you get a micro USB cable, a 110 mAh LiPo battery, two bobbins of conductive thread, and a selection of needles. With this kit you have everything you need to create your own wearable electronics. The LilyPad can even function as a battery charger (through the USB power supply), so it does have everything you need in this kit.

By shipping the various components on a single PCB, it makes it easy to get started – you don’t have to fiddle around with connectors before testing out your code. Once you’ve got your code working, you can snap the components out and sew them into your wearable project.

The integrated on/off switch might sound like an unusual thing to praise on a bit of electronics, but it’s useful for ensuring that you don’t burn through the battery on your wearables before getting to the party (or wherever you’re going).

The microcontroller gives you ten GPIOs, with seven of these taking analogue input and four with PWM output. This gives you enough pins to drive all the included hardware with an additional two available for other bits and pieces.
The LilyPad can be made to work with most 3.3 volt electronics, but there’s a series of peripheral boards that are designed to work well with sewable circuits including accelerometers, temperature sensors, an Xbee module, an MP3 player, a BlueTooth board, a reed switch, protoboard, and plenty of flashing lights. They all come on the iconic purple PCBs and look great when sewn into fabric.

The LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus doesn’t have an overwhelming number of features, but what it does have is well thought-out and works well. It makes a fantastic introduction to sewable circuits.

$49.95 sparkfun.com

Verdict

A great introduction to wearable electronics with everything you need to get started, but more forms of input would make more complex projects possible

9/10

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