Wearable technology and smart materials

Wearable Designs by Paola Tognazzi from paola tognazzi on Vimeo.

Up until this point, wearable technology has been stuck in the information age. Our devices have counted our steps, measured our heart rates and brain waves, and tracked everything from our sleep habits to our breathing patterns. This data-focused phenomenon, known as «The Quantified Self,» was crystallised by Wired editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly when they coined the term in 2007. The rush to translate the human body into data sets that can be processed by our machines has resulted in an explosion of hardware devices – many of which do the same thing and aren’t always that technologically interesting.

If we make a correlation with the evolution of the internet first there was The Information Age marked by «increasing efficiency in the dissemination of information via the internet from producer to consumer.» Then it followed, the Social Age which is marked by «a fundamental change in the way we communicate and socialise.»
This model can be useful in thinking about the evolution of wearables. The wearable technology we’ve seen up until this point belongs to a kind of Information Age – data-driven, aiming to be as efficient as possible and primarily one-to-one in its focus to deliver wearers information about their bodies.
The next wave of wearables promises to usher in a Social Age, which is marked not necessarily by a movement away from information, but towards communication and self-expression.

Perhaps what we really mean when we talk about «fashion» is design, and with that, a consideration for the body that goes beyond just counting its steps.

«The skin is the largest organ on our body, and it’s an under-utilised communication system,» «Technology can be used to play songs, colors, messages, directions, physics… on the body.» leveraging sensors and haptic feedback to connect people to one another.

My focus is on How can we create new senses and superpowers for humans through wearables, enhancing our body’s ability to communicate, express, feel and empathise with others, enhancing a shared experience.
Wearables that would not just track your heartbeat or put your email on your wrist, but give you «superpowers.»
Super strength. Super hearing. Super artistry. Super expression. The future of wearables is really a quest for human enhancement and human dreams.
The modern smartphone has already given us the opportunity to fly through space (through maps or video conferencing), travel through time (through our photos or social networks), and increase our intelligence (through omnipresent Internet access). Wearables will just be «more literal extensions» of these powers. They’ll offer us everything from more coordination to improved hearing. And it’s the quest for these powers that will drive user adoption.

If up until now consumer wearables have mechanised humans by turning our bodies into digital content, the Social Age of wearables promises to humanise our machines and make them more like us: softer, friendlier, and sure, more fashionable.

Idea 1: Kineseowear

We’ve all heard of kinesio tape. Kineseowear is basically kinesio tape come to life. It’s a stick-on, artificial muscle, that could do anything from tapping you on the left shoulder to convey the next turn dictated by your GPS, to supporting your muscles during an intense butterfly lap in the pool. It creates a physical bridge between your body and information of any sort.
Idea 2: Ouijiband

Imagine if you could pick up a pencil and draw a perfect circle the first time you tried. That’s the promise of Oujiband, an electronic counterweight strapped to your wrist that uses a gyroscope and a gimbal to sense your fine motor movements and, when necessary, smooth them out a bit. Potential implications? Surgeons could cut straighter when the band sensed their hands shaking.

Idea 3: Snapchat IRL

‘Some conversations you want to keep private.’ We asked, ‘How do we put that idea in the regular world?»
The result was Snapchat IRL. It’s a necklace that senses the IR light emitted by cameras during their autofocus sequence. And in response, it fires back a blinding counter-flash to protect your anonymity. No smartphone is even needed. It’s a completely standalone-ready device.

Snapchat IRL also has a discreet earpiece that allows you to have a private conversation with someone in the room whom you’ve decided to hook up with—like a walkie talkie for your sex life.

Idea 4: Lalala

We’ve all been out to a bar where we couldn’t hear the person standing right beside us. Lalala is basically a Bose noise-canceling headphone for anything you want to listen to in life. And with motion-tracking capabilities inside (assumably, through an integrated technology like infrared tracking), you can simply point to someone you’d like to hear better in a room, and every other voice will fade away.
But it’s not just a functional convenience. Rolston sees it as the future form-factor for smartphones. You’d wear it all the time. It would have all of your contacts inside. And it would be able to connect you to anyone, at any time, through immersive 3-D sound rather than awkward teleconferencing.

«If this is the next gen iPhone, the idea of spatially placing people could be phenomenal,» Rolston explains. «Your wife could speak into your right ear while you were in a meeting with people. It’d be like a secretary or friend coming up to whisper, ‘I know you’re busy, but remember to pick up your kid.»

Of course, you may think Argodesign’s concepts look too techie for your tastes. It would be a fair criticism. The team intentionally made the designs over and unapologetically electric—not necessarily because they believe fashion is in some way unimportant—but to highlight that wearable technology will lure us with more than the appeal of fashion alone.

«I love how people comment, ‘You’ll never catch me wearing this stuff!’ And I get the fear of cyborg,» Rolston explains. «But [life is] a competition to get a leg up over the next person.»


