Smart Textiles with Blockchain — A Match Made in Heaven .

Putting your jacket on, walking to work, picking up your coffee at Starbucks — all actions that theoretically can be measured. Some of them already are merely by carrying an iPhone or by also sporting a fitness device.

But what about if that jacket you were wearing was the one doing the actual measurement? It brings functionality to everyday objects by collecting data from consumer habits, including frequency of wear, location, level of activity, and temperatureAnd what if that data personally generated could be exchanged for value elsewhere?

From Fashion To Functionality that transforms clothes into data-collecting by bonding intelligence to textile for apparel and blockchain based identity tools for the multi billion dollar personal data market .

By innovative use of blockchain and integration of biometric security, consumers will be able to control access and profit from data they generate from their smart fabrics , and build a secure, anonymous digital identity on a Data Exchange . Users control access to the personalized data and earn tokens which can be converted to digital currencies or exchanged for rewards with brands or third parties.

We live in a world where smart watches, drone delivery, chatbots, live-streaming, self-driving cars and the sharing economy have ­become part of everyday language. But what about those rarely heard of technologies that, while already here, have yet to hit the mainstream?
Start-up companies and bigger firms looking to embrace innovation would do well to keep one eye on the horizon to prepare for the next major disrupters.
An important dimension of our lifes are clothes and fabrics . The future shall be wearable and here is textiles with blockchain ( personalized data ) make a lethal combination .
Smart contracts
Smart contracts are legal contracts that are enforced and executed using blockchain tech­nology to automatically manage transactions and keep accurate records .
Blockchain technology removes the need for third parties to be involved — such as escrow companies — when selling or buying physical property like a car or house. The blockchain contains a number of layers of security that replaces the need for a trusted third party to manage the transaction on behalf of the buyer and seller.
In other words, smart contracts are computer programs that can automatically execute and verify the terms of a contract without the need for human supervision.
Instead of employing lawyers to negotiate contractual terms and conditions, smart computers would be able to automatically determine better mortgage rates, make it simpler to update your will, and be involved in the trading of financial products.
It might sound a bit boring at first, but smart contracts become much more important when you think of the real-life consequences to which they could lead.
For example, imagine a world in which driverless cars are the norm and you’ve just bought a new vehicle on a payment plan that is outlined in a smart contract.
One of the conditions of the contract could be that if you’re late with a payment, the car will turn off and stop driving you around.
Because the contract is automated, and integrated into “the cloud”, which also includes the car, the consequences of being late with a payment could be immediate. This would mean that contracts are more effectively — and autonomously — enforced than ever before.
Smart fabrics
Clothes might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about disruptive technology, but the invention of smart fabrics — or e-textiles — will be much bigger than most people ­realise.
As nanotechnology continues to evolve, the ability to weave interactive textiles into clothing is no longer the domain of science fiction.
Take Project Jacquard, for instance.
The company — which counts Levi’s as a partner — makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any fabric simply by using a standard, industrial loom. It means you can answer your phone through your jacket.
Project Jacquard combines thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like silk, cotton or polyester, making the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom.
Adidas has already caught on, releasing a collection called “Climachill” that has titanium and aluminium built into the fabric to give the wearer a cold sensation while working out.
In similar vein, New York company Scough makes scarfs that filter and clean the air you breathe by using the same technology that the military uses to protect against chemical warfare.
Similar technology will have huge implications far beyond just the fashion industry — it’s easy to see the possibilities in sports, construction, healthcare and advertising, to name a few.
Biometric credit tokens
Very few online businesses should be storing credit card information any more. Most use a process called tokenisation — a process of substituting a sensitive data ­element such as a credit card number with a non-sensitive equivalent, referred to as a token, that has no extrinsic or exploitable meaning or value.
What that means in simple terms is that even if someone hacks the store, they won’t be able to do anything with the tokens because they are meaningless outside of the system.
In the not-too-distant future, it’s likely this process will be taken even further.
For example, each person will be asked to authorise their credit card transactions with their unique password, which will no longer be a numerical pass code, but a thumbprint, a facial scan or — as Swedish start-up Quixer has already invented — the palms of your hands, which contain a pattern of unique veins.
After this authorisation is complete, a unique alphanumeric “token” would be automatically created to identify that the person has authorised the merchant to withdraw a certain amount from their account on a particular date.
This can be viewed as an encrypted contract of sorts, which will more efficiently prevent theft.
Disruption has become an everyday idea thanks to technology companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Airtasker that are changing the face of work and travel.
But there are many more parts of life still to be disrupted, and all it takes is for the technologies being invented today to be successfully commercialized and go mainstream tomorrow.

