Nov 172014
 

By: Carion Jackson

Spoonflower logo

Spoonflower.com

Ever been to a store and saw something that would be great for your house only to find that the design wasn’t available in the color you needed? One couple figured out a solution to this problem and created a community that has people around the world clambering to it like free food, or in this case, free fabric.

Spoonflower is a digital textile printing company founded in 2008 by Stephen and Kim Fraser after Kim was unable to find a specific pattern she needed for curtains for their home. According to the video on Spoonflower’s YouTube channel, Kim approached Stephen and said “It would be really cool if I could design my own fabric for curtains”. Stephen, being supportive of his wife, found a way to make her dreams a reality. They went on to create a service that allows you —the user—to create and print any wallpaper, fabric, or wrapping paper you want. In addition, they pay designers a portion of the profit they make from the designs, which encourages independent designers. All you have to do is upload an image for the pattern you want, choose to center or repeat it, then have it printed.

Fabric printer at Spoonflower

Photo by Julie Schneider via Etsy

There are several great things that can be said about Spoonflower. I commend the Frasers’ ability to create something that puts the power of creation back into the buyer’s hands. With that being said, there are several things that should be reevaluated, such as the company’s Terms of Service. Users are allowed to upload any image and claim ownership simply by clicking the box that says, “I own the rights to this image,” but the actual owner of the content has to go through six steps to prove that copyright infringement has occurred.

Rolls of Spoonflower wrapping paper

Photo by Julie Schneider via Etsy

My issue with this is if Spoonflower puts users through the same six steps it puts designers claiming their designs were stolen, there wouldn’t be an issue of ownership. By accepting the images, selling the images, and paying the user that uploaded the images, Spoonflower takes on the role of “owner” but dodges the responsibility of copyright infringement, leaving the user to take the blame. In short, Spoonflower is in many ways like Craigslist. You create an account and produce and sell content at your own risk.

 

 

Sources:

Arnold, Rebecca. Fashion: A Very Short Introduction Ch. 5 (Ethics)

Creatives at Work

Spoonflower Emerging Designer Grant Pinterest

What is Spoonflower? (YouTube)

Spoonflower website (About)

Behind the Scenes at Spoonflower

Nov 102014
 
Smart Phin by Board Formula - via Wired.com

Smart Phin by Board Formula – via Wired.com

The best way to collect data in difficult locations is to use an adrenaline junkie to gather it for you. The Smart Phin can help surfers collect valuable data about the water they surf for researchers in order to understand more about our oceans.

Benjamin Thompson from Board Formula, the small company behind the Smart Phin, wants to involve surfers in collecting important data for scientific research. The Smart Phin attaches to any surfboard and comes with an smartphone app to upload data. Thompson eventually wants to start selling Smart Phins and has decided to keep the companion app open source, so developers can come up with their own apps that work with the fin.

Like the wearable technology health care researchers are currently adapting to monitor patients’ movements and vital signs, the Smart Phin acts as diagnostic technology, only for the ocean instead of the “wearer” (Quinn, 99). Much like more traditional wearable tech, the Smart Phin collects and measures information; Not only does it note the surfer’s location and time, the Smart Phin also logs the temperature, pH levels, and salinity of the ocean. The information is then uploaded via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, once the surfer hits dry land again. The more sensors in the water, the more points of data for scientists. Similar technology could also eventually be applied to wetsuits or diving equipment for information gathering at greater depths.

Crowdsourcing data collection via the Smart Phin could be a boon for marine scientists by helping to measure how climate change affects the world’s oceans.

