Electromagnetic Field is an event that celebrates technology, science, engineering, and weird inventions. For every event we design a badge, but our badges aren’t made of cardboard or plastic. Our badges take batteries.

For EMF 2014 we’re proud to announce TiLDA MKe, probably the most advanced conference badge you’ve ever seen.

What it does

TiLDA MKe is all about the talk and workshop schedule. If everything goes to plan you’ll be able to browse the latest schedule on the badge, automatically updated by a network of radio base stations across the site. Paper schedules ain’t got nothing on us.

Every badge can be registered online so it will automatically alert you about upcoming talks, events or workshops you’re interested in. This time you won’t miss that session on miniature submarines piloted by trained bees. We promise.

The badge will also have a few other practical applications, like a handy torch-mode (with dedicated button) for locating your tent in the dark, a rain alarm, and as many fun applications as we can write in the remaining weeks. We might even port some classic games for you to play on your way home. Every attendee will receive a TiLDA upon arrival. You can take it home afterwards and use it to experiment with programming. Or build a 3D printer. Or a spaceship.

What it is

At its heart the badge is an Arduino Due compatible 32bit ARM Cortex M3. A rechargeable battery will keep it running for days, and you can charge it over USB when the juice runs out. We added a 128x64 pixel LCD screen, two RGB LEDs, a radio transceiver, joystick, accelerometer, gyroscope, speaker, infrared, and all sorts of other fun parts. It’s compatible with Arduino shields and has dedicated connectors for electronic textiles.

Like every great IT project, this one is running fashionably late, so keep an eye on the website to see what we manage to get done! If you’d like to help out, get in touch.

How we made it

Hardware like this doesn’t come for free, but it also doesn’t come out of your ticket price. We want EMF to be as affordable as possible, so TiLDA is completely provided for you by a number of incredible sponsors: Ragworm have spent the last six months dealing with our unreasonable requests while they fabricate and assemble the boards. Element 14Paypal, and Mathworks jumped in at the last minute to save the project from near certain failure, along with Ciseco, Twilio, Imagination Technologies, Shadowcat Systems, ComtecCodethink, Pimoroni, and LPRS.

If you see someone representing them around the site, thank them. They’ve been amazing, and we couldn’t have done it without their help.

The badge has gone through numerous revisions. Work on it started over a year ago, and for the last six months a dedicated team has been frantically working to make it a reality. The final design (in lovely Ragworm orange) is a thing of beauty.

The TiLDA badge PCB

What can I do with it?

The main goal of TiLDA is to give people something that allows them to explore and play with technology they may be unfamiliar with, while allowing advanced users to push the boundaries of its capabilities. We don’t want your TiLDA it to sit in a drawer after EMF is over - we want you to use it again and again.

We want to you experiment, so during the event we’ll be running workshops to teach you what you can do with your badge: everything from basic electronics to programming it in MatLab. Someone might even help you turn it into a tiny robot.

The badge is based on an Arduino as they are the most widespread hobbyist electronics development board. But this time we made sure to give you an ARM processor so more advanced users can play with all the fun bits we tucked into the design. You simply need to download the Arduino software and try out the examples.

What are you still doing with it?

We’re in the final stretch, finishing the firmware and preparing the radio network. We’ll be documenting everything completely, but you’ll soon be able to find more information at https://badge.emfcamp.org/2014

In the meantime, all our code and the badge design itself are available on github.

We’re tremendously excited to see what you do with the badge at EMF this year. Just in case you’ve not bought a ticket yet, they’re on sale right now.

Again, thank you to all of our incredible sponsors that have made this happen, and to the team that has worked on this for a solid year.