The above three woven together make a remarkable future timeline .

The Problem Statement:
An image of extruding polymers and spinning them into yarn

It’s not just wires and bolts and touch screens and virtual reality goggles. Tech is, of course, all of those things , but it’s also the most basic things, like a polyester shirt, or a piece of fur tied around shoulders.

Technology is, simply put, the application of science for practical purposes.

At its origin, clothing was used to protect humans against the elements, like climate change, for example. This is one usage we consider when dressing ourselves, but the other woes of of human existence are too often left out of our apparel, but not for long…

These woes could be anything; from sore muscles and bug bites to ugly bruises and back acne. When aiding our bodies we leave clothes out of the equation, forgetting that it’s attached to us nearly 24/7.

Why is it that we’ve added technology to the insides of our bodies and directly on our skin, but never our ever present outer layer? The reasoning lies, in part, in our perception of what technology is and what it can do.

Wearable technology in healthcare is an obvious application, but it’s not the only one. We like to think of technology as mysterious and futuristic beyond comprehension. Packaging conceals the inner-workings, and incites adoration and allure from devoted (and addicted) users simply by not understanding how it does what it does.The Fitbit, the smartwatch, and the iPhone are all examples of this.

This isn’t to say that wonderful, useful, beautiful things haven’t been created in the space of wearable tech accessories.

It’s just that many wearable offerings subscribe to the former definition of tech; one that stems from the post-internet tech trends of portable gadgets and shrinking machines. As useful as they may be, none have managed to integrate seamlessly into our basic fabrics and clothing.

The most revolutionary thing about these gadgets is arguably in their impact and in how they change our behavior, despite our not knowing what their technology entails.

Image: The Crated

Take the seismograph for instance. It has allowed humans to become in tune with the workings of our planet, while its technology remains fairly simple. Upon its invention in 132 A.D. humans knew the earth was shaking, they just didn’t have a way to predict it. Once we created something sensitive enough to feel the slight vibrations and translate them into a visual map we could see, we adapted for safety. What seismographs are to the rattling of the earth, so can technology be to apparel, thus our bodies.

Smart fabrics and e-textiles still have a lot to learn from plastic gadgets, however. Being able to track how many steps you take in a day is a pretty good way of measuring fitness and health. Cooler yet is being able to track your heart’s activity to prepare for something harmful that might otherwise go undetected.

What is special about this technology is that it doesn’t create or combat, it listens, and the impact is still revolutionary. The same can be achieved on a simpler canvas of soft, everyday textiles. It’s just our process of creation and views of technology that have been interrupted.

Wearable tech and fashion tech receive constant criticism as being unsustainable and a temporary trend. At the same time there is an urge to return to all-natural materials with low environmental impact. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, they often contradict each other. A marriage between the two is a reasonable solution to combat the ephemeral quality of plastic wearables. With the wearable fashion industry only four years old, the growth is unquestionable and the impact already tangible. Google’s ProjectJacquard with Levi’s made a huge splash in recent press, along with The Met’srecent technology themed gala “Manus X Machina”. The Crated is just one of many startups and designers bringing the “magic” of mysterious electronics down to earth by merging the natural with the seemingly supernatural.

The Crated’s ARMOR Project with Strong Arm Technologies

Smart apparel and intelligent textiles are on their way to becoming replacements for the stupid clothing we wear today. With conductive inks, flexible circuits and easy to wear and wash electronic components, soon our clothes will be technologically on par with gadgets, sportswear and safety wear.

It’s a future where even the lightest weight jacket could keep bodies warm in the winter, and a mosquito with the Zika virus would have no chance of coming near unprotected skin.

Some inventions identify a need, or a problem, and solve it from the root. These days those are hard to come by, especially when it comes up against forces of nature. It’s difficult to even see a need if we’ve adapted to a problem a certain way for centuries.

Clothing’s role as the original wearable technology makes it the perfect medium for technological advances.

For the purpose of this series, we will only be exploring the E-textiles category of smart fabrics.
Definition : “E-textiles, also known as smart garments, smart clothing, electronic textiles, smart textiles, or smart fabrics, are fabrics that enable digital components (including small computers), and electronics to be embedded in them. Smart textiles are fabrics that have been developed with new technologies that provide added value to the wearer.” [1]

E-textiles live at the intersection of industries, often creating a linking bond between old world knitting, spinning, weaving or sewing and new-gen hacking, prototyping and opensource making. From knitted speakers to next generation space suits like the Biosuit , electronic textiles can be used for industries like composite architecture, aerospace, furniture, industrial wear and of course, consumer apparel.

