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Feliform Labs

Introducing SuitNet: Flexible communication for fursuits and costumes

Schematic of the SuitNet CAN bus
The problem

Today's technologically advanced fursuits include several separate control units with sensors, actuators, and lighting. For the whole system to work most effectively, the control units need to be able to communicate with each other. This allows lights and actuators to respond to signals from remote sensors, and could allow a central controller to orchestrate the overall behavior.

Constraints
  • Size and weight: The network should minimize added weight and thickness.
  • Flexibility: The network should easily handle adding and removing control units, and it should be able to recover from minor faults. It should not depend on one central controller.
  • Control unit simplicity: Control units on the network should not need to use complex routing algorithms.
  • Durability: The network should be protected against electrostatic discharge and electromagnetic interference.
  • Ease of use: Suit makers should be able to assemble a functional network without understanding all the underlying details.

Our solution: Suitnet

SuitNet uses CAN bus with standardized low-profile connectors and a higher-level communication protocol for effective fursuit networking.

CAN bus

CAN bus is a communication bus widely used in road vehicles. It is also well suited to fursuit networking:

Advantages of CAN bus
  • Any number of control units can connect to a bus
  • Bidirectional communication with only two signal wires
  • Differential signaling for noise immunity
  • Good hardware support on many microcontrollers and single-board computers
  • Well-engineered error handling and fault isolation
Disadvantages of CAN bus
  • Bus topology: All control units must connect to one linear bus
  • Termination: Both ends of a CAN bus must be connected with termination resistors
  • A break or electrical fault anywhere on the bus will disrupt all communication
Connectors
A Molex Pico-Lock connector plugged in
A Molex Pico-Lock connector plugged into a board

The D-sub connectors normally used for CAN bus are too big and heavy for fursuits. Instead, SuitNet uses Molex Pico-Lock 4-pin connectors with 1 mm pitch. Standing only 1.5 mm above the circuit board, these connectors can fit into any part of a fursuit.

Software

CAN bus can broadcast messages of up to 8 bytes. To support more powerful functions like publishing/subscription and system health reporting, SuitNet uses software to implement a higher-level protocol. We are still exploring software options, but one promising candidate is UAVCAN.

How can I use it?

Once we have a basic working demonstration of SuitNet, we will release the specifications, reference board designs, and example software. Check back here, or subscribe to our news feed.