Stretchable electric cable acts like skin

Japanese chemical company Asahi Kasei, has created a flexible electronic cable called Roboden that stretches by a factor of 1.5, much like the human skin. Many electronic yarns and threads change resistance when pulled or stretched, which can reduce the power in a circuit unwillingly or by design. This is the basis of woven and knitted stretch sensors that are currently being explored.

But rather than changing resistence when stretched, the Roboden can be stretched up to a factor of 1.5 without changing resistance. They mention applications in the robotics field, but this could be very useful in wearable technology solutions where there is a need to integrate circuitry throughout the garment that can carry the same power and current when stretched.

Right now, the cable looks rather bulky to be used practically in wearables. I would love to see a smaller next version. Keep up the great work Asahi Kasei!

Gloves that capture your secrets

[gallery]Designer and maker, Meg Grant, has been exploring wearable technology and eTextiles. Her latest work Secret Keeper Gloves, extends human behavior and tendencies in a poetic, playful way through simple interaction triggered by natural gestures. The gloves capture your secret as you cup your hands over your mouth to whisper it. Here's how it works:

  • The batteries, microchip and speaker are all in the left hand. This means that the left hand has a fully-contained playback circuit.
  • In order to activate playback, press the thumb and the forefinger of the left hand together.
  • The only components in the right hand are the microphone and an indicator LED.
  • When the left and right palms are pressed together, the record circuit is connected at three points, two on the heel of the hand for power and ground and one on the side of the hand for input from the microphone.
  • Record is activated by pressing the left and right thumbs together.
  • The embroidery makes it possible for the wearer to use a variety of thumb positions for record and playback.

Via talk2myshirt More info at Images from

Exploring soft sensors and eTextiles

[gallery] The DIY community and small research studios around the world are continuously pushing the boundaries on the possibilities of eTextiles. Here are some interesting projects and sensors that are being explored:

Bodyinterface introduces various wearable/installation projects done by SIAT soft-circuit research group members in Simon Fraser University as well as projects from the Body Interface course in the same university. Inspired by Hannah Perner-Wilson’s stroke sensor, they're investigating their own which sense when they are touched and stroked. (images)

Hannah Perner-Wilson at Plusea investigates stroke sensors made out of carefully crafted conductive threads:

She is also exploring interesting resistive fabric sensors that can bend and be washed:

And one of my favorite, also from Perner-Wilson, combines craft and technology by knitting a sensor that measures stretch:

If you want to dive in and start doing your own exploration, Lynne Bruning has an informative video that covers the basic materials that you need to start creating and prototyping your own:

Images from bodyinterface.

Cushion controls by Droog Design

[gallery] I love these playful and simple cushion controls created by Didier Hilhorst and Nicholas Zambetti at Droog Design a few years ago. The project consists of different cushions each with its own function: one for the channels, one for the power, one for the volume and so on. The project aims to transform the fights over “who has the remote” into playful cushion fights. Like most of Droog's work, the project is conceptually strong as they change our perspective on the core interaction by re-imagining it and turning it into play.

Continue reading on and Images from

A wind powered knitting machine creates scarves


This was sent to me by the talented designer from With the power of the wind, Studio Merel Karhof based in London, has created a knitting machine that automatically knits a scarf continuously with each breeze. When the knit gets to a desired length, it is "harvested" and packaged up as an individual scarf. Here's how Karhof describes it: "Along the façade the knitwear moves slowly trough the window into the gallery, fast at hi wind speed, slow when there is not a lot of wind. The knitted material will be harvested from time to time, and rounded of in individually labelled scarves. The labels will tell you in how much time the scarves are made and on which day. They are sold in the by the Studio Designed Wind Knitting Shop, a shop which exists on the border between the private and the public space."

Continue reading on Karhof's portfolio site or at Abitare. Images from Abitare.

A meeting with Maggie Orth of International Fashion Machines

[gallery] I met with Maggie Orth of International Fashion Machines today in her Seattle studio. After walking in and being incredibly awestruck and inspired by the work that she has strung around her studio, we had a terrific conversation about wearable technology, the challenges, the realities, and possible opportunity areas for aspiring wearable technology designers.

A large portion of the discussion was around the challenges of designing wearable technology solutions and taking them to market. There are so many challenges across many industries that will require re-tooling, rethinking and new processes that are involved with integrating technology into our clothes. Here are just a few of the thoughts that we discussed:

  • The fashion industry has quick and seasonal product cycles. In the fashion industry, there is a short quarterly product cycle based on the seasons. If wearable technology is going to be successful, it needs to adapt and be flexible to this schedule.
  • Manufacturing requires some retooling. There are manufacturing challenges. Retooling will need to occur to integrate the technology efficiently into the manufacturing process.
  • The price is too high. The price of smart fabrics and integrated technology is high right now and the market isn't ready to drive the cost down. Designers need to think of real solutions that can target large and broad markets with high-volume orders that result in driving cost down and making the product more cost effective
  • A matter of sustainability. Electronics are not the most sustainable and eco-friendly materials. Clothing is usually a short-term product. If we integrate technology, we (wearable technology designers) should consider the end-to-end cycle of the product and the materials that are going into them.
  • A matter of need vs. innovative solution. We discussed ideas that are currently out there and challenged the level of innovation. Have we really seen solutions that are truly useful, innovative, and marketable?
  • Materials that solve the basics. The materials are just not there yet. As an example, we discussed the lack of really good display solutions for wearables, talked about the lifecycle of e-ink and flexible displays. We are just not there yet. And we discussed when we think we will be.
  • A strong business model. There are many different strategies that can be taken towards creating a real product-based and business-sustainable wearable technology company or product. We identified a few opportunity areas in this space but discussed the challenges of a sustainable business model that we have yet to see.

Overall, from manufacturing techniques to basic materials to business models, each of the areas that we discussed are non-trivial challenges, but also terrific opportunity areas for innovation in this space. In the end, however, we ended our conversation with the notion that it will take a significant cross-industry effort to reach a broad commercial audience. I believe we'll get there. Somehow.

In addition to our discussion, Maggie showed me some of her latest explorations with her gorgeous color-shifting fabric panels, which you can see in the photos. She has spent years developing a "secret sauce" to her thermochromatic ink that gives it the most vibrant saturated colors. She is also exploring the possibilities of exposing the electronics to help tell a richer story about the work.

Maggie showed me a few animated patterns that were breathtaking. You can see the detail of the hand-woven textile and the complexity of the patterns that the ink and colors make. She has truly created some amazing textural pieces that tell a rich story that also evolve over time. I can't wait to see more.