Jsey on Instructables — Knitted speaker

Frequently, folks question what e-textiles can be used for, or why our investigation of them is worthwhile. A great mental model for imaging how e-textiles can be useful is to think about how standard PCBs (printed circuit boards) are useful. PCBs provide intelligence in your cell phone, your microwave, your car and much much more. Now imagine having even a fraction of that computing power on the soft surfaces around us. Intelligence in textiles has limitless possibilities. We’re excited about this space not just because of possible functionalities, but because fabric is one of the most ubiquitous materials in our lives and remains “dumb”.

When we begin to inventory our daily interactions, fabric is a material we sleep under and protect ourselves with, yet we have very low expectations of these materials when it comes to performance. Could you imagine if every fabric you slept under or put on your person could thermoregulate? Of course, this makes for civilian comfort, but this also means the difference between health and heat exhaustion for a construction worker or soldier. Beyond serving basic needs, experts in the space, such as Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, create a beautiful picture of what might be possible technically for the e-textiles industry-

“what makes smart fabrics revolutionary is that they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow”.[2]

Other professors, such as Yoel Fink from M.I.T’s material science department, explain a future where fabrics can contain the intelligence of anything from a camera to a biometric sensor.

What we gather is that e-textiles are far beyond fashion, but more so a knot-like bundle of technical challenges that can be used across industries as a core enabling technology. Enabling technologies like the Arduino can spark change in an industry from the bottom-up, creating a tremendous impact. Many innovators such as Billie Whitehouse and Sabine Seymour predict that the next generation of wearable tech will be screen-less and woven into the fibers around us.

E-textiles seem to be divided into different spheres. Makers, like Hannah Perner-Wilson from Kobakant are creating techniques and fabrication how-tos around homemade e-textiles. Kobakant is known as the holy grail of makery to many e-textile fabricators who gather annually for an e-textile summer camp.

At the other end of the spectrum, companies like Dupont and Forster Rohner are creating industrial methodologies for making conductive traces on material. From solderable conductive thread to nanoparticle inks, the industry as a whole is still attempting to understand the best way to make soft, flexible electronics on porous surfaces.

Forster Rohner Embroidered component

When making electronics for apparel, furniture and beyond, we have much more surface area than is available for a phone printed circuit board, for example. Between methodology for fabrication and design rules for designing circuits for larger surfaces, e-textiles are an exciting space with many problems to solve that dance between materials science, manufacturing, electronics and design. Combinatorial innovation tends to be best supported by university settings, and we’re seeing both North Carolina State College of Textiles and Drexel’s Haute Tech Lab chipping away at issues in the space by experimenting with non-wovens, wearable power and additive manufacturing for fabric using full garment knitting machines.

E-Textiles need more infrastructure around industrial production to become a truly robust and impactful space. Great components like the Adafruit Flora exist on the market, but what is the best DFM (designed for manufacturing) next step for attaching microcontrollers to fabric? Industry trendsetters are still asking how we can break the hard-soft barrier (putting components on fabric without them popping off due to different tensile properties) and how we can make e-textiles easier to produce for fashion brands and fabric mills alike.

In 2015, 3D printing was seen as one of the most exciting new spaces to explore. From desktop Makerbots to industrial machines, a new groundbreaking discovery in the space was popping up weekly. The interesting thing about additive manufacturing (another name for 3D printing) is that stereolithography (a specific kind of 3D printing) was first developed in 1986 by Charles Hull. By 2015, it had been almost two decades before consumers began to get excited about the space and understand how it could affect them.

Chuck Hull with a 3D Systems SLA Machine

Looking into the e-textiles space, it seems as though we might be experiencing a similar trajectory. This month alone, press has been covering a $302 million DoD and M.I.T collaboration and the U.S Commerce Department’s first ever smart-fabrics gathering. As we’ve seen quite a bit over the past couple years, everyone from brand names like Ralph Lauren to startups like Ravean have been announcing products in the space.

However, as new as e-textiles may seem, this space has been around for decades. The real difference between 2016 e-textiles and 1986 e-textiles is that we now consider the industry to have real, industrial potential and previously, we saw this space as craft, R&D and eccentricity.

