Imagine our clothing, any type of clothing from under to outer-wear is acting as digital data storage memory. Sound too far fetched? Actually NASA scientists found a way to do just that – transforming fabrics into huge storage arrays potentially transforming a simple shirt into a Giga or even Terra Byte storage medium.
The underlying technology is rather simple, based on the early day computer memory, called core memory technology used in the ’50s and ’60s as state-of-the-art computer storage memory.
Fast forward to 2011 two NASA nano-technologists from the Ames Research Center in California came up with a mouthed to weave computer memory into garments.
Here is my condensed, simplified version of the incredible work ‘Copper oxide resistive switching memory for e-textile‘ from scientist Jin-Woo Han and M. Meyyappan.
A mesh of bare copper wires are woven whereby the bottom wires are coated with copper oxide. At each intersection of the woven copper grid a Platinum piece is placed. The copper oxide coating is acting as resistive switching thus storing data on each node/intersection.
The read and write process of this woven data storage medium is done just like by conventional RAM: high voltage (in this case 3V is used to write data and low voltage of 0.5V to read data bits.
First experimental woven data arrays have been able to store data for about 115 days – does not sound incredibly long but the memory can be refreshed before the data vanish. The refresh shouldn’t take that long as the read/write access time is just 60 microseconds.
Imagine how many Giga and Tera Bytes we could have in a woven structure considering the thousands and thousands of intersection a piece of fabric is made up.
Cleaning garments in future will have two dimensions, one to get the dirt off and another cleaning process to clear up and refresh the data deep inside the fabric.
As it applies for most high-tech research – sounds reasonable simple to fabricate but there are always some potential roadblock along the way. In the memory fabric case consideration on impact of heat, cold, UV radiation, wear and tear of the fabric and it’s impact on the data storage reliability are some of the most obvious and essential questions that have been worked out before the first yardage of memory fabric runs off the textile mills.
I will keep my eyes wide open to look out for Can’t wait to be able to buy the first yards of the memory fabric. I don’t mind sewing a shirt myself.
The research paper ‘Copper oxide resistive switching memory for e-textile‘ for in-depth information can be viewed at AIP Advances.
IFA in Berlin and it’s equivalent, the CES in Las Vegas, are the must-go events of the year to check out the latest inventions and innovations in the electronic high-tech sector.
Not surprisingly, both events attract the emerging trend of techno-fashion, clothing that gets an electrifying makeover, clothing that brings electronic closer to our skin than personal, pocket devices will ever get.
This years IFA which is winding down it’s show today, gave a snapshot of the current developments of European Haute-Tech fashion brands like German based MOON Berlin or Austria’s UTOPE, headed by fashion designer Wolfgang Langeder.
Wolfgang Langeder’s Supaheroe jacket attracted a lot of interest a few month ago, so it comes to no surprise that he is having big plans to move forward with electrifying fashion.
His current work is inspired by the mesmerizing bio-luminescent color play from Deep-Sea Jellyfish. His aim is to transfer this elusive color play to items we wear. Wolfgang will present his new Hi-Tech collection next year at fashion shows in Milan and Paris.
Watch the video below, recorded from the TV channel DW, providing a view of wearable technology at this years IFA as well as an interview with Wolfgang Langeder.
According to DW, at the IFA 2020 we will see electrified clothing enter the mainstream market, where Hi-Tech fashion probably will occupy much more exhibition space, building a more common sight compared with the current novel status of wearable technology.
Philadelphia based NextFab Studio, a membership-based, high-tech workshop and prototyping center is running a two day workshop about the basics of e-Textiles end of this month.
If you are around the area on the weekend of September 29th and 30th and want to get introduced to the wonderful, creative world of eTextiles, sign up soon, there are only very few places available.
You will need to bring your own article of clothing or other soft item (blanket, potholder, bag) you want to upgrade to the digital age and a laptop (Mac or PC).
You will learn about about e-textiles materials and methods including: soft circuits, power, voltage, resistance, hand-sewing vs. machine sewing, conductive fabric, conductive thread, sewing LEDs, switches, sensors, plus examples of what you can do with these tools.
Day two will focus mainly on an intro to programming with Lilypad Arduino and working on your own eTextile project.
The workshop fee which includes a LilyPad Arduino kit is $190.- or reduced fee of $160.- for NextFab members.
In sewing, strings of various thickness and stiffness are used for piping, a type of trim inserted into a seam to define the edges or style lines of a garment or bag.
A team of researcher at LG Chem seems to add another function to the piping: they developed a Li-Ion battery in string form just a few millimeter thick, is bendable and can even be knotted without compromising it’s battery function.
The energy storage technology is based on Li-Ion chemistry just like conventional Li-Po batteries only twisted into a round, fine string instead in a flat, geometrical form factor.
Thin strands of nickel and tin coated copper wires form the anode. The researcher then spin the coated copper wires into metal yarn, wrap it around a rod to form a spring shape which functions as structural element of the string battery as well as the anode.
