Smart clothes: Thanks to a new dyeing process, an elegant evening dress becomes a sensor

Smart clothes: Thanks to a new dyeing process, an elegant evening dress becomes a sensor

Smart watches that monitor body functions and also announce the time are becoming increasingly popular. Athletes, hikers and the sick in particular appreciate the devices. The closer the intelligent electronics cling to the body, the better the measurement results. Researchers at Saarland University have now taken the proximity between electronics and the body to the extreme. They treat normal clothing fabrics with a process called in situ polymerisation so that they become electrically active. Conductive plastics are used that are attached to the fibers. This does not change the material. Garments made from it offer the same comfort as untreated fabrics.

Smart dress by Audrey Briot. Touching sends electrical signals and converts them into sounds. Image @ Vimeo screenshot

Integration in textile fibers

"Our goal was to integrate interactive functions directly into the fibers of textiles instead of just attaching electronic components to them," says Jürgen Steimle, computer science professor at the university. The wearing comfort should not suffer, as is usual with other processes for converting substances into electrically active materials. "Especially for devices worn on the body, it is important that they restrict movement as little as possible and still process high-resolution input signals," says Paul Strohmeier, one of the initiators of the project and scientist in Steimle's research group.

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Computers can be controlled with gestures

The textiles receive the electrical activity through a process that is reminiscent of the dyeing of fabrics. In a water bath enriched with the appropriate chemicals, they go through a process in which the fibers become electrically conductive and become sensors. For example, they can be equipped so that they send out electrical signals when they are exposed to pressure. Among other things, the researchers prepared a glove that reacts to pressure. Finger movements can be recorded digitally. This makes it possible, for example, to use gestures to control computers. Certain effects can be achieved if only segments of an item of clothing are treated. This makes it possible to create an interface that can be used to operate an external device, such as a smartphone.

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Toning evening dress

The process can also be used for non-technical purposes. The Parisian artist Audrey Briot has made an evening dress from touch-sensitive feathers that generate sounds via a computer when you touch them.

Source : Saarland University

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