Steve Mann is known as “the father of wearable computing” [1] and often refers to the abacus ring as one of the first pieces of wearable technology.

Personally, I like to draw a line between wearable technology and wearable computing as technology is a broad term that applies to not just electronics, but also material and design innovation. With that in mind, wearable technology seems like a much broader category of innovation that isn’t as focused on electronics as it is materiality. In the timeline below, we’ll be focusing on textile based electronic innovations (under the category of wearable technology) that aren’t smart watches, health trackers, or other devices that we know more commonly as “wearables” (including the abacus ring. Sorry guys).

  • 1600 — Early conductive threads are said to date back to the Elizabethan era when gold threads were woven into garments for a gleaming accent. Now, we often use silver, or nickel threads for conductivity, but the concept of metallic threads has existed for centuries for decorating garments.
  • Early 1990s — MIT students started researching smart apparel for military use.
  • 1996 — Less EMF, the conductive fabric superstore (for EMF blocking purposes) , launches
LessEMF Copper Taffeta
Image of an embroidered keyboard from E-broidery
  • 2000- Plug and Wear launches, selling conductive materials for knitting and sewing
  • 2003- Georgia Tech Motherboard shirt appears in press
  • 2007 — Leah Buechley develops the Lilypad, a microcontroller made specifically for textiles. (Adafruit later makes its own version called the Flora)
  • 2008 — Sabine Seymour publishes Fashioning Technology
  • 2008 -Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson Launch Kobakant
  • 2009 — Forster Rohner launches the Climate Dress using their innovative embroidered techniques
  • 2011- MICA Fiber department begins to explore conductive thread and electronics, creating the Midi Puppet Glove
  • 2012 — Drexel launches their Haute Tech Lab exploring smart fabrics and additive manufacturing for textiles. (date inferred)
  • 2015- Fast Company features innovators like Switch Embassy speculating the possibility of commercial fashion applications for e-textiles
  • 2015 — Ralph Lauren and OMSignal team up for the Polotech Shirt
  • 2015 — Google’s Project Jacquard directs tech eyes to e-textiles at Google I/O
  • 2015 — The Department of Defense put out a RFP for developing smart textiles and innovative fabrics
  • 2015 — ZSK embroidery reveals conductive thread and sequin LEDs compatible with their machines
  • 2013–2016 — Studios such as Wearable Experiments, Interwoven and The Crated (shameless plug) create practices around e-textiles and making invisible wearable tech.
  • 2016 — IDTechEx launches a report speculating about the future of wearable tech into 2026. They breakdown how people are using conductive textiles, inks and threads
Read more at:

As with any industry, it’s important to learn from the past as we move into a strong future for e-textiles. Thanks to suppliers like Less EMF, Adafruit, Plug and Wear and Sparkfun, E-textile makers and innovators can continue to prototype and research into the future and thanks to institutions like University of North Carolina, Drexel and MIT the future looks bright for R&D and innovation in the e-textiles space.

“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”
-John Lasseter

Art can be a powerful driver of innovation in any field and observing how artists choose to use–or even invent–technology can be an inspiring indicator of things to come.

For decades, e-textiles and smart textiles were looked at as craft more than science. With technical complexity creating visual simplicity, it’s easy to find smart textiles as more familiar than foreign, more low-tech than high-res, making them a great medium for visual stunts.

Below, we’ll explore 5 pieces that show how smart fabrics, outside of complete garments, can be used to make compelling works of art, ranging from music to museums and even master’s programs.

Using a combination of conductive yarns and color changing threads, Maggie Orth’s piece uses electricity to create phase change within a woven textile. The piece is currently on display at The Storefront for Art and Architecture.

Artist: Maggie Orth | Piece Name: 100 Electronic Art Years, 2009 | Media: Hand-woven cotton, rayon, conductive yarns, silver ink, thermochromic ink, drive electronics and software. 62" x 54" x 8"

Technology similar to that used for Maggie Orth’s piece were used by Laura Devendorf for research on dynamic textile displays, using Thermochromic textiles with electricity to make low-powered displays that aren’t backlit.

EJ Tech’s website features a nice collection of experiments and art pieces done with smart fabric. In this featured experiment, fabric is turned into a controller for making tunes. EJ Tech clearly states they do not intend to mass produce this prototype; it serves as inspiration above all — as art often does.

Artist: EJ Tech | Piece Name: N/A | Media: Fabric, conductive ink

Artist Imogen Heap can be seen using her gesture gloves to control a musical experience. Designed for experimental work in both her studio and on stage, Heap describes them as Minority Report for musicians.