The cathode is formed from a lithium cobalt oxide coated aluminum wire wrapped around the anode yarn. Liquid electrolyte is poured down the middle of the spiral shaped wires to activate the chemical reaction. The electrodes are covered and sealed off with a protective insulation layer on the outside.
All this sounds very interesting and I can already imagine the many usage areas in the wearable technology field. The battery capacity will most likely depend on the length and diameter of the string, giving quite some creative room for a reasonable, sizable power supply completely integrated in garments and bags.
When will we get string cable batteries? In about 5 years according to Je Young Kim, general manager of battery R&D at LG Chem.
Picking up on a recent story by Engadet about the Hi-Fun glove phone they spotted at the IFA in Berlin, Germany I searched around our own talk2myShirt archive and on the internet to see if there has been something similar cooking in the creative community.
And sure enough my search came up with Jason Bradbury who seems to be the inspirational father with his world’s first Phone Glove created back in pre-iPhone times of 2005, featuring basically the same functionality as the Hi-Fun phone glove, serving as not-so-hands-free communication device for cellphones.
Jason took apart a Bluetooth headset and integrated the tiny components like speaker, microphone, electronics and battery in a glove.
A simple enough concept to put together, the pairing is done by the salvaged BT-headset and off you
My verdict: the (not really) hands-free talking gloves are a fun addition to all the other stuff we buy and wear to get noticed, to stand out of the average but I can’t see a practical use behind that concept other then to be ‘funny’.
Interestingly – gloves have appealed to creative thinkers for a very long time, integrating technology for various purposes. Some are truly helpful like sign language translating, some can help people to gain or regain the use of their hands after injury and some are just there to make us smile.
Apparel fitted with sensors detecting, recording and analyzing movement, physiological data from the wearer or environmental parameters like location, moisture and temperature, light or chemical substances in the air – all these represent vital and interesting information in many different application for professional and leisure use.
Wearable technology in form of sensing apparel triggers sheer unimaginable creativity. Innovators challenge the boundaries of the known universe with very smart apparel and usability concepts.
WOVEN, a e-Wearable Platform created by Interaction Designer Patrick Kersten and Game Designer Christiaan Ribbens, both Masters students at the School of the Arts Utrecht (NL) break down the ever softening boundaries between the virtual and the physical, real world.
WOVEN is a piece of garment loaded with bend and heart-rate sensor as input, speakers, shake motors and a 12×12 pixel LED display for feedback and is powered by 3 LilyPad Arduino’s and a LiPo battery. WOVEN links up with the virtual world via a Bluetooth wireless link to connect to the internet via smart-phones with it’s apps or notebooks.
This technology laden garment serves as platform, as a jack-of-all-trades to keep it open for a wide range of different uses, as activity recorder, as gateway to social networks, to interact with buddies in the grey zone between on-line and off-line existences.
To demonstrate the potential and wide variety of uses of the e-Wearable platform, the team worked with experts to create SPOOKY a game that can only be played using the WOVEN, blurring the interaction between the digital and physical life.
Impressive the work of fashion designer Marina Toeters and Melissa Petersen-Bonvie who managed to get all the technology into a very good looking jacket.
Check out the e-Wearable Platform for more details on this SPOOKY new wearable tech design.
High-tech shoemaker Nike is stirring up the sneaker market with the recent announcement to bring the LeBron X model including the ‘Nike+ Basketball’ feature to the consumer market as early as Fall this year with a (not yet confirmed) price tag of about US$ 300.-
Nike introduced the Nike+ feature as simple Pod inserted in the shoe back in 2006 in running shoes, tracking the distance and calorie burned. The collected information can be uploaded after the run to the Nike+ website to share and compete with like minded people around the world.
Earlier this year Nike added the ‘Nike+ Training’ feature and integrated it in the Lunar Hyperworkout shoes with accompanying iOS App, linking up the shoes to the iPhone via Bluetooth and to the Nike+ social workout site. The Lunar Hyperworkout models are available for men and women for about US$ 230.-
Adding on to the High-tech shoe range, Nike announced the ‘Nike+ Basketball’ available later this year with the LeBron X model recording the jumps and intensity of movements during the game.
The technology for both is based around a new Pressure Sensor built into each shoe that collects information about the user’s movement and then wireless transmits data to their phone, providing different metrics about their workout or their game.
I do not understand the discussion around the price of the LeBron X model as I know many people lining up for days outdoors to be happy to buy a smartphone twice as expensive than other brands. Nike is not ‘any’ shoe maker it is ‘THE’ shoemaker. Paying a premium to be one of the selected first to wear a high-tech shoe is not as ‘incredible’ as some think.
It is great to see brands committed to innovation, to be bold and make the first step into the unknown. Wearable technology is an area where innovators and risk takers on both sides, on the business and the consumer side are needed. Going the save and cheap line means waiting for the mainstream to catch up.