Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Wearable technology, or electrifying your clothes

Wearable technology, tech togs, or fashion electronics are clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features, but may also have a purely critical or aesthetic agenda. The idea of wearable computing has been around for a few decades; but it's only recently that phones have acquired enough computing power, data connectivity has become pervasive, Bluetooth connections low-powered enough and screens cheap enough, for us to start thinking of adopting it. In 2000 Alexander Pentland, a professor at MIT who helped set up its famous Media Lab and has for years been interested in wearable computing, wrote an article for the Association of Computing Machinery in which he noted that "inaminate things are coming to life", but, reassuringly, more like Walt Disney than Frankenstein: "The simple objects that surround us are gaining sensors, computational powers and actuators [which move things]."

He saw a world with "smart rooms" and "smart clothes". The clothes, he said, would be "like personal assistants … trying to anticipate your needs and generally smooth your way".
But wearable computing – this stuff is just for geeks, surely? Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, can wear them and just about not look mad. But even for him there are faint echoes of Star Trek's Borg, the machine-augmented hive-mind group, especially in the way you can see him focusing on the screen by his eye, rather than his audience or interlocutor. But Pentland says he feels "really great about Google Glasses because my former student Thad Starner, who ran the hardware part of my Wearables Project here at MIT for many years, is the guy who is in charge of Google Glasses. They will do it right."
Carolina Milanesi, smartphones and tablets analyst at the research group Gartner, believes that there is potential for wearables. "There's definitely room for connectivity through devices that can send you what you need at that point in time; it might be a tweet, or a Facebook notification, or a weather update or a traffic update," she says. "I think consumers are ready for it."
The rise of "appcessory" makers suggests it is already happening so where, you might wonder, is Apple? Won't the iPhone quickly sink into irrelevance? Perhaps – though Apple is known for picking its own time to enter markets, just as it did with the iPod and iPhone. In part this is due to its tight connections with factories in the far east and its ability to spot when new technologies are becoming affordable.
Furthermore, patent filings that have been registered with the US patent office indicate that Apple is indeed looking at the idea of "head-mounted displays". If both Apple and Google were to get into wearables, usage would surely explode. Powering any sucks all the juice. It may be that wearable tech won't just be about the function; wearable batteries could be the next big thing too.
LG Chem, a member of the LG conglomerate/chaebol and one of the largest chemical companies in the world, has devised a cable-type lithium-ion battery that’s just a few millimeters in diameter, and is flexible enough to be tied in knots, worn as a bracelet, or woven into textiles.
Now, flexible batteries have been created before — but they’ve all just standard, flat, laminated batteries made from sub-optimum materials, such as polymers. As such, as they have very low energy density, and they’re only bendy in the same way that a thin sheet of plastic is bendy.  LG Chem’s cable-type batteries have the same voltage and energy density as your smartphone battery — but they’re thin and highly flexible to boot. LG Chem has already powered an iPod Shuffle for 10 hours using a knotted 25cm length of cable-type battery. LG’s goal is to have this battery ready for mass production by 2017.

The Hug Shirt is the only piece of clothing through which you can exchange the physical sensation of a hug with a loved one over distance. Embedded within each Hug Shirt are sensors that respond to the strength of touch, skin warmth, and heart rate of the sender; actuators in the receiving Hug Shirt recreate those sensations for the person on the other end.

The Hug Shirt is a Bluetooth accessory for Java-enabled mobile phones that are running the "Hug Me" software. When you wear your Hug shirt, you have no assigned telephone number. Your "hug data" travels wirelessly from the shirt's sensors to your phone; then the phone transmits the "hug data" stream through the recipient's phone and into the receiving Hug Shirt. It works on any bandwidth and runs on rechargeable batteries.
As well as extending messages of love and positive vibes via flashing illuminated signs, it is now possible to protect your self from legal situations criminal or slander. Consider Steve man a tenured professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, who has been a pioneer of wearable tech.
In june 2012 Steve and his family traveled to France for a summer holiday. The holiday was almost troubled free until a incident happen at a popular fast food restaurant, despite politely questioned by and an employee and having medical documentation to wear his Eye Tap computer vision system. Steve Mann suffered an attack from other employees of the restaurant. He wrote in his blog the accounts of what three senior employees did to him and what seems like bully tactics, on a person for looking different. The restaurant seems to have a no camera policy on their premises and yet harshly way of enforced their rights, considering the premises is a wholesome family restaurant with outlets through out the world.
local law enforcement don't seem to care about the situation and have brush aside two incidences including Penny sheldon who was assaulted for a photograph she took of the menu. In any situation this would be brushed aside with ill feeling, but Steve Mann had recored several pictures of the people involved, hopefully to gather evidence and find a way to resolve this situation.

Technology seems to be at a stage where things can be hacked and modified to the point where entrepreneurs can use a simple pice of tech like a arduino or Raspberry Pi as a simple brain to control the Hug me shirt or possibly the  Machina midi jacket. The trend for controllerism has been gathering up pace for some time, hacking the key board buttons and mapping out the controls to a music sequencer like Abelton. The same controls to for expression and other midi controls have now been used a idea for this kick-stater project to allow musical expression via cool jacket.
Already technology is started to govern our way of thinking, by way of people being addicted to the internet and now gadgets might be influencing certain clothes manufactures.

A company called scottevest, founded in 2000 by Scott Jordan in Chicago, Illinois. Has the foresight of providing pockets and conduits for headphones and music devices in their range of clothing. Special lining to allow Touch screens to work while still in the pockets. A simple idea of gadgets and special pockets to house them is a realistic way of moving forward in this unpredictable market. Currently the electronics in clothes have been limited in their fabric environments, meaning machine washable electronics do not exist. Although US scientists have developed flexible silicon circuit boards, which they claim will pave the way to wearable computers and other biomedical devices.
The boards are created from "nanoribbons", ultra-thin sheets of silicon bonded to sheets of rubber. The sheets are so thin that a complete circuit is just one and a half microns thick, hundreds of times thinner than conventional silicon circuits found in PCs.While bendable electronics have been seen before, those breakthroughs depended on organic semiconductor materials, which made them too slow to be used in complex computing tasks. However, as the method employed by John Rogers (a founder professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois, developer of the circuits), utilises traditional silicon, he claims they're capable of similar performance to solid wafers.

The future seems bright with entrepreneurs looking to produce the next tech company from hackable electronics. But emerging technologies like flexible circuit-boards and batteries are slowly being recognized as ingredients for this type thing. Its early days with electronics and clothing, apparently the arduino or raspberry Pi dose not have any flexible versions. It would probably be a large technology company with the resources to produce complex circuitry for clothing. The current motivation for tech in clothes is to extend controls for a smartphone or music devices. But some people would say that onboard computers will start to appear for a possible augmented reality device. In the case of surveillance to find the instigator of a hostile situation, it might be a motive for manufactures to embed this technology in clothing. Criminals might be filmed by your jacket or in weird fetish motives, a sexual encounter could be recorded by your trousers.
Flexible technology in screens are starting to appear in reality and that organic light emitting diodes would allow for screens on clothes or the possibility to have the ultimate in digital camouflage. What ever the future brings to clothing if it is connectivity or surveillance or computational augmented realty check, lets hope its a bright one with no short circuits...

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