Tactile Dialogues is a piece created to encourage dialogue between severe dementia patients and their loved ones by triggering physical communication patterns. Integrated within the fabric are vibration elements that react to touch, encouraging the patient to move and develop conversations in an alternative, yet bodily way. While this piece is not necessarily art, it dances between the delightful and the academic.

Tactile Dialogs | Designers: Martijn ten Bhömer, Borre Akkersdijk, Oscar Tomico
  • Designers: Martijn ten Bhömer, Borre Akkersdijk, Oscar Tomico
  • Partners: TU/e, TextielMuseum TextielLab, De Wever, byBorre, Optima Knit, Metatronics
  • Students: Orfeas Lyras, Suzanne Bon, Bregje Brocken, Carolina Gómez Naranjo & Kimberly Schelle
  • Materials: Cotton yarn, Elektrisola textile wire, 3D-printed casing, Bekinox conductive fibers, Vibration motors, Custom CRISP motor printed circuit board, Battery
  • Techniques: Circular knitting, 3D-printing, Programming, Heat pressing, Soldering

50 Different Minds uses fiber optics to create multidimensional fabric swatches with lovely streaks of color by parsing real-time data from the Internet, assigning it a pattern and triggering a display of changing pattern and color. Swatches are based on the color theory of painter Josef Albers and his wife Anni Albers’ work in textiles. This Kickstarter supported project, produces an animated effect that looks like illuminated silk.

Title: 50 Different Minds

Mass market interpretations of this technology illustrate the delicate artistry of light distribution in the 50 Different Minds project.

Cross stitch is used as a communication tool in this piece by Wei Chieh Shih. His textile is fashioned into a poncho (see image below) made of conductive threads to form an LED matrix capable of broadcasting messages. As part of his residency at ARQUETOPIA 2013, Shih was invited by Bandui Lab to design the LED poncho for “Adelita”, a Mexican folk song inspired action figure symbolizing the movement of women who joined the Mexico Revolution (1910–1920).

Artist: Wei Cheih Shih, Tools used: Arduino, LED Lights, Attiny85, Wood, Leather, Beads, Embroidery

Shih’s prior work in wearables included experiments in spectacular stage wear embedded with lasers. This nylon suit is embedded with 200 laser diodes, transforming the performer into a mobile light show.

In the same way that clothing can be art, a functional and protective necessity, or a combination of the two, smart fabric is a core enabling technology that can support both creative endeavors and practical safety wear.

By exploring creative experiments, we can start to imagine use cases that might impact our daily lives — truly allowing technology to inspire art and allowing art to challenge technology.

Google Jacquard Project.

This year at the e-textile summer camp 2017 ,an annual gathering of professionals and practitioners in electronic textile initiated by the girls from Kobakant one of the trends was the use of capacitive sensing in textile .

Admar Schoonen teaching about capacitive sensing during the e-textile summer camp 2017. Photo: Zoe Romano.

Capacitive sensing is the ability to measure a material that is conductive. With this data, you can figure out things like touch, proximity, acceleration, fluid level, humidity, etc. This type of sensing is useful for various things including wearables.

Interactive textiles have been used and investigated by institutions, designers, and artists since long ago.

Interactive jacket by Google and Levis.

One of the most popular projects is the connected Jaquet by Google and Levis. The project Jacquard hit the news with an interactive jacket that allows, with a simple touch on the sleeve, users to wirelessly access their phone and favorite mobile apps to adjust music volume, silence a phone call or get an estimated ETA on their destinations. I decided to put this project first because it got very famous and I get often asked if Google invented this kind of interaction. The Jacquard Project is undoubtedly a great initiative and an important player on the e-textile field, but nope, they did not invent it. People are working in similar things since some years already.

Rehmi and Josh Smith can be seen demonstrating the jackets.

Back in 1997 at MIT Media Lab. Margareth Orth, Rehmi Post, and Joshua Strickon released the Musical jacket. Also a Levis jacket. It consisted of a touch-sensitive MIDI keyboard embroidered directly into the fabric using conductive thread.


Another example of creative use of this technology is the “Media Vintage” (2009) by Melissa Colman. She explains on her website: “ Media Vintage is a series of interactive electronic textiles that contain memories. Alpha is a suitcase in which you can weave temporary secret messages in Morse code. Bravo is a tapestry that sings a song from long ago when your fingers read the embroidered Braille. Charlie is a trench-coat that reads fabric punchcards and tells you stories from an old man’s life.”


