MapBag: A Proprioceptive Augmentation Device

Just wanted to show everyone a new project that I’m working on. 

I see the MapBag as a solution to two problems:

1) Re-experiencing the city

I find myself often getting locked into a point A to point B commute mode here in Chicago. The city is full of amazing things to experience, but I inevitably settle into the most efficient and comfortable path to and from work / school. My solution to escape A -> B travel has been to take up the Situationist tactic of Dérive. While a Dérive is a great method for rediscovering/remapping the city, it requires the absence of a deadline to be effective. Should I tell myself before wandering, “I need to be home by 10 PM” I end up constantly evaluating my current position in the grid of the city. This constant evaluation can take the magic right out of the process. The MapBag, as Dérive tool, provides a way to more intuitively experience the city.

2) Biking without distraction

Last Summer while biking to work I got doored. My bike was a little messed up, I lost some blood, but the guy who doored me was great and I’m all fixed up. However, I’m much more careful in the city now. Just like performing a Dérive on a time constraint requires constant evaluation of position inside of the City, so does biking. The MapBag allows me to navigate without any kind of visual distraction.

How it works:

The MapBag contains a small microcontroller, a GPS chipset, and a series of 8 vibration motors sewn into the bag. The microcontroller constantly evaluates the wearer’s current heading and the location of magnetic North, or the relative location of a user-defined waypoint (such as home). The microcontroller informs the wearer of compass information through the vibration motors, basically allowing you to read a compass with your body. 

After using the MapBag for a few weeks, the slight pulses used to convey heading information have become second nature. Most importantly, I no longer find myself using street signs or depending on landmarks to discern my position in the city’s grid.


The MapBag is based on the LilyPad Arduino microcontroller. The LilyPad is a washable, sewable microcontroller designed for eTextile projects.

The LilyPad is sewn directly onto my Chrome messenger bag, and connected to a 2000mA/h battery and charging circuit from SparkFun electronics.

Power is routed through the bag’s lining (thanks to Tania Campos who is a goddess with a sewing machine) and connects to a small perf-board directly opposite the arduino. 

This perf-board serves as a breakout for the arduino and contains a 3.3V voltage regulator, a 5V to 3.3V level logic converter, and connections to a GPS chipset and vibration motors.

A small GPS chipset mounted on the arm strap of the bag allows the bag to constantly monitor speed, heading, latitude, and longitude. 

Sewn into the back of the bag are a series of 8 shaftless vibration motors. These motors form a circle around your chest, and correspond with the points on a compass.

Debugging and configuration of the MapBag is handled via serial communication with a jailbroken iPhone running minicom. 

Videos while under construction:

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  1. kwcomputers reblogged this from joshuabillions
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  3. million-dollar-king reblogged this from engineeringisawesome and added:
    Kylie I so wanna make this for you for your birthday or something! xD
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