Wired News: Fancy Meets Function on Runway

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by: David Polinchock

The Cyber Fashion Show is always one of the most interesting, strange, occassionally bizarre parts of SIGGRAPH. From items that are already products, like Oakley's Thump mp3 glasses, to experimental clothing, to wearables, there's pretty broad range of items on display. One thing that always worries me — it sure seems like you need to be in good shape in the future! Or maybe PVC clothing will cover the fat better.

There are additional links below and I'll get more posted in the coming days. See something if interest? Don't hesitate to give us a call to explore anything listed on the SIGGRAPH posts in more detail!

One of the coolest things at the show was an outfit that allowed you to send a "hug" to the wearer via a cell phone. There were a number of items at the show that let users interact with one another via cell phone, touch, proximity, etc. And, now that my daughter is getting ready to start school in a few months, I'm looking more and more at wearable GPS technologies! At 4 1/2, I'm not really worried about where she might be going, but with all of the bad news out there, I'm beginning to think this kind of technology of greater interest. One piece shown was Dog@watch Kids-wear helps kids express their needs and feelings to their parents, allowing them to discover the world safely. Using Dog@watch, a kid can interactively express and share feelings such as 'sad', 'happy', 'sleepy', 'hungry', 'sorry', 'have a question', and 'want to talk'. Combined with GPS data and sensor alarm functions embedded in the belt of the watch, Dog@watch can be used to monitor and ensure the security of a child.

The prototype Plexiglass shoes in the Reverie Engines collection include Electric Cinderella (designed for a woman who wants to intimidate intimadators) and The Beauty & the Beast (designed for an emotive woman who no longer wants to be a victim). With a single use stun gun embedded in the toe of one, and an audible alarm system activated by stamping the feet embedded in the other, these 'enchanted wearables' call up the woman's desire for empowerment and control over situations in her life.

I mean, what can you say about a pair of shoes designed with a stun gun in them? Last year, they showed a jacket that would send 10,000 volts when activated, so maybe this is part of some larger trend in clothing?

Now, this was something that I really need! Developed at the MIT Media Lab and designed to help you keep track of your belongings. Handbags that warn you if you're about to leave the house without your wallet or if you'll need an umbrella for the day, and scarves that yell at their fellow handbag if they're about to be left behind on the subway, are all made possible by building with these fabric-based Lego-like blocks. Each of many modular, specialized, functional units of the Accessorizing with Networks project can be added in or taken away from the accessories as needed. For example, when running quick errands in the morning you might not include either of the modules that make your purse light up when it's opened in the dark or when your cell phone rings, but you can add those back when you might need them at night.

The SMARTlab Centre, Central St. Martins College of Art & Design. SafetyNET/SMARTlab with BBC/UCD presents SMARTgloves & SafetyCorset (undercoverwire) by Bodkin Designs, with accessories by international fashion designers Fay Torez Yap and Daria Dorosh. SafetyWEAR is designed for two purposes: to promote the project's work with a smart, fashionable line that women of all ages, sizes and backgrounds can comfortably wear; and to provide 'undercoverwire' wearable technology tools and triggers to connect to the SafetyNET online, without wearers being noticeable or audible while making their request for help. SafetyNET is a global cyber cafe project that uses the power of new technologies to help stop violence against women and children, quietly linking them to information about domestic violence through online access. In the "safe spaces" of moderated chat rooms, participants communicate with domestic violence specialists, volunteer attorneys, survivors of abuse, and mentors. The project is operating in North America, North Africa and throughout Europe. First phase installations are underway in Asia and Latin America. (presentation supported by Microsoft).

I spent a great deal of time with the team from Simon Frasier University and they are doing some cool work in wearables. Their exhale: breath between bodies is a new collection of body area networked garments. Building on last year's collection of responsive skirts with muscle sensors embedded in garter belts, this year they feature sensuous networked skirts and sleeves linked with elastic breast-bands that listen to the wearer's breath. Made of natural silk & organza fibers in earthy and vibrant tones, creates a shared public space of breath, revealing sensation, sound and light, exploring the notion of intimacy accessed through physiological data. Is also being featured in the Siggraph 2005 Emerging Technologies exhibition, as an installation that utilizes the collective breath of participants to actuate small fans and vibrators embedded with the linings of evocative skirts. If viewers negotiate a shared group breath, the skirts glow with light that palpates in rhythm with it.

Here's a brief excerpt from Wired's coverage of the program:

In the future, we'll text-message hugs to each other's shirts, our coat buttons will house cameras, and our underwear biosensors will phone home when we're in trouble.

Some of us will go topless, adorned only with computer-extruded brooches adhered directly to skin.

That's what's in store if the runway fashions during the fourth annual Siggraph Cyber Fashion Show ever see the light of day.

This week's runway show brought together 35 exhibitors from 10 countries to display wearable computers, computer-generated jewelry and clothing designs festooned with electronics.

The event had one thing in common with typical haute couture shows — most of the outlandish prototypes on the backs of underfed models here won't end up in your closet anytime soon.

But much was unique about this event: the exhibitor list combined familiar fashion brands like Oakley and Fossil with tech names like Sony, Charmed Technology and the MIT Media Laboratory.

The event's latex-clad emcee and founder, Isa Gordon, referred to herself as the "cyborg host" and read her lines from a head-mounted teleprompt running a Microsoft operating system. The device, which rested over one eye like a pirate patch, crashed several times during the show, then died mid-show when batteries ran out, requiring a return to paper scripts.

Models had names like Sara Tonin, Venus Prototype and Stardust Angel.

A wide array of looks were on display, from a Burning Manesque electro-luminescent wire hodgepodge, to remixed Victorian, to what can only be described as "extreme android makeover," complete with platform Goth boots and long, metallic hair tendrils. 

Link: Wired News: Fancy Meets Function on Runway.

Link: SIGGRAPH :: CyberFashion 0100.

Link: The Siggraph Cyber Fashion fiesta – Engadget – www.engadget.com.

Link: NPR : Cyberfashion: Technology You Can Wear.

Link: Siggraph CyberFashion Show 2004. Lots of pictures from the 2004 Cyberfashion show.

Original Post: http://blog.brandexperiencelab.org/experience_manifesto/2005/08/wired_news_fanc.html