In his latest column for Business 2.0, "Wearable Tech," Rafe Needleman tells us that clothes that can change colors electronically are soon coming to our closets.
In 2001 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency jump-started a project to accelerate the development of electronic textiles. It's looking for, among other things, military uniforms that can adapt to different environments, providing on-the-fly camouflage for soldiers. One of the beneficiaries of the DARPA project is International Fashion Machines (IFM), which was founded by Maggie Orth to do fundamental research in this field.
As part of her early research, Orth developed textiles for hanging (not wearable) artworks. "I was trying to make technology into something beautiful," she says.
Here is one example. IFM's Electric Plaid is "a revolutionary display technology that is used by IFM to create hand woven, sensuous individual artworks, interior design and architectural surfaces."
The world in which clothing, paint, lighting, rugs, and curtains all change colors to match (or influence) our mood is coming, but it's some time away -- a lot of technology has to be made affordable and durable before then. In the meantime, IFM and other companies are working on ways to weave touch sensors into fabrics. Orth built a musical jacket with a small keyboard woven into the sleeve.
Here is Needleman's conclusion.
Information technology, it appears, is finally leaving its hard plastic box. Display technology will eventually be all around us, even painted on walls and ceilings. And personal technology will be woven into our clothing.
For more information, you might want to read two former columns on this subject, "The Future for Wearable Computers: Normal Clothing with Electronics Sown In?" and "Howard Rheingold: Clothes Make the Network."
Source: Rafe Needleman, Business 2.0, June 23, 2003
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