Sources:

The Next Big Thing You Missed: Surfboard Collects Oceanic Data While You Ride Waves

Riding Massive Waves Could Fight Climate Change

Board Formula

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

May 092014
 

I had a fit over a ONESIE that I skimmed over at the Internet of Things and had to check that it was not my biological clock! Confirming with my husband, I have validated that

Mimo Baby Monitor

Mimo Baby Monitor

this is just COOL! The Huffington Post, Today, CNBC, and SF Chronicle all agree that Mimo baby sleep monitor is what parents deserve to achieve “Relief from heavy, anxious feeling. Clear and accurate information. Waking refreshed and energized.” Not having any children myself, I had to look at the real problem that this wearable technology solves in research. SIDS and SUID are not just acronyms that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elaborate on their website. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome represents that accidents happen, Mimo featuresfamilies grieve and suffer the ultimate loss of infant life less than a year old.

Mimo seeks to monitor the “rest and well-being of their infant…by using multi-layer deposition of electrical conductors to produce durable sensors built into infant clothing. Parents can get data on activity levels, body position and breathing” available for IOS and Android.

Life saving information at the tips of parent's fingers

Life saving information at the tips of parent’s fingers

The pitch is for the “mommy brain” and including in rapid fire at the end of the front page video “daddy brain, baby-sitter brain, going back to work brain, generally any other type of care taker brain.” However, I think the technology could benefit the other end of the age spectrum too.  “40 million adults age 65 and over will be living alone in the U.S, Canada and Europe.” The Mimo does not require a Life Alert emergency response of falling and unable to get up. With Mimo’s respiration, temperature, movement and body position sensors it seems that the baby market is a frontier to expand into other age categories too. This could be my inner desire to purchase one for my own elderly family member, but not ready for the full Mimo Baby Monitor Starter kit purchase for myself.

Sources-

Mimo

http://mimobaby.com/

https://www.dragoninnovation.com/projects/19-mimo

Mar 132014
 

Despite the incredible success of the Fitbit Force since its introduction, there is now a recall for the wearable tech due to complaints from 1.7% of owners experiencing a skin irritation. After analysis by third parties, Fitbit announced that the irritations “were likely the result of allergic contact dermatitis”, however they continued to announce that the irritant could be a few different things. Whether it be the nickel found in the surgical grade stainless steel used in construction, the materials used in the strap of the tech, or even the adhesive used during assembly, the initial voluntary recall has escalated to an official announcement by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Fitbit is offering full refund/ exchange to Force owners regardless of where the device was purchased. If you are experiencing problems, or have questions concerning the recall, there is a return kit request form  available as well as a letter from the CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, James Park, describing the situation.

Photo Source: http://www.medicineandtechnology.com/2014/01/some-fitbit-force-users-reporting-rash.html

The irritation caused by Fitbit Force

 

 

For me, the issue is not a matter of what is causing the irritation, but why and how was it allowed. A new product will almost always have its quirks, and with wearable technology being so revolutionary, there is no surprise as the initial kinks are worked out. With the development of new wearable technology, our laws and regulations on it need to adapt as well. This scenario, although not life threatening, makes me wonder what else could unknowingly slip by our current regulations and proceed with public harm as so many people jump onto the bandwagon to have the latest in wearable technology.

 

Dec 172013
 

Completing the CircuitIf you have been around children for any length of time, then you know that the journey towards learning which shoe goes on which foot can be quite a grueling one. For some reason, it seems that some kids insist on ignoring your directions and patient explanations in order to put their shoes on their way (most often the wrong way). This is a problem that I have seen time and time again, which is why I created the Right Light shoes. This handy pair of kicks is designed specifically for those children who struggle in the area of putting on their shoes correctly. The concept is that the child will put on the shoes and, if they put them on the right feet, they can touch their toes together and watch a bright display of LEDs blink on their shoe. If, however, the shoes go on the wrong feet, no amount of toe-touching will make those LEDs light up.

