The future of interaction everywhere and fashion

Last Friday January 27 ThingsCon organised a 6th Salon. This time the theme was Intimate interactions with new fashion tech. LABS was supporter of this Salon. Why is this a topic that has our special interest?

Picture by Bob Mans

You probably know that we are involved in the research on new haptic interactions for some time. Thinking on making services that are based on data (information) transfer without a screen. With wearables this is becoming a more and more interesting field to make digital services for.

We are not alone in this interest. Google ATAP is working on several projects that are themed around ‘interaction everywhere’. They are looking into ways to make all surfaces into a means of interaction. Project Jacquard is one of those projects where new garments are created with digital threads weaved in. Google is working together here with Levi’s.

What is not happening in that project is facilitating a real dialogue thru the materials. It is (now) only input from the user to a system but there is no haptic feedback yet. That would be even more interesting. We are working in a project of University Twente and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences on TaSST, a sleeve that can be stroked and those strokes can be felt from a distance. Internet of Touch as we like to call this.

TaSST sleeve

In this projects LABS is making the software layer. We used the Connectable framework as basis to connect the sleeves to store the data and make a service that can send the signals via you smartphone to the other sleeve. We had a team working on creating the first algorithmic version of this software. That is needed to make a threshold for the signals to calibrate and to smoothen the strokes.

We use the TaSST the project within LABS as a mean to execute experiments for several research-lines.

Algo-products. We think the future of products is a combination of physicality and software that create adaptive experiences for the user. The products don’t have a fixed character but adapt to the use and user in the moment. How to design for this new products?

Dialogue interactions and machine learning. Next level is the ever changing product characteristic. Products will have a dialogue with us to understand what we need, but will not be the ‘slave’ to the user. The thing has it’s own will to create the right amount of friction combined with open ended characteristics. Learning by itself thru advanced machine learning will become standard.

Hardware as a platform. I wrote extensively about this before. I think we will see unbundling of the functionality of devices and the manufacturing of the device. A product has a smart layer will have a app-layer that is open for other developers to create interesting experiences. Think a washing machine that offers the detergent suppliers to create a specific program that learns of the use of all buyers. 
The software of the sleeve will have the same architecture, where we offer external app makers the possibility to think on their own uses of the sleeves.

Back to the Salon. It is interesting what ideas are triggered when new digital layer is added to fashion. We had five speakers and five students to present there research.

Overall the palet of speakers showed us that the combination of tech and fashion works the best with integrated concepts that not try to do the most possible but focuses on specific functions. Real integration of technology in the garments as Kimbow shows and also the magnetic garmet concept generates new possibilities. As Aduén sketched in his brake down of the process and relation between the fashion designer and maker, a lot can emerge from the dialogue between the disciplines.

The interesting aspect of tech and fashion is the intimacy that tech and behaviour unlocks. More than in other domains the search for real symbiose is the best way to create interesting experiences.

What became also clear to me is that the current implementations of intimate fashion tech do not (fully) leverage the possibilities of adding software as an intelligent layer to the garment. This is were our design & research approach with TaSST could contribute.

We are still in an early stage of integration of tech in garments and in our day-to-day life. When the technology becomes an open layer for others to create new functionalities and services it could well accelerate.