The ability to program a piece of clothing or an accessory to change its look may seem like a gimmick—a concept far less marketable than, say, a smart watch. Two companies in the wearable technology space, CuteCircuit and Switch Embassy, however, may prove this perception wrong. Their designs could well be the vanguard of a fashion revolution where, instead of spending time and money building a large wardrobe, consumers simply change the appearance of a few staple articles with an app swipe.
CuteCircuit, perhaps best known for Nicole Scherzinger’s notable Tweet-displaying dress on The X Factor, has brought that conceit to a more humble garment with its InfiniTshirt, a tee shirt featuring a 1,024-pixel screen of full-color LEDs that displays images, text and Tweets controllable via Bluetooth using CuteCircuit’s Q iphone app. Crafted from the company’s proprietary Magic Fabric, InfiniTshirt also has a microphone, small camera, accelerometer and speakers, and plays video at 25 frames per second.
CuteCircuit created an earlier iteration of the shirt for the Scottish whiskey purveyor Ballentine’s. That piece, called tshirtOS, was too costly and fragile for production, so CuteCircuit continued honing the technology, eventually relaunching it as the InfiniTshirt.
Switch Embassy, which also worked on tshirtOS, is another company looking to bring programmable clothing into the mainstream. It makes Infinite Canvas, a foldable, washable interactive fabric that depicts texts and images on flexible white LED screens. The fabric is available in panels, which can be sewn together in the same way as any flat fabric pattern. Each panel houses LEDs, conductors, microcircuits and software. The panels can be affixed to other articles of clothing, such as pants and dresses, and on items for the home, along with signage.
A custom app for Infinite Canvas can adjust the LEDs’ brightness levels, gauge the amount of battery power available and upload images and animations to the fabric. Switch Embassy plans to sell the material to fashion and interior design companies, and use it for its own products, as well. It has already produced a handbag, Theia, made from the material.
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