30 July 2012
A wearable lie-detector dress and a frock that can turn transparent are some of the technologically enhanced clothing on show at an exhibition in Vienna.
What if the world could see your innermost emotions? For the wearer of the Bubelle dress created by Philips Design, it’s not simply a thought experiment.
Aptly nicknamed “the blushing dress”, the futuristic garment has an inner layer fitted with sensors that measure heart rate, respiration and galvanic skin response. The measurements are fed to 18 miniature projectors that shine corresponding colours, shapes, and intensities onto an outer layer of fabric – turning the dress into something like a giant, high-tech mood ring. As a natural blusher, I feel like I already know what it would be like to wear this dress – like going emotionally, instead of physically, naked.
The Bubelle dress is just one of the technologically enhanced items of clothing on show at the Technosensual exhibition in Vienna, Austria, which celebrates the overlapping worlds of technology, fashion and design.
Other garments are even more revealing. Holy Dress, created by Melissa Coleman and Leonie Smelt, is a wearable lie detector – that also metes out punishment. Using voice-stress analysis, the garment is designed to catch the wearer out in a lie, whereupon it twinkles conspicuously and gives her a small shock. Though the garment is beautiful, a slim white dress under a geometric structure of copper tubes, I’d rather try it on a politician than myself. “You can become a martyr for truth,” says Coleman. To make it, she hacked a 1990s lie detector and added a novelty shocking pen.
Laying the wearer bare in a less metaphorical way, a dress that alternates between opaque and transparent is also on show. Designed by the exhibition’s curator, Anouk Wipprecht with interactive design laboratory Studio Roosegaarde, Intimacy 2.0 was made using conductive liquid crystal foil. When a very low electrical current is applied to the foil, the liquid crystals stand to attention in parallel, making the material transparent. Wipprecht expects the next iteration could be available commercially. It’s time to take the dresses “out of the museum and get them on the streets”, she says.
While only the daring might wear such “haute tech couture” in public, there are some designs for more demure fashionistas. The newly unveiled Denzipfaden outfit by Maartje Dijkstra uses the conducting wires within its fabric to turn zips into fader-controllers like those on a mixing desk. Electronic music composer Beorn Lebenstedt (aka Newk), who collaborated on the idea, performed in the suit at the exhibition’s opening.
Yet perhaps one of the most covetable items on display is the Taiknam Hat. At first glance it resembles a witch’s hat covered in luxurious black feathers. Then it comes to life. A detector in the hat picks up radio waves in the environment and sends real-time signals to a built-in computer. This activates sewn-in motors that set the feathers – and hearts of startled onlookers – aflutter.
Technosensual: Where fashion meets technology runs until 2 September at Freiraum Quartier21 in Vienna, Austria.