Year 1939
‘The important improvements and innovations in clothes for the World of Tomorrow will be in the fabrics themselves,’ declared Raymond Loewy, one of the Vogue contributors.In 1939, Vogue ran a major feature on the fashions of the future: many of their designs specified yet-to-be-invented materials that could adjust to temperature, change colour or be crushed into suitcases without wrinkling. Without exception, everyone foretelling the ‘World of Tomorrow’ believed that an exciting future meant innovative new fabrics.

They all understood something we’ve largely forgotten: that textiles are technology, more ancient than bronze and as contemporary as nanowires.

The story of technology is in fact the story of textiles. From the most ancient times to the present, so too is the story of economic development and global trade. The origins of chemistry lie in the colouring and finishing of cloth. The textile business funded the Italian Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; it left us double-entry bookkeeping and letters of credit, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. As much as spices or gold, the quest for fabrics and dyestuffs drew sailors across strange seas. In ways both subtle and obvious, textiles made our world.

Most conspicuously, the Industrial Revolution started with the spinning jenny, the water frame, and the thread-producing mills in northern England that installed them. Before railroads or automobiles or steel mills, fortunes were made in textile technology. The new mills altered where people lived and how they worked. And the inexpensive fabrics they produced changed the way ordinary people looked.

Then, a second conspicuous wave of textile innovation began with the purple shade that francophile marketers named mauve. The invention of aniline dyes in the mid-19th century made a full spectrum of colour – including newly intense blacks – universally available. The synthetic-dye business gave rise to the modern chemical industry, and yet more technology-based fortunes.
The visionaries of 1939 knew this industrial history. They knew, too, that a third round of textile breakthroughs had begun. Cellulose-based synthetics such as rayon were already common, and just months earlier, DuPont had patented its first polymer and heralded the nylon stockings to come. Like the dyes before them, 20th-century fibres would not be wrested from living nature but designed in labs. Once again, fortunes would be made and, once again, the textures of daily life would change.

As late as the 1970s, textiles still enjoyed the aura of science. Since then, however, we’ve stopped thinking of them as a technical achievement. In today’s popular imagination, fabric entirely belongs to the frivolous world of fashion. Even in the pages of Vogue, ‘wearable technology’ means electronic gadgets awkwardly tricked out as accessories, not the soft stuff you wear against your skin – no matter how much brainpower went into producing it. When we imagine economic progress, we no longer think about cloth, or even the machines that make it.

This cultural amnesia has multiple causes. The rise of computers and software as the very definition of ‘high technology’ eclipsed other industries. Intense global competition drove down prices of fibres and fabric, making textiles and apparel a less noticeable part of household budgets, and turning textile makers into unglamorous, commodity businesses. Environmental campaigns made synthetic a synonym for toxic. And for the first time in human history, generations of women across the developed world grew up without learning the needle arts. As understandable as it might be, forgetting about textiles sacrifices an important part of our cultural heritage. It cuts us off from essential aspects of the human past, including the lives and work of women. It deprives us of valuable analogies for understanding how technology and trade transform economies and culture. It blinds us to some of today’s most pervasive innovations – and some of tomorrow’s most intriguing.

Year 2006
Smart materials interesting materials that could be potentially applied to interactive architecture, fashion and design in general. A discussion of the present/future uses of these materials. First step is to provide a definition of Smart Materials, better if could be understood by everyone and not only specialists of the field, for example “a material that displays smart behaviour” which is easier said than accomplished also does not resonate to the average audience.
To define a Smart Material we really need to understand what is meant by Smart behaviour and then, by means of some examples, to develop our definition.
Smart behaviour occurs when a material can sense some stimulus from its environment and react to it in a useful, reliable, reproducible and usually reversible manner. A really Smart material will use its reaction to the external stimulus to initiate or actuate an active response, e.g. with an active control system.
There are some materials that are designed to change their colour at a particular temperature. They find uses in bath plugs that show when the bath water is too hot, children’s feeding spoons and coffee or tea mugs. Technically this is described as “thermochromic” behaviour where a thermal stimulus causes a useful optical response.

Smart behaviour is therefore the reaction of a material to some change in its environment, no material can be Smart in isolation, it must be a part of a structure or system.

Another interesting heat responsive material is Oricalco. materials woven with titanium, which allows the fabric to react to temperature shifts. With this a shirt holds its wrinkles when bunched up, and then instantly relaxes when exposed to a current of hot air (as from an electric hair dryer). The shirt can thus be ‘ironed’ while its user wears it.

Examples requiring more hardware implementations.
Puddlejumper is a luminescent raincoat that glows in the rain. Hand-silkscreened electroluminescent lamps on the front of the jacket are wired to interior electronics and conductive water sensors on the back and left sleeve. When water hits one of the sensors, the corresponding lamp lights up, creating a flickering pattern of illumination that mirrors the rhythm of rainfall.