The way that these shoes work is fairly simple. I used the Adafruit Gemma as my motherboard and connected a simple watch battery to it to power it. The negative ends of the multicolored LEDs are connected via conductive thread in the usual manner (all negative ends connected to “ground” on the Gemma), however the positive ends are connected in a slightly different way. Instead of connecting the positive ends directly to the positive petal on the Gemma, I connected them to one half of the heart shape on the left shoe. The other half of the heart is connected directly to the positive petal on the Gemma, which was programmed with the “blink” code. The other shoe has a whole heart shape, also made with conductive fabric, so that that, when pushed against the two heart-halves, it allows the connection to be made between the two halves, thus allowing the positive ends of the LEDs to be indirectly connected to the positive petal on the Gemma. While this may sound rather complicated, the it is primarily a matter of disrupting and then completing a simple circuit.

Hearts

When making these shoes work properly, I did run into a few problems. The main problem was the fact that making my LEDs have proper connection to the conductive thread was exceedingly difficult. It was almost impossible to get my hand inside the shoe enough to be able to make tight stitches when sewing the LEDs into the shoes. Once I made a few adjustments with the shoes (undoing, and later redoing, some seams on the shoes) I was able to continue with much more ease and accuracy. Another problem was that the conductive fabric is highly sensitive and so, once I turned the shoes on, I had to be extremely meticulous about snipping off any loose threads so they would not make an accidental connection. The coding itself was not very difficult because I only really needed to program one pedal on the Gemma and, once I got my computer compatible with the Adafruit system, that came very easily. Using the “blink” code on the Arduino program was the most obvious choice and, aside from compatibility issues with the Adafruit system, all I really had to do was write in the one pedal and choose how rapidly I wanted my lights to blink.

My main mission with these shoes has been to make learning a fun and colorful experience for children. It seems that education is becoming more and more dry and “black and white” when it should be bright, fun, and above all INTERACTIVE! These shoes are a way of teaching the child a relatively valuable concept in a way that they can actually grasp and understand. This little bit of education, I believe, has become a bit mundane for most parents and, therefore, children often do not understand how to correctly put on their shoes until they are much older than is necessary. With a technology like these shoes available, it will open up the opportunity for this lesson to be taught successfully and in a way that will make the child excited to do the task correctly the first time.

Throughout our Fashioning Circuits class, we have gone over a lot of writings that reflect the idea of technology and fashion coming together to make life more entertaining and convenient for people. There is also quite a bit of emphasis on creating wearable tech that is both functional and pleasing to the eye. In the article by Lauren Silvermen entitled, “Where High-Tech Meets High-Fashion“, she quotes designer Jennifer Darmour when she says, ““if we are going to be making these wearable devices and gadgets and we’re asking people to wear them, they need to look good.” This is an issue that I attempted to address with the Right Lights when considering their general design. I purposefully put the Gemma, battery, and LEDs underneath the fabric so that the outside looks far less like a pair of walking robot shoes and more like a pair of everyday children’s slip-ons. This information regarding wearable tech needing to be visually appealing, combined with a large amount of information regarding how to code, and also how circuits function, from the book, Open Software, enabled me to have the tools necessary to create these shoes. They are intended to simply create a fun, interactive, and colorful shoe-wearing experience for children, no matter what their age.

 

Oct 282013
 

 

Exmobaby-Pajamas-Track-Baby-Vitals-Use-AT-T-WirelessIf there is one thing that all new parents have in common, it is the desire to understand exactly what their little bundle of joy is thinking and feeling. There are dozens of products in circulation that try to bridge the gap between the mind of the infant and their parents which include audio/video baby monitors and millions of insightful baby-interpretation books. Stepping far beyond these devices, however, is the Exmobaby technology. The company, Exmovere, has created a device that actually has the ability to easily, safely, and accurately read your baby’s moods, vitals, and physical state.

The Exmobaby is an article of clothing that contains a band of dozens of tiny sensors and monitors that can keep track of virtually every aspect of your baby’s physical state. This product comes in the form of a hypoallergenic onesie that comes in four sizes, ranging from newborn to twelve months of age. The electronic components of the garment (a thin strip around the middle and a separate wireless transceiver housed in a pouch on the front) are removable so that the garment is completely machine washable. The main electronic components are housed separately in a “bay station” that does not come in contact with the baby, ensuring that the infant is kept safe.

