Innovators fashion new type of technology

For most people, fashion and technology do not really go together. Besides the convenience of pockets to hold cell phones and MP3 players, most do not even use the words “fashion” and “technology” in the same sentence.

It must come as a surprise to most then, when Tech’s own Graphics, Visualization, and Usability (GVU) Center developed the “On You 2” exhibit, which showcases these two continually evolving trends as one “wearable technology” unit. This exhibit comes as a sequel to the previously successful exhibit, “On You,” similarly hosted in the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA).

The clothes on exhibit are the products of main designer Clint Zeagler and Tech Associate Professor Thad Starner, as well as designs of some of the students in a wearable technology course. The clothes are successful steps at bridging the gap between fashion and technology.

“We want fashion people to not be scared of technology,” Zeagler said in a press release.

Zeagler teaches classes on wearable technology here at Tech, along with fashion courses at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). He also has his own line of clothing called Pecan Pie Couture, which is both environmentally and culturally sustainable in the Southeast.

The clothes are designed with embroidery done in conductive thread, woven in certain designs. When touched or rubbed against, these patterns can control a cell phone, an iPod or any mobile device connected by Bluetooth. An incoming call can literally be brushed off the shoulder by sliding a finger across the embroidery. A jog wheel type interface, like that of the iPod, can be stitched into a dress, and one can scroll and select in any direction. One step further than that is the potential to select on the jog wheel without even touching the interface at all, using capacitive technology.

The clothing samples on exhibit are not meant for distribution, but for researchers, especially designers, to get more interested in the technology, according to Zeagler.

If more people find this sort of wearable technology interesting, the already endless possibilities could take off and produce exciting results.

“[I am excited] to see more fashion people doing this type of thing,” Starner said in a press release.

This sort of technology is part of a movement called natural technology. The goal is to eliminate the keyboard, mouse and even the computer screen to bridge the gap between computers and the surrounding natural world. This way, people can interact with technology in the same way they interact with the world.

This technology might seem a bit futuristic, but it has been long coming, evidenced by the voice-recognition and eye-tracking capabilities found on modern cell phones.

Another more recent development is a gesture-controlled gaming system called Kinect. Instead of using any sort of remote, one can just swing a leg in order to kick a soccer ball in the game. Soon, people might be able to display their computer screen onto a wall or their hands, using their fingers as buttons.

Similar researchers are working to put data pixels onto contact lenses, which can eliminate the need for computer monitors as well.

Tech is on the forefront of these cutting edge technologies, as evidenced by the GVU’s “On You 2” exhibits. By concentrating on the practicality, purpose and user-friendliness of this technology, researchers will soon be able to make wearable technology and other such natural technologies have huge impacts on daily life.

The wearable technology will be on exhibit at the MODA until July 9, and more information may be found at .