The initial idea was to have a calendar selector that utilized blocks. This calendar selector allowed a user to manipulate the blocks to select a day. When they selected a block, a camera might snap a picture of them for One Picture A Day project. This idea problematic due to blocks having only 6 sides. We then struck upon the idea of using multiple zippers to select the date. One zipper for Month, one for Day. This would still trigger the capture of a picture. When we decided upon zippers on a pillow the idea grew into an audio journal, selecting the date with zippers. Due to difficulties with audio recording on Arduinos we moved to the idea of playing ambient (and otherwise) noise from a pillow. This was pillowTalk.


pillowTalk is an audbile pillow that can be used to play white noise, music, audio books, and any other form of audial media. It uses a zipper as a novel volume control. The zipper acts as a potentiometer, adjusting the length of the conductive rails through which the current must pass. There's something satisfying about silencing a song by zipping pillowTalk closed.


  • Processor (Lilypad MP3)
  • Pillow Components
    • Zipper
    • Conductive Thread
    • Fabric
  • Speaker (-90 dB)
  • Battery (500 mAh)
  • 2Gb SD Card


In creating pillowTalk, we ran into many hurdles, some of which we managed to overcome. The first hurdle was a time constraint. Jonathan was in the Caribbean for the duration of Spring Break. It was impossible to come by new components on St. John when he found he did not have those necessary to record voice. The second issue was one of processing. The Arduino is insufficient to record voice. There are breakout shields, but they weren't up to the task we required. Then we fell into an endless cycle of attempting to prototype our zipper controller. There are one or two guides on the internet for similar zipper potentiometers, but they all seemed painfully complex. We entered a design and scrap cycle that lead us to our final zipper. We called the discarded potentials "The Zipper Graveyard".

The Zipper Graveyard: A handful of the many prototype zippers we created.

Some of our prototypes:
  • Straight Rail Conductive Thread
  • ZigZag Conductive Thread
  • Loop Resistor Conductive Thread (The Centipede)
  • Straight Rail Conductive Paint (close to teeth)
  • Straight Rail Conductive Paint (far from teeth)
  • Conductive Paint with spikes
  • Conductive Fabric near teeth


This project presented many more difficulties than those prior to it. Additionally, the fact that the project included Spring Break presented unique challenges. We feel that many unconventional (low tech) materials are unconventional because they are difficult to use. This makes the project, at times, feel as though we're attempting to force a material to perform a task for which it is ill suited. In the end, though, we were pleased with our result!