Year 2016
«Coded Couture» Going Beyond Wearables And 3-D Printing is about how coding can take personalization to the extreme.
Generative textile prints, statuesque kicks, and wearables that give you superpowers.
Designers are using coding as the tool to create garments and accessories interactive and highly personalized. Technology has become an essential part of the regular creative process of a designer.
Designers are using coding to take personalization to the extreme, but not from the standpoint of simply selecting options from a drop down menu a la Nike ID or yet another sensor-packed watch or exuberant 3-D printed necklace. The future of wearables stands in designers who are working with biology, like Amy Congdon who explores tissue engineering; psychological coding, like Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz’s garment that changes color based on social media feedback; and Melissa Coleman’s lie-detecting dress that analyzes speech patterns, among others.

1)Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman’s feathered capelet, tracks the wearer’s heart rate; when they feel anxious, nervous or excited, the feathers flutter to match an agitated temperament. .
2) 2032 was the year designer Amy Congdon estimates technology will align with her vision of jewelry composed entirely of the wearer’s own human cells—the mere monogram seems far from personal in comparison.
3) CuteCircuit’s iMiniSkirt subverts the classic pleated mini with smart textiles and microelectronics, enabling the garment to project various digital animations, such as your own live Twitter feed.
4) Melissa Coleman’s Pinocchio-esque gold-plated cage dress produces a shock in exchange for untruths,
5) Ying Gao’s metamorphic cocktail dresses are triggered by an onlooker’s gaze, utilizing eye-tracking technology.
6) N O R M A L S, who created an “augmented reality garment” and app. Once both are connected, a real-time image is generated and projected on the shirt by phone, showing characteristics created by tweets. One wearer, for instance, might display small Disneyesque woodland creatures on the garment if their tweets have “cute” characteristics.
7) Vibrating (sex industry) yet maybe the ones with more potential. Fundawear, the Touching Underwear that Brings Distant Lovers Closer. Fundaware is a clever combination of a smartphone app and tiny vibrating motors sewn into female lingerie and male underpants. It accomplishes the task of «transferring touch across vast distances,» said the project’s technical director, Ben Moir. Fundaware uses tiny vibrating actuators similar to those that give your finger that buzzing «haptic feedback» on smartphones. The intensity of Fundawear’s vibrations correspond to the movements of the person’s finger touching the smartphone screen from afar.
8) FEEL ME: https://www.cs.uic.edu/~mtriveri/Marco_Triverio/Feel_me_app.html
9) Like a hug: MIT students have designed a ‘wearable social media vest’ that translates every virtual Facebook ‘like’ into a real hug http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/oct/09/like-a-hug-facebook-vest-friends
10) World’s first bra that only unhooks when true love is detected
According to this ad, women have no clue when they’re confronted with true love and who they should take their tops off for. None. But never fear, Japanese lingerie manufacturer Ravijou has it all worked out for us clueless ladies: A bra with a front clasp that only unhooks when “true love” is detected.

The bra comprises of a sensor which monitors your heart rate and other vitals, the data is constantly transmitted via Bluetooth to a mobile phone which processes the data using a special app and measures the heart rate elevation using special algorithms and preset data and it is only when your heart has truly found that special someone would it beat in a way that the app would recognize and wirelessly unhook the bra.

Ladies can relax as not any changes in heart rates will unhook the bra as the experts at Ravijour say it is only when a woman falls in true love does she get excited enough for the Adrenal Medulla to secrete Catecholamine which affects the autonomic nerve and increases the heart rate which is detected by the sensor and processed by the specially developed iOS app.

3D printing in fashion
Fashion label Threeasfour unveils two 3D-printed dresses for Biomimicry collection. A pair of 3D-printed dresses, called Harmonograph and Pangolin, based on biological forms and textures.
The new Harmonograph dress circles around the body in three spirals, mimicking the Fibonacci sequence. It is named after a mechanical device that uses pendulums to create geometric images.

The Pangolin dress is derived from a signature Threeasfour design that consists of 14 pattern pieces. In this new 3D-printed version, a single skin is created by mixing a variety of interlocking weaves. «The interwoven nature of the geometry could not be produced in a traditional manner, and it was critical to us that the design should evoke a language unique to 3D printing,» said Gil. The team utilised Stratasys’ Objet500 Connex3 3D printer, which can print single objects with different colours and materials and enables designers to vary properties such as rigidity, transparency and porosity.

The dresses mark the first demonstration of a new material called Nano Enhanced Elastomeric Technology, which was developed by Stratasys. The acrylic-based material is meant to mimic rubber. Given its extreme flexibility and durability, the material «represents a big step forward for 3D-printed fashion design,» said Stratasys.
«The material will also be ideal for additional applications and industries, such as automotive, consumer goods, consumer electronics and medical devices,» the company added.

«We are always looking to revolutionise manufacturing methods, pioneer new design options, and inspire designers and students to create avant-garde expressions of fashion,». They showcase the types of organic and complex mathematical structures that can become a physical reality with 3D printing.»