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SensorTape Project


SensorTape is a sensor network in a form factor of a tape. It allows users to intuitively create large sensor networks. See mode details in the paper from UIST conference and a video This repository contains all the hardware and software design files to make SensorTape.

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Master_hw/ - Hardware files for the master board in Altium format. Can be used to make the board

Slave_hw/ - Hardware files for the tape itself, refered here as the slave. This is the flexible circuit version of the tape

Prog_adapter_hw/ - Hardware files for the programming board, use it to program both the slave and the master.

libraries/ - Collection of the Arduino libraries for the master and the slave. Those libraries are required

Firmware/ - Firmware for both the master and the slave

SensorTape_Demo_V1/ - Processing sketch for a simple visualization demo. Demonstrates the basics of interfacing with a PC.

Getting Started

Connect the mini USB port on the master board to the computer. The master board has two usb ports and the micro USB port is only for 5V power. Connect the tape to the master using the FPC connector on the master. Make sure it secured. The tape has to be placed in the right orientation. There are 5 wires on the tape and the master, and they should match up. See the picture below.

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Turn the switch on the master. The sensor nodes on the tape should light up. Once the initialization is done, the blue light will start blinking. The raw data can be seen on the serial terminal (at 115200 baud rate) The data visaulization can be done using the SensorTape_Demo_V1 software for Processing. In the code SensorTape_Demo_V1.pde. There is a line which defines number of nodes: int numberOfNodes = 16; This should be changed to the number you have, to make debugging easier. Also, if the number is incorrect, 3D visualizations will be messed up.

The IMU sensors need some time to calibrate (about 30 seconds) after powering on. If they are moved during the time the orientation vectors will be messed up.


Add the arduino libraries from the libraries/ folder here to the worspace libraries folder. You will need the following libraries Adafruit_NeoPixel, I2C_dev, MPU6050, and VL6180X_I2C_Soft

you will need a programmer and an adapter board (Prog_adapter_hw/) to load the software. I used AVRISP mKII. you will need to load the bootloader first into the boards. This will set the fuses and the clock frequency. Use the Arduino Micro (3.3V, 8 MHz) for the slaves and Arduino leonardo for the master. Set those before loading the bootloader

PC software

I used Processing 3. You will need one external library (toxiclibs-complete-0020), it is in the libraries folder.


The slaves are basically the tape. The tape is made of strips with 6 slave nodes. You will need a flexible PCB factory to manufacture. The factories in china are innexpensive and have good quality. They can be found on Also it is better to get it assembled profesionally, since hand assembly is difficult. I had a lot of problems with the packaging of proximity sensor melting in my reflow owen.

The programming connector can be hard to attach on the first try, since it is just pressfitted.

When starting the tape wait about a minute for the IMUs to calibrate, otherwise the orientaion data will drift


Master moves the data from the slaves to the PC. I am using an ATMega32u4 microcontroller, which works as a USB modem.

Known Issues

  1. Proximity sometimes dont work if tape is restarted. I suspect that they don't have time to fully discharge. When turning the tape on and off or restarting, wait some time to turn it back on.
  2. The number of nodes is set pn the PC side in the current version. So the nodes dont need to be reset each time PC software is restarted.

Manufacturing and Design

There are three parts needed for manufacturing:

  1. Manufacturing the flexible circuits
  2. Sourcing the parts
  3. Assembly (parts+flex circuit = done!)

We encourage manufacturing the SensorTape from the source files. There are numerous board houses that can do flexible electronics. The prices in the US are quite expensive (few thousand $$$), and the same boards can be made in China for a fraction of the price(few hundred $$$). On the other hand, it is easier to communicate with the US-based manufacturers. The Chinese board houses can be found and contacted directly on places such as

The parts can be bought easily from US-based large electronics sellers such as If you want the parts cheaper, go through It is more difficult, but can be cheaper especially for the ICs.

The assembly should be done by a factory also, using professional equipment. Doing it by hand is possible, but requires a good reflow oven. The oven needs to have even temperature distribution, since proximity sensor packaging can easily melt. There are numerous assembly houses in the US, such as Advanced Circuits. They have reasonable prices (around a thousand). There are also assembly houses in China, that area cheaper, but once again are more difficult to contact.


MIT Media Lab, Nan-Wei Gong, Cindy Kao, Nan Zhao, Felix Heibeck, National Sceince Foundation. MediaLab Logo


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