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Hula Hoop Experiments

20 March 2012 3 Comments

This summer I fell in love with hoop dancing and have been brainstorming fun ways to combine hooping and soft circuits.

Most of us have seen the fancy LED and fire hoops that make for great performances, but can it be taken a step further and have truly interactive hoops? Here are a few projects I’ve found that bring hooping to a whole new level. At the end of the post I’ve included documentation of some of my own early prototypes.

Lighting/Visual Effects


Uber Hoop


Christian Miller created the Uber Hoop – “The world’s most technologically advanced hula hoop! Features fully controllable RGB LEDs, a MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope, an embedded Arduino, and Bluetooth for wireless communication. The result is a hoop that responds to your motions and dazzles with beautiful light patterns!”

Fiber Optic Hoops


I’ve seen a lot of LED hoops, but fiber optic lighting is a fun twist. This one isn’t interactive, but still captivating to watch.

Controllers – Media and Music


Hula Rhythm

HoopElastic Sensor
This project concept from the Interaction Lab at Holon Institute of Technology utilizes an elastic preassure sensor on the body to register the rotation/pressure of an ordinary hula hoop and translates it into a musical game.

Hip Disc

Hip Disc
The Hip Disc uses conductive fabric on the edge of two hoop-like discs to trigger music. Not quite hooping, but it is an interesting new way of controlling music with your body.

Musical Hula Hoop – Fact or Fiction?

HOOLA 2.0 Demonstration from shmermans on Vimeo.

Hooping.org has a great article on the future of sound making/controlling hula hoops.

Anossens: The Game and The Reality


I really like this use of a hula hoop as part of an interactive game/live show created using Processing and webcams.

Data Logging


Smart Hula Hoop

Smart Hula HoopSmart Hula Hoop
The Smart Hula Hoop, created by a team of students from National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, uses an iNEMO board to “to transform the standard hula hoop into a complete healthcare sports monitor system. They did this by accessing and fusing together output data provided to the iNEMO by its on-board accelerometer (measures gravity and acceleration), e-Compass (measures absolute heading orientation), and gyroscope (measures angular velocity during exercise.)”

My Prototypes

I’m particularly interested in POV toys and if they can be successfully installed on a hoop in a seamless way. I’ve been talking with Instructables author Quasiben (who made a nice and simple Arduino POV) about creating a hoop that you can send text to through a smartphone and change the graphics on the fly. The video below is my first test to see if the hoop rotation was fast enough to display the text properly. Next step is to get the hardware into/on the hoop in a more permanent, clean way (right now it is just taped on the surface).

POV Hoop Test #1 from Angela M. Sheehan on Vimeo.

My other experiments have been playing with the idea of the hoop itself being a trigger, with most of the electronic components residing mostly on a garment. This solves the problem of bulky tech in such a small space. I’ve glued some conductive fabric tape on the inside of one of my hoops and have then been using patches of conductive fabric on various shirts as contact points. When hooping across these areas, the hoop acts as a switch.

Hula Hoop Switch – Test #1 from Angela M. Sheehan on Vimeo.

Beatbox Hoop Mock Up Test#1 from Angela M. Sheehan on Vimeo.

Many hoop dancers use music with their performances, so what if you were able to create the music based on your movement? I’m experimenting with a beatbox drum machine toy to see if I can get some interesting flow happening. I’ll be bringing my prototypes to the Hoopium hoop jams to talk with more advanced hoopers about placement of electronics and feedback. Stay tuned!

3 Comments »

  • Rebecca said:

    Some folks at the ETC did a project with SunSpot microcontrollers, and during an open house thing they attached some to hula hoops for performers to use. Not sure on the exact coding, but I think it’s just positionally generated swirls on screen, maybe some accelerometer use.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHPf3yB7wXA

  • Kelsey said:

    This is so cool! You should consider posting to instructables.com with instructions (mostly because I want to make one of these!)

  • Angela (author) said:

    I’m working on an Instructable as soon as I work the bugs out/test them some more, stay tuned!

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