[-empyre-] Intro and Siggraph 2005 Report
I'm joining in on the discussion, with a report from Siggraph 2005, which
I've just recently finished participating in.
Siggraph is primarily a computer graphics conference, but this year
included two events related to wearables. First was the Cyberfashion show,
which is in its 3rd year running, and a Special Session on Extreme Fashion.
My post will be in two parts. First, the Extreme Fashion special session:
I was a panelist (www.kakirine.com) on the Extreme Fashion session with
Dr. Maggie Orth (www.ifmachines.com) as moderator and Elise Co
(www.mintymonkey.com), Dr. Jenny Tillotsen (www.jennytillotsen.com), and
Dr. Thad Starner (http://www.cc.gatech.edu/fac/Thad.Starner/) as other
participants. The session focused on the practical challenges facing
practitioners in the field and the obstacles which stand in the way between
the integration of fashion and technology.
Dr. Maggie Orth, founder of International Fashion Machines (IFM) presented
an overview of fashion and technology, showing her own work developed as a
graduate student at the MIT Media Lab and various projects which represent
current trends in towards incorporating technology into garments. Her
vision of a "true" fashion/technology hybrid was presented as a garment
which contained input, processing, and output. Previous projects developed
at the MIT Media Lab include the Firefly Dress, Musical Jacket, Embroidered
Musical Instruments, and Electronic Tablecloths. At IFM Maggie invented
Electronic Plaid with IFM co-founder Joey Berzowska. The non-emissive
color-change textile uses silkscreened thermochromic inks over woven
conductive yarns to create an addressable multi-pixel textile display.
Another IFM product is a fuzzy pom-pom light switch dimmer which will be
available on the market in September. Dr. Orth is considered a visionary in
the field of electronic textiles, and has influenced a whole generation of
up and coming interaction designers who are working with technology,
fashion, and textiles.
Dr. Thad Starner, professor at Georgia Tech University and seminal
researcher in the field of wearable computing presented recent work on low
attention user interfaces. Having worn his wearable computer continuously
since 1993, Dr. Starner provides an invaluable view from somebody who not
only develops technology, but also actively lives and wears it on his body.
Some exciting new research Dr. Starner presented included the wearable
phone device that Heidi mentioned in her previous post - where input and
control of the system is controlled by the number of fingers waved past the
device, and also new work by colleagues centering on direct brain interfaces.
Dr. Jenny Tillotsen is affiliated with Central St. Martins College of Art
and Design, her research into "scentsory design" looks at how clothing and
accessories can emit scents to further well-being. Dr.Tillotsen's long-term
vision includes incorporating micro-fluids into textiles using
nano-technology which could disperse scent based on affective data.
Tillotsen showed her recent creations including the Smart Second Skin
Dress, and the Scent Whisper brooches. The Smart Second Skin Dress takes
the central nervous system as its inspiration and emits scent based on the
control of the wearer and affective data. The Scent Whisper brooches are a
wirelessly connected pair. The transmitter triggers the release of a scent
bubble in the receiver.
Elise Co is an independent designer. Having originally been drawn to the
subject of fashion and technology through her graduate research at the MIT
Media Lab, Co's recent direction has taken a sharp turn from highly
conceptual work to very simple, yet practical ways of integrating
technology into fashionable garments and accessories. In her presentation
Elise showed the gritty details involved in constructing her Puddlejumper
jacket - a garment which illuminates hand-silkscreened EL panels when a
water sensor (two concentric rings of conductive ink) is triggered. Co also
discussed her other more recent projects, Lumiloop, a reconfigurable LED
bracelet, and UFOs, a modified set of sneakers with embedded accelerometer,
in collaboration with Nikita Pashenkov.
As the final presenter in the session I discussed my work with Social
Fashioning, or looking at clothing and accessories as the active conduit
through which people create networked relationships in public space. I
discussed fashion and technology within the context of urban flows and
intersections, preferring to place my work between the frictions of the
everyday and positing my projects as material artefacts which comment on
contemporary life. I presented Urban Chameleon, a set of three skirts which
visualize environmental data on the body (air quality, noise pollution, and
physical touch) using everyday conditions a commuter might find themselves
exposed to as inspiration. I also discussed my project Inside/Outside,
which took the same environmental sensing capabilities (air quality and
noise pollution) and put them into a network of handbags which could
collect environmental data and both represent that information as an
ambient display on the surface of the bag as well as connect that
information with other bags in a distributed peer-to-peer network. The last
project I discussed was Umbrella.net - a collaboration with Jonah
Brucker-Cohen which turns the ordinary umbrella into a mobile ad-hoc
network when multiple umbrellas are deployed in the same place.
The panel was extremely interesting and engaging. Each participant
represented some combination of interdisciplinary practice, yet each
presenter's approach and interests were very different. The intent was to
showcase these divergent views and to provide a snapshot of where how the
field might evolve. Admittedly the area is quite nascent, with huge
technical (washability, durability, power requirements, and soft display
technologies) and conceptual hurdles (how to go beyond things that merely
"light up") however, with greater communication among researchers and
practitioners (which we have already begun to see) there seems to be great
excitement too. In my own observations I have seen the number of fashion
and technology related projects explode in the last few years, from a mere
trickle of projects to a whole sub-genre of art/tech/design with too many
related artists and researchers to name here.
Hope this triggers questions or comments from readers out there. My next
post to the list will include information and observations of the
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