Haptic clothes

Designers are starting to wake up to the growing influence of clothing design on the industry. As materials become lighter, cheaper and smarter, the market for responsive and intelligent clothing keeps growing.

This is great news for those of us who want a sweater that shows everyone how you feel, but is that really going to catch on soon? A more practical use is sensory feedback in clothing. Take a look at these haptic wearables.

An impressive shirt is the T-shirt OS, a cotton shirt with light-weight integrated electronics that displays all kinds of visual information. Connected to what the designers call a brain, or what we know as a smartphone, the shirt can also display twitter messages, personal information or even videos. An integrated screen between two layers of cotton is powered by a wired connection to the smart phone.

Perhaps the next step is what Woven suggests. The pervasive gaming company has developed an “e-wearable” material that simulates gaming. Similar to the t-shirt OS, this shirt communicates data between a number of wearers, making real-life networked gaming a reality.

Another idea is the Alert Shirt. The idea is that sports clothing could register what’s happening during play. So this shirt can tense up, increasing pressure on the wearer, or stimulating the production of adrenaline. Still a prototype, this project is about the possibilities that designers foresee. We can imagine the shirt being used by players, for instance to warn them of overheating, or to flash lights when their sleeves are pulled by the opposing team members.

Other uses of the haptic principle are equally fascinating. There’s a bracelet that measures your emotional well-being and shares it to a loved one wearing an identical bracelet. Ideal for those who spend time away from their partner. The Polish innovation is called Tactilu and it is basically a Bluetooth communication device with a ceramic top for protection.

Or look at the Le Chal, a shoe for the blind. This Indian design allows the visually impaired to walk around without bumping into objects. Tiny sensors in the shoe’s toe trigger vibrations to steer the wearer around obstacles. Better yet, the shoe can be connected to a map app on a smart phone. The user then enters a destination and the shoe will walk the wearer to it using the quickest and easiest obstacle-free route.

Generally, we know that an emerging technology is going to become big when it attracts attention from a well-known company. Designers take note: Google has announced its wearable technology platform. We are sure to see much more development in a similar vein.

Here’s the technology behind the wearable material.

Images courtesy of the manufacturers.