We propose to develop a collection of interactive electronic garments constructed out of a new generation of composite fibers that are able to harness power directly from the human body, store that energy, and then use it to change their own visual properties. These animated garments will change color and illuminate on the body in response to physical movement.

The core technical innovation involves shifting this functionality entirely within the fiber itself. The core artistic innovation involves the creation of a conceptual framework around issues of power consumption and sustainability by creating body-worn, textile-based, parasitic artifacts that draw energy directly from the movement of the human body and use that energy to shift and modulate their physical appearance.

Fiber-Scale Functionality

The field of wearable computing and electronic textiles has grown substantially in recent years. Areas of research span the vast space from biometric sensing for defense applications to illuminated dresses for the fashion runway. In most of these research areas and applications, the predominant model consists of layering electronic or mechatronic functionality on top of the textile substrate. Prior work exists in the domain of stitching, weaving, or knitting with conductive yarns to create structures such as electrodes, sensors, or communication lines and subsequently attaching electronic components (such as light emitting diodes or microcontrollers) to that substrate. However, the ability to integrate the desired functionality on the fundamental level of a fiber remains one of the greatest technological challenges in the development of smart textiles.

Few functional yarns (other than conductive or thermochromic yarns) are currently available commercially to enable functionality such as the display of information, sensing, or energy harnessing, and practitioners in the field of electronic textiles typically resort to attaching stand-alone mechano-electronic or optical devices to the textile. As a result, the majority of existing textile-based systems are highly non-homogeneous in their manufacturing, and cumbersome in utilization and servicing, thus limiting their utility. We believe that major advances in the textile capabilities can only be achieved through further development of its fundamental element: the fiber.

Parasitic Power

Our power consumption needs are constantly increasing, particularly in the design of mobile and wearable electronic devices. We need to consider the development of energy sources that are independent from our power grids and reside on the body, collocated with the electronic devices they power. We believe that research in this area can be categorized in three different directions:

Parasitic power involves harnessing energy directly from the body or generating power by the user to alleviate design restrictions and enable new functionality. Researchers such as Paradiso from the MIT Media Laboratory have studied methods to recover power

Garments And Costumes

One of the fundamental motivations for fashion and costuming, across different cultures and throughout history, has been to seek a continually evolving concept of beauty through the transformation of the body's natural form. At the same time, functionality, performance, and productivity needs are driving innovation in high-performance textiles for sports, safety, or extreme conditions such as space exploration. This research area is dominated by scientific and consumer electronics goals, and lies separated from an emerging cultural exploration. While this work is compelling, the aesthetics of fashion, design, and art are absent from most current textile research in Canada. The proposed research project will lead to scientific and cultural innovation in the area of interactive textilesby bringing these disciplines together and providing an entry point for Canadian creative practitioners.

Research And Production Outcomes

The technical goal of our project is to develop a prototype for an all-fiber based textile that can harness, sense, and display energy. Conceptually, this constitutes a radical deviation from the dominant model of a textile substrate with integrated mechano-electronics to a fully integrated composite substrate, wherein the fibers themselves
· a harness human-generated energy,
· b store the energy directly inside the fibers, and
· c use that energy to control a fiber-based actuator (such as fiber illumination
and color).

Prof. Skorobogatiy’s research group is the only Canadian entity working in the area of fabrication of microstructured polymer optical fibers and has developed significant know-how in manufacturing of multi-material functional fibers. It is important to note that most of the propositions for the novel fibers suggested in this proposal have already passed the preliminary test for the potential manufacturablity, and should therefore be considered as a feasible technology. On the other hand, the research group of Prof. Berzowska is uniquely positioned for this project as it has a substantial track record in the development and the integration of a variety of emerging technologies with cultural, social, and artistic needs.

This research will lead to both
· a highly utilitarian applications and demonstrators and
· b poetic, artistic, and critical outcomes. The former will serve to quickly illustrate the state of the art to a scientific and industrial audience. Building on these simple demonstrators, the latter will open the field of inquiry to question the assumptions of science and industry, to provide social, political, and cultural criticism, as well as develop new models for the use and misuse of these technologies. Ironically, we predict that the poetic applications will then be folded back into the process to generate further innovation on the scientific front.

We will explore the conceptual framework around issues of power consumption and sustainability by creating body-worn, textile-based, parasitic artifacts that draw energy directly from the movement of the human body and use that energy to shift and modulate their physical appearance. In doing so, we aim to highlight the playful aspects of human movement and find pleasure in developing specific personal choreographies that can represent the beauty of each body and its capabilities. One of the metaphors that inspire us is that of the pelagia noctiluca jellyfish that phosphoresces when disturbed and can leave a luminous mucous behind if handled. We ultimately want to create an expressive gleaming material that can stretch over the skin and react on the body in response to the flow of human activity. We are particularly interested in the beauty of the human form and its movement, specifically looking at athletes and dancers (of all ages) and the level of mastery they achieve in moving their bodies through space in the most efficient way to realize goals such as increased performance, beauty, or pleasure. How can such movements generate power and alter the visual qualities of costumes worn on the bodies?