Sensing and Making Sense of Wireless Traffic

Radio waves surround us but still they remain largely undetected by our senses. Unless we use specifically tuned hardware, such as FM radios, cell phones or WiFi modems, human beings cannot perceive wirelessly transmitted data. FeltRadio is a portable and wireless technology that makes it possible to turn radio signals into visual (LED bar display) and tactile stimuli (Electrical Muscle Stimulation - EMS) as a form of sensorial augmentation. FeltRadio explores and makes us reflect upon what it would be like if we could sense, and feel, wireless traffic such as WiFi or Bluetooth.

Imagine how it would be to bodily sense radio traffic all the time.
Using an experimental engineering approach, FeltRadio allows us to explore and challenge people’s perception of radio and WiFi traffic through sensorial augmentation.

FeltRadio is composed by six parts 1) the antenna, 2) filter, 3) frequency (dB-level) to voltage converter, 4) microcontroller (to translate the incoming voltage levels into output signals), 5) an electronic muscle stimuli (EMS) device and 6) a led bar display. The antenna and a band-pass filter are both tuned to the 2.4GHz frequency band. The signal is then fed into a wideband radio receiver that output voltage according to a logarithmic function of the incoming signal. The above setup creates a rather cruel Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) functionality. The voltage output from the AD8313 is then fed into an ATMEGA64 microcontroller through one of its Analogue to Digital Converters (ADC). The microcontroller can output the detected signal strength (RSSI) both visually on a 10 segment tri-color led bar display and renders it bodily experienced using an electronic muscle stimuli device. The stronger the radio signal, the stronger is the muscle stimuli. The strength of the radio signal (and hence the strength of the EMS sent through a muscle) depends on the power of the transmission and the distance to the transmitting source.

Grönvall, E., Fritsch, J., Vallgårda, A. (2016). FeltRadio: Sensing and making sense of wireless traffic. In the proceedings of DIS 2016: the ACM SIGCHI conference on Designing Interactive Systems, ACM, Brisbane, Australia, 4-8 June 2016.

Frisch, J., Grönvall, E. (2016). FeltRadio – Experiencing and participating in WiFi activities through sensorial augmentation. In the Interactive Experiences track at COOP 2016: Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems, Trento, Italy, 22-27 May 2016.

erig (at) itu.dk