Quantifying Touch with the Pi Cap

A wearable that uses the Pi Zero to quantify human touch

quantifying touch


Jude Pullen from Design Modelling and James Bentley from Hellicar and Lewis were given the opportunity to play with the Pi Cap in a recent workshop held at Machines Room in East London. With an open brief to create a meaningful project using the Pi Cap and Raspberry Pi, Jude and James decided to use the capacitive sensors on the Pi Cap to focus on the importance of human touch.

What they created was a wrist wearable that allows you to determine whether your handshakes or hugs are meeting your minimum daily quota of human touch.

The Pi Cap is Bare Conductive’s newest product. A Raspberry Pi add-on, it allows you to add precise capacitive touch, proximity sensing and high quality audio to your Raspberry Pi projects. It works with the Raspberry Pi A+, B+, Zero and later (any Raspberry Pi with a 40 pin GPIO connector). With the sensing precision of the Touch Board, and the computing power of the Raspberry Pi, the Pi Cap has is a great tool for transforming physical inputs to digital outputs.

The Pi Cap will be launching soon, so to be the first to get news about this product and when it’s available, sign up to our Pi Cap newsletter here.

Watch the video to hear James explain their initial concept, and to see their touch sensitive wearable in action.

Having recently read Hands: What we do with them – and why, by Dairan Leader, and Touch: The science of the sense that makes us human, by David J. Linden, Jude was shocked to discover how essential touch is for people to develop and prosper psychologically and emotionally. It turns out people are not getting enough physical contact with their loved ones.


men working on quantifying touch

Jude and James took inspiration from Tim Ferriss’ The Quantified Self, and decided to create a wearable that would allow users to monitor and quantify their daily physical interactions with other people.

They focused on hand holding, handshakes, and hugs to test whether they could measure people’s daily ‘touch quota’.


designs for quantifying touch

Using a Raspberry Pi 3, and a Pi Zero, and the proximity code example from the Pi Cap library, James wrote a program that would allow them to take the signal from one of the Electrodes on the Pi Cap and output via a series of LEDs.

Jude used the prototyping area on the Pi Cap to solder eight red LEDs to their board in the shape of a heart.


Once finished, the hand sensor monitors the length or intensity of users’ contact, and lights up one, two, or all the LEDs on the grid depending on the strength of the reading.

Hug or hold hands long enough and this wearable will tell you whether you’ve maintained physical contact for long enough by lighting up the heart.

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