Melissas’ Media Vintage inspired me to experiment with this technology during a residency at Taipei artist Village in Taipei (Taiwan) in 2010. I created the performance Pinyin that deals with traditional music and textile. In this performance, I collected fragments of music from different tribes in Taiwan and connected them to an electronic system embroidered in a garment. The performer could, then, interact with the clothing by touching the decorated areas. When this happens, small speakers embedded in the garment broadcast the traditional music of that particular tribe. When the performer reaches 2 points at the same time the music from 2 tribes is mixed. This experience is an exploration of music, tradition, through body, and touch.

Pyin by Ricardo O’Nascimento

Kristi Kuusk and Martijn ten Bhömer from Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands created in 2013 the Vibe-ing. Vibe-ing is a self-care tool in the form of a garment, which invites the body to feel, move, and heal through vibration therapy. The merino wool clothing contains knitted pockets, embedded with electronic circuit boards that enable the garment to sense touch and vibrate specific pressure points on the body. According to Kussk, The aim of this design was to inform a multidisciplinary audience about the opportunities of integrating textile and vibration for self-health care services at home and in everyday activities.

Photography: Hanneke Wetzer & Bas Berends (Studio HUID & HAAR); Hair & Make-up: Jaimy Bontenbal; Model: Jos van der Weele

The Dutch designer Pauline Van Dongen also made a jacket with Dennin and traces of conductive thread. She explains that “Through bodily sensations, this jacket encourages you to be present in an increasing accelerating world in which our mind is often focussed on future events.” I had the chance to see this jacket in the Fashion Forward exhibition in Paris, and I can tell you that it looks amazing!


Another project that got very popular for its novelty and simplicity is the Duo Skin by MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research. It is a fabrication process that uses golden leaves as sense input device, to display output and to communicate wirelessly with other devices. Differently, from other smart patches used in a medical environment, this project is inexpensive and takes advantage of the maker’s culture that commonly repurposes materials and techniques.

Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, Asta Roseway*, Christian Holz*, Paul Johns*, Andres Calvo, Chris Schmandt. 
MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Microsoft Research*

Melissa Coleman also released a temporary electronic tattoo as part of the “e-textile swatch book in 2015. She used copper foil cut in a vinyl cutter machine in a very similar technique. However, in Melissas’s experiment, there was a place for the battery already on the design eliminating wires to connect to electronics as seen in the Duoskin project.

Photo: Melissa Coleman

Talking about the skin, I can not forget the guys from Bare Conductive. Bare Conductive is a game changer in the capacitive sensing because they developed a conductive ink that is easy to use, works great and can be used in silk screen, paint and even on the body. And on top of that, they designed a board with implemented capacitive sensing that is so easy to use and has a fantastic result.

Photo: Bare conductive.

Many wearables use Bare conductive to create interactive sound clothes. Check the funny “John Paul George and me” by Studio any.

One can get very creative in finding unexpected conductive materials to build a capacitive interface. However, the advanced part of capacitive sensing resides on the ability to interpret the collected data. Things start to become interesting when you have control of the data and can make sense out of it.

An impressive project that takes capacitive sensing to a whole new level is the Touche sense project by Disney. Touche project ( Touché: Touch and Gesture Sensing for the Real World) is a sensing technology that proposes a novel Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique that can not only detect a touch event but simultaneously recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body during touch interaction. The researchers were able to identify rather complex gestures and interactions. Imagine a piece of fabric that can act not only as a traditional mouse pad but can also detect pinch, grab and other gestures related to cloth manipulation. According to the inventors, this technology could lead to the idea of Zero UI (zero User interface), transforming the body into an interface to digital input information. No more screens!

The Touche project is a proprietary technology, but there is also an open source version of similar technology developed at California Institute of Arts and Victoria University of Wellington. You can download the paper here.

The “Advanced Functional Fabrics of America” — an initiative from the MIT — selected the knit capacitive touch sensor (CTS) as one of the main projects to be developed. The Knit Capacitive Touch Sensor (CTS) is a gesture sensitive functional textile touchpad interface for physical devices developed at the Center for Functional Fabrics (CFF) at Drexel University. The CTS is produced as a single piece of fabric requiring only two electrodes to connect it to a microcontroller. The CTS offers a solution for a flexible touch interface with consistent location detection, responsiveness, comfort, and unobtrusiveness. It is robust and can sustain daily wear and tear. It is also washable.


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