Smart Textiles Salon 2013 was the third bi-annual event organised by Department of Textiles at Ghent University. It was held aptly in the lovely MIAT (Museum of Industrial Archaeology and Textiles), a former cotton mill in Ghent, Belgium. Designers, researchers, artists, engineers, makers and companies, who create and research wearable electronics and e-textiles, traveled from all over the globe to exhibit their work and give approximately (I lost count) thirty presentations during the course of the day.
I took my Baroesque Barometric Skirt along to show and gave a presentation on how and why I made it, the materials I used and the challenges around creating the electronics and code. Below are my slides and an overview:
The Baroesque Skirt creates a unique visualisation for each place I visit, which changes depending on the environmental conditions of the day and my own physiology. It visualises data from four sensors, three of them are environmental: temperature, pressure and altitude, the forth is a temperature sensor that sits on the inside of the skirt and pulls in my body temperature. I’m interested in how I can display my physical data alongside that of the ‘bigger picture’ of elements that I am surrounded by. I made a bespoke skirt for this project due to the way I wanted the RGB LED strip to display from inside. The components are sewn into a removable components substrate apron, which I made because I also want to be able to show the bespoke crafting of the electronics separately, plus I wanted to make it easy to wash the skirt. The apron is held in the middle of the skirt fabric and lining layer by Velcro, with a fitted pocket to hold the 12V battery pack. The skirt has hand painted Okami characters, which incorporate weather designs that entwine with the RGB LEDs underneath. I’ve written the code to drive the components in C, with the inclusion of the Wiring library and the example code library for the BMP085 barometric sensor which does all the complex calculations to convert readings to °C (Celsius), Pa (Pascal) and m (meter) readings. If you want to find out more, see my write up about it.
We set up our exhibits the night before, as the show day was totally jam-packed with presentations and exhibits from the 9am start to finishing around 5pm. I really enjoyed moving around the hall at MIAT the hearing from the creators about each piece of work and how it was constructed. Every project was incredibly interesting and unique, here’s a quick overview of many of the projects to give you an idea of the broad range of work shown.
RUAH by Guilia Tomasello of Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA), is an interactive, geometric corset. I was impressed by the structure of the corset and intrigued by its workings. It’s driven by LilyPad Arduino, incorporating a stretch sensor and flexinol spring which inflates the central structure of the corset as the wearer breathes. The corset ‘helps people to learn the importance and benefits of deep diagrammatic breath’.
Drapely-O-Lightment: An Interactive OLED Skirt, Solar Fiber: Proof of Concept and Hell–Well–Being: A Waste Conscious E-Scarf, are a collection of wearables that were shown by Aniela Hoitink, Meg Grant, Ralf Jacobs, Loe Feijs and Marina Toeters from the Technical University of Eindhoven. I particularly liked their solar hat, incorporating a flexible photovoltaic solar fibre, which converts sunlight into electrical energy. The team are working on a photovoltaic yarn that can be worked into various fabrics, their approach is: ‘1. First and foremost, we are working on a photovoltaic fibre with a protective coating that will start life as a 5 mm fibre and eventually be extruded to 100µm. 2. Before we get there, we are working on proof of concept prototypes that will help to communicate our idea and show real life applications for the technology. Our current prototypes work via woven glass fibres that guide the light to tiny diodes with PV solar cells. In 5 years we hope to offer the world affordable solar fibres in a range of textile products for daily use’.
Pieterjan Aerts of Howest Kortrijk, Belgium, told us about his work with
organic photovoltaic cells integrated in smart shading. ‘The indoor shading is integrated with organic, flexible and lightweight photovoltaic cells. Energy harvesting as a building integrated photovoltaic and autonomous movement of the shading are the two main features which contribute to the added value of this smart shading.’ He demonstrated how controlling the shading results in getting an optimal angle for energy generation.
Transendense by Galina Mihaleva of Nanyang Technological University, Academy of Art, is ‘an interactive dress that communicates with its wearer by translating the body’s movement into a corresponding light pattern’. It uses a flex sensor that responds to body movement and reflects this in the pattern of an LED array. ‘The light is a metaphor for enlightenment and strives for passion’.
Riccardo Marchesi of INNTEX / plugandwear.com gave a talk on Textile Matrix Sensors. He explained how a low cost pressure sensor can be constructed using alternating conductive / non-conductive layers of fabric, plus a piezoelectric fabric layer, which when pressure is applied can detect and map x and y coordinates via a microcontroller. I can imagine lots of interesting uses for matrix sensors in textiles.
Functional Electronic Screen Printing – Electroluminescent Smart Fabric Watch, by Marc de Vos of the University of Southampton. A prototype digital watch on fabric, created using ‘screen-printed functional electronic pastes to produce the world’s first printed smart fabric watch’. I really liked the flexibility of these prototypes, especially for thinking about future possibilities for PCBs and electroluminescents around the body.
Jin Lam of the Institute of Textiles & Clothing, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, presented Do You Feel Me? A pair of illuminative smart fashion dress prototypes ‘that could react and present various visual communications regarding the changing environmental factors’. The garments incorporate electroluminescent panels that react to each other and illuminate via signals from various sensors, such as proximity, sound, heat humidity and pressure. I really enjoyed seeing all the detail of the intricate design for paneling of these garments in Jin’s slides.
