My creative partner, Rudy Ristich, and I are happy to release the Thotcon 0xA badges, a culmination of about a year of research, discussions, and studies on what would make a wearable, alternative (and screen-less) interface a compelling toy.

  • Here's DePaul's Newsline coverage on the badge.
  • Here's the firmware that we wrote for our badge hacking workshop.
  • Here's a link to other badge hacks that folks at the conference completed.

And here's a description of the badge this year:

The Thotcon 0xA badge is run off the ESP32 board and includes a microphone, speaker, and six backlit LEDs. Additional inputs include five capacitive touch pads that allow for interesting input interactions with the device. This is in addition to the built-in wireless antenna that comes with the badge, giving it the ability to communicate over the air.

Our driving design philosophy this year was to shift away from screen-based interaction and to shift toward other, more natural user interface formats. As screens continue to proliferate, it’s important to consider the effect they have on how we experience the world around us, and how these qualities mediate our perception of things. This led us to begin experimenting with the affordances of audio, which — we’re hoping! — doesn’t make Thotcon a loud, cacophonous experience this year.

To our knowledge, there’s nothing quite like this badge out there. We’re fortunate enough that Nick and the rest of the Thotcon team lets our group at DePaul explore some of the more philosophical sides that emerge from developing embedded, interconnected hardware (while still, of course, keeping it fun!). Badge bling is fine, but this is the beginning of something different.