In world today where internet and electronics rule, preparations are being made for post-PC era. More and more movements are happening worldwide in a bid to produce wearable electronic devices. While the researches are on, the market has already started showing some of the end-products. While some of them are not found aesthetically pleasing, others become too noticeable. Nevertheless, efforts to culminate clothes and computers are on.
What lies ahead?
Experts believe the next-Gen clothing will be computerized, offering solutions like monitoring of heart beat and breathing, musical jackets etc. LED monitors are expected to become an integrated part of computer clothing, even as all-fabric keypads make their way into this segment. Computer clothing is expected to reduce the cumbersome task of carrying computing devices around, instead offering wearable solutions. So how does computer clothing actually work?
What it comprises of?
As with any garment, the weave and thread of computer clothing is extremely important. For this purpose, there is a requirement of a thread that is able to carry the electrical currents; hence the normal cotton, polyester and nylons will not work. Metallic yarns can be used; however, researchers are interested in using silk organza, commonly found and manufactured in India over the past century. Now silk organza makes for an ideal thread for computer clothing as it comprises of two fibers that make it a good conductor of electricity. While the first fiber is ordinary silk, the second fiber comprises of a thin copper foil, thus imparting the properties of a conductor to the thread. Then again, even the fibers are rightly spaced, hence enabling individual addressing of each thread. It is believed that a single strip of this cloth would work like a ribbon cable (which is used in computers to connect disk drives to controllers). Once the fabric is ready and cut into the desirable shape, work to add other components like resistors, capacitors etc beings. While these are usually sewn into the fabric directly, other components like crystals, LEDs etc are soldered into the metallic thread.
With the development of digital yarn, the clothing industry is already up its hooves to work up the e-wardrobe. World-class companies like Nike, IBM, Philips, SensaTex and Levi are testing their products in markets. Levi’s has already launched its musical jacket in collaboration with MIT Media Lab for testing in Europe.
Some important features of this jacket are:
• This jacket is made of silk organza and has an all-fabric keyboard as the controller.
• This keyboard is made a responsive to touch and is durable and flexible.
• There is a circuit printed in order to impart sensing ability to the keypad.
• The keypad senses the touch as the electrode experiences an increase in capacitance when touched.
Apart from the entertainment segment of computer clothing, the researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have also strived to develop intelligent apparel aiming towards keeping a check on heart rate and breathing. This smart shirt uses optical and electric conducive fibers, which are woven into the shirt, to monitor the heart rate and breathing.
With so much work going on in the field, wait till you get a wardrobe overhaul with smart clothes or computer clothing ready to be put on the shelves.