(Display Name not set)October 2003 Archives

the space between


Hot off the heels of ISWC, I'm already lusting over other conferences.

The Space Between is an international conference looking at textiles, art, design, fashion, and the "fluid spaces between the familiar domains of [these] traditional disciplines". They have a great speaker line up, including Lucy Orta and Marie O'Mahoney, author of Techno Textiles and Cyborg: The Man-Machine. For those fortunate enough to attend, the conference will take place in beautiful Perth, Australia next April.

- Thanks to Chad for the conference link!

functional clothing design

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At ISWC I attended a tutorial entitled ìMaking Computers Wearableî. It was taught by Susan Watkins, who wrote Clothing: The Portable Environment (unfortunately out of print), and Lucy Dunne, a masters student in Apparel Design at Cornell. Susan and Lucy share an interest in functional clothing design and talked about the practical issues of integrating technology into textiles and garments. They covered topics such as weight and bulk distribution, heat and moisture dispersion, cut and fit of garments, frictional drag of fabric, the bodyís sensitivity to pressure, and other related topics.

If youíre interested in this kind of thing, you might want to subscribe to a new d-list created by Lucy and Aaron Toney from the University of South Australia. Send an email with the subject ìsubscribeî to broadcloth at hhhh dot org.

the hum of technology

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I arrived in New York last night for ISWC. When I walked into my hotel room, I was confronted with a loud, high-pitched hum -- one that really would have kept me up all night. I was able to move to another room where the noise has a lower pitch and is slightly quieter, but it's still there.

Turns out the hum is residual noise from the parking garages and two large shopping malls that surround the hotel. If the electricity from these facilities creates noise that disturbs me on a conscious level, I wonder what the sub-conscious and cellular effects are... As someone who wants to put electronics all over the body, this really disturbs me.

I've checked the conference program, and no one is discussing the health considerations of wearable electronic or wireless devices. This disturbs me even more.


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Moi is a "wearable electronic radiant light device", which is a fancy way to say "LED on a wire". I'm tempted to buy one for $25, though I'm more tempted to just make one myself.

Moi is the brainchild of 5050 Ltd, whose work results from a "fusion of design, engineering, social psychology, philosophy, fashion, style and contemporary culture." Their interest in the social implications and applications of technology is evident in their other wearable prototypes: the courtly bag, the loveJacket (which I think I'd prefer sans cricket chirps), and the mbracelet.

thoughts on bags

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The B-Mention line of bags from Isaburo fit closely around your torso, neck, waist, or arm. The designers seem to have found a balancing point on the very fine line between carrying and wearing these bags. I consider it an important line too, as many functional "wearables" these days involve a substantial (and usually non-ergonomic) "carry-able" component.

I question why I like the torso bag better than the ScotteVest that I mentioned in a previous post. (Though I actually wouldn't want to buy or wear either!) Both the bag and vest allow easy storage and access to items, so is it just the aesthetics of the Isaburo bag that make it more appealing to me or does it have more to do my perceived wearability of the bag? I think it's the latter, and I find it strange that a bag would afford better wearability than an actual piece of clothing.

Two other bags worth quickly mentioning...

The Isaburo Turtle bag can worn around the waist like a fanny pack or on the back like a backpack, hung from a cross-shoulder sling strap, or carried like a briefcase. Very cool that they showed concern for how bags are actually worn/carried and built in this type of versatility.

And if you're not fond of black utilitarian pseudo-fabric, check out Talene Reilly, where you can get a gorgeous pink or purple leather trim laptop bag for around $300. Just a friendly reminder that all this computer stuff doesn't have to look like computer stuff. :)

- Thanks to Helle for the Isabura images. Talene Reilly link via DailyCandy.

e-Textiles press


This month's IEEE Spectrum cover story is on e-textiles. Most of the discussion of potential applications (for soldiers, firefighters, snowboarders, etc.) was pretty predictable, but there were a few points of interest.

1) Reliability will be maintained through redundancy. "A truly smart fabric could route data packets or control signals around a hole in a wounded soldier's uniform or a wet area of a baby's outfit."

2) Safety and privacy will be key issues for consumers. Disappointingly, the authors glossed over this topic, saying that these issues haven't stopped sales of PDAs and cell phones. Maybe not, but cell phones have already been banned in some health clubs due to privacy concerns over camera phones. And consumer concerns over Benetton's proposal to imbed RFID tags in clothing labels shows that privacy is indeed an issue for wearable technology.

Newsweek ran a similar article this summer that focused mainly on an interview with Sundaresan Jayaraman, creator of a "supple mixture of natural fibers and gossamer-thin wires and optical fibers". My favorite quote: "Just don't call Jayaraman's invention an e-textile. 'E-textiles are so passive and passe,' he says. The future, he says, belongs to i-textiles -- 'i' for interactive." As I mentioned in a previous post, people are really concerned about naming wearable technology!

Jayaraman also says, "The user shouldn't know when he's wearing an electronic textile." (Did he just say "e-textile"?) Not sure if Jayaraman means that users shouldn't be able to tell the difference from a comfort perspective, or that they really don't need to know at all. The latter is scary...

P.S. Does anyone know anything about the illustration for the IEEE cover story? I love it! I want it!

- Thanks to Rob for the IEEE article (via slashdot) and to my folks for the Newsweek article!

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