Whoa Board Lights Up Somerville

whoa board

When Josh Vekhter bought a loom from a yard sale last year, he had an unusual idea: to build clothing that incorporates technology.

Then new to the electronics scene, 25-year-old Somerville resident is now immersed in the world of circuit boards. His original project has grown into the Whoa Board, an open-source device that makes wearable electronics.

The Whoa Board, run by Vekhter’s company Foolish Products, makes electroluminescent materials—think strips on biking jackets—light up and be touch sensitive. Touch sensitive enough, in fact, that they can detect motion.

You don’t need to be familiar with circuits to use the Whoa Board—all you need is the board, a micro-USB cable and any piece of electroluminescent material. The Whoa Board can be sewn into clothing.

Vekhter envisions two main applications for the Whoa Board. First, the technology could revolutionize bicycle safety. A biking jacket that’s hooked up to a Whoa Board could have a turn signal that’s initiated by a simple shrug of the shoulders. Second, the Whoa Board could be used in live performances. Vekhter has already spoken with dancers who are interested in incorporating the technology into their work.

But Vekhter realizes that this kind of technology could run in many directions, which is part of the reason why he’s made it open source. “The general philosophy of the product is that this idea seems bigger than something I can take care of on my own, and I’m just trying to start a community that starts exploring and figuring things out for themselves,” he said. Vekhter hopes to approach wearable technology in a sustainable manner. He’s partnering with the Tripty Project, which makes clothes fairly and in a way that has minimal impact on the environment.

“This wearable technology, smart clothes thing is going to happen one way or another, and if I can push people to think about sustainability and the entire life cycle of the clothing before we start mass production, that would be great,” he said.

Vekhter has launched a Kickstarter for the Whoa Board. Those who are familiar with similar technology can purchase a bare bones package for $60, while those who aren’t can opt for the $100 sampler kit. The Whoa Board is Arduino compatible.