Smart clothing for challenging environments was represented by the work of Aurélie Cayla of the Engineering and Textile Materials Laboratory (GEMTEX), ENSAIT, in her Flexible Thermal Detector in Personal Protective Equipment for Fire Fighters (INTELTEX ‘ intelligent multifilament reactive textiles integrating nano filler based CPC-fiber’). Aurélie showed how heating up a fire fighter’s jacket would result in the detection of a high temperature and alert the wearer. Vera De Glas of Sioen showed us a high visibility softshell jacket that allows the user to regulate a heating system in the jacket for use in very cold conditions. Vera also demonstrated a high visibility jacket that had integrated LEDs for workers in dark conditions or caught in bad weather such as fog. Also on the subject of challenging environments, Tex-Vest – Human Traffic Light was presented by Jaka Plešec of Berlin Weißensee School of Art (KHB). Tex-Vest is intended for police in traffic situations, it translates and visualises hand traffic signals onto a large area of a vest that incorporates SMD LEDs, in red, green and yellow. This vest would be particularly useful in the dark or bad weather conditions.
PeR+ (Perception Rug) by Eva Deckers of the University of Technology, Eindhoven, is an intelligent and interactive carpet, which is sensitive to touch and activity. It is sensitive to pressure and reflects interaction with light and can follow the movements of someone stepping upon it. The sensing and actuating components are integrated by hand into the carpet using twining and tufting techniques.
Ramyah Gowrishankar of Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland, presented her intriguing Soft Radio, a palm-sized radio constructed from crocheted fabric. Ramyah is investigating opportunities for creating soft digital interfaces and the Soft Radio has some interesting approaches to the user interface, such as a knitted loop on top that one twists to change between volume and channel seeking modes. The volume and channel can be then changed by wrapping a knitted cord around the spherical radio. Ramyah’s doctoral research ‘aspires to develop an interaction language specific to the new medium of e-textiles, rather than borrowed from regular electronic devices’.
TaSST: Tactile Sleeve for Social Touch by Aduén Darriba Frederiks of the Digital Life Center, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The device is worn on the arm and consists of an input and output layer, the input layer being made from pads of conductive wool, from which changes of resistance are measured and then this controls the intensity of vibration motors in the output layer of a sleeve worn by another person. ‘By varying the location, duration and intensity of touches to the input layer, users can communicate different types of touch at a distance’.
Barbro Scholz of Landeshauptstadt Munchen Kulturreferat exhibited Your Balance interactive textile jewelry, whose inspiration comes from insects. ‘It questions our passive acceptance of applications of control in our daily life and asks what we want textile user interfaces to be’. The system comprises of three textile sensors that monitor the movements of an employee, which are watched and used to control the employees work and life balance’. ‘ Are we like worker-bees, working efficiently towards the centre of the hive?’
Strokes&Dots (3S&D) by Valérie Lamontagne of the Department of Design & Computation Arts, Concordia University, is inspired by early modernist representations of speed, graphic design, abstract art and technology. Her garments incorporate embroidered LEDs and motion or light sensors, the LEDs light up depending on the wearer’s movements or environment.
Bjorn Van Keymeulen of Ghent University showed some fascinating examples in his Lighting Applications with Woven Textiles as Substrates presentation. This included stretchable electronic circuits with a woven conductive yarn network and a fun demo of LEDs and conductive yarn fabric dunked into a tank of water to prove its insulation properties.
Eunjeong Jeon, Martijn ten Bhömer & Kristi Kuusk of the Technical University of Eindhoven, presented their Vibe-ing dress, which contains multiple pockets with connected modular vibration and captive touch sensing PCBs. They’re intended for use in stimulating specific areas of the body for rehabilitation and healing purposes. I was especially interested to hear about the construction of the PCBs that incorporated ATtiny microcontrollers.
Marjan Kooroshina of the Swedish School of Textiles, University of Borås, exhibited her Dreaming Vase. ‘The Dreaming Vase is an object exemplifying my practice-based research project aiming to explore the creative design potential of mixing photoluminescent pigment with conventional textile pigment pastes in textile printing.’ It was interesting to see the difference in how the patterns looked in daylight and nighttime viewing.
Another project that intrigued me was Skweezees: Soft Objects that Sense their Shape Shifting by Luc Geurts of Group T’s Media Lab. A Skweezee is a deformable object, consisting of a soft, non-conductive, stretchy casing and inside amongst its stuffing has conductive steel wool. Resistance between electrodes on the outside calculate the magnitude of deformation of the object and users can record their own Skweezee gestures from this.
The SYSTEX student award was presented to Eef Lubbers of University of Technology, Eindhoven, for her Unlace interactive lace lingerie, which allows couples to connect by becoming more aware of touch and warmth via her lingerie that is painted with thermochromatic ink. The lingerie changes colour over time when touched and is intended to bring couples closer.
For those interested in learning more about smart textiles, Carla Hertleer announced a fantastic new e-learning course from TRITex (Transfer of Research and Innovations in Textile). The course is divided into two modules and covers in module 1. functional and smart textile materials and module 2. covers smart textile systems.
The proceedings were filmed, so sometime soon you’ll be able to watch videos of the presentations. Thanks very much to the organisers Lina Rambausek Lieva Van Langenhove and Carla Hertleer for doing an outstanding job of putting the event together.