3 Questions To The Spider Dress Creator Anouk Wipprecht: About Technical Challenges And Future Of Fashiontech
If you have been on the internet (as you’re reading this, we assume you have), you probably have seen the famous Spider Dress. The dress encompasses such topics as high fashion, prototyping with Intel® Edison, science fiction and pretty models that it broke the Internet, being featured in a lot of different online publications.
We had an exciting and rare opportunity to chat with the creator Anouk Wipprecht about technical challenges in the process of getting the Spider Dress prototyped and then worn by humans.
HWTrek: What are the biggest technical challenges in creating hardware infused clothing?
Several big challenges exist. One of the challenges has always been power. For mobility, batteries are always challenging, too large for extended use and too heavy. This is also a limiting factor for going mainstream and making it a commodity item.
Most of my designs work with LiPo batteries that have a very sensitive charging en de-charging cycle. I choose my batteries on the duration of the show I have and the power output needed. Mostly the output is not the biggest issue since LiPo have a high output current. Other challenges are wiring, mechanical stress on the materials and unknown environments for use of sensor input. This makes the technical design also a bespoke aspect in my work.
HWTrek: you used Intel® Edison board for powering the famous Spider Dress, what other technology do you use? How do you prototype?
Next to Edison, which I use for more complicated sets of computing — as tracing and processing wireless bio-signals, machine learning/computer vision or algorithmic system design, I use DIY prototyping platforms as Teensy a lot for technical prototyping or any Arduino flavour that meets the hardware specifications.
Sometimes the most interesting prototyping happens non-electronic by playing around with clay and sculpting tools, or by creating an mock-up. Simple mechanics systems made out of foam and from there rapid prototyping techniques as 3D printing. For 3D printing in sculptural form I use Maya (animation design tool from AutoDesk), Rhino (more architectural sculpting tool) and Zbrush for textures and surfaces. For high level mechanical robotics there is a wide arrange of 3D software that simulates most of it, for really complex structures I collaborate with special effects studio’s in L.A. like ‘Spectral Motion’ who are the masters in animatronics.
The whole prototyping cycle is a combination of 3D software simulations, physical test setups that proof the concept en augmented prototypes to test hardware. When this meets the required standards the whole designs goes into production as, for example, a high quality 3D print, pattern design, couture, PCB design (for example in an software called ‘Eagle’), CNC machining parts. It just depends on what the design requires.
Spider Dress in action
HWTrek: What is the future of fasiontech? Do you see it going mainstream?
The mainstream is difficult. You will have to meet industry standards, safety standards, washability, maintenance (2 year warranty and what not) I won’t say it will never happen, but a lot within the industry needs to change. It is already changing.
Both from the technology point of view but also the fashion industry — for example — the cycles of fashion and the cycle that devices and technological steered interfaces launch is still miles apart. Overall — talking about electronic garments their process is slow since the production and integration of hardware on the level of the Spider Dress is still highly bespoke, expensive and high maintenance.
The fashion-tech that can go mainstream is on their way. There is a lot of research going on in making conductive washable wiring, LED’s and small electronics and sensors. These innovations are focused to be low maintenance, durable and low in power consumption. The current possibilities are still very limited, but I have seen some technical advancements that could hit the market as early as 2017. The industry players to look out for are e.g. Intel, Google, MAS, Holst Centre.
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Originally published at blog.hwtrek.com on March 18, 2016