According to Exmovere, the Exmobaby uses embedded electrocardiogram, skin temperature, and moisture and movement sensors, to wirelessly transmit the baby’s vitals to the receiving device via bluetooth. The system constantly monitors the baby’s physical state and is then able to detect any abnormalities or alarming symptoms. This information is then sent from the monitor to the phone/tablet/computer of the parent/grandparent/nanny/etc. The accompanying smart phone application also allows the user to create alerts based on different physical states of the baby. For instance, if you notice your baby is happy at a particular time, you could save those vitals so that you will know next time that mood arises.This would be particularly helpful with moods like “hungry” or “tired” which can often leave inexperienced parents completely perplexed.

exmobaby_2

The Exmobaby, while targeted at new parents, would be particularly useful in cases of babies with medical issues. Babies with heart problems, seizures, or mental disorders could be monitored remotely by the parent, providing much more peace of mind. Parents can keep track of their baby while at work, on vacation, or when simply leaving their child at daycare for the day.  With the app connected to the monitor, this product also becomes even more relevant with parents of today’s generation who rely on their technology more than ever before. This is also good news for Exmovere because, as stated in the article “The App Wars Come To Wearables – Consumers Will Be The Winners“, apps which aid in everyday life without being strictly fitness related, are going to skyrocket as more emerging companies like Exmovere begin to utilize them.

This device will open up a whole new world for wearable technology as well as parents as they can now closely monitor their babies health and mood right from their smart phone. The Exmobaby takes “wearing your heart on your sleeve” to a whole new level and I can’t help but wonder what they will think of next.

May 082013
 

2012 and 2013 has been an interesting time period for the development of technology into fashion, specifically with the development of Google Glass. Although, outside of the sporting good market where else have we seen advances in technological fashion to your mass markets? At a whopping expected price point of $1,500 who exactly does Google think they are marketing to?

Currently Google has a lead in the advances toward incorporating “computers” into fashionable items in the accessory market. Apple has also been rumored to be coming out with iWatch which is again in the accessory market. We have yet to see advances in the Ready To Wear market outside of the health and fitness arena. Techno Fashion by Bradley Quinn was published in 2002 and references the i-Wear project which was a production of prototype garments. This project was experimenting with making clothing that used laptops, mobile devices, and batteries which we are just now starting to see with the development of these new “smart” fashion pieces.

“Our philosophy was to integrate very naturally the technology into the clothing. The i-Wear shouldn’t hinder people’s movements, it should be like normal clothing, but with many new options. It should be a second skin that feels what is going on inside the body and outside in the environment and takes action using that data.” De Brouwer (Quinn, p. 103)

So from 2002 to 2013 we haven’t made any leaps and bounds towards the mass market having access to this kind of “i-Wear” that De Brouwer and his team were working on for a span of five years but is Google Glass about to bridge this gap? Much like the Apple fanboys Google has a strong following and they may have the brand power and hype on their side to make this technological advance stick around. While they clearly are not at a point to bring the cost to a more consumer friendly place they sure do have enough hype around their product. Currently the product is in the hands of thousands of developers and will soon be out for an “everyday” consumer to purchase…of course an everyday consumer who has $1,500 lying around to purchase on a gadget that may or may not stick around.

The question that I would like to pose is, are we at a point were people are ready to rely less on their phone and more on an item of “fashion”? Phones over the past decade have taken a place in our society as a statement of wealth and also a fashion statement. We have come a long way from the brick phones from the 80’s to the newest iPhone 5’s sleek design. So many people base their status in society on what phone they carry that are we ready to make the jump to glasses or a watch that will make a phone almost useless besides for its original purpose, to make phone calls. It can be easily seen every time Apple comes out with a new iPhone that this piece of hardware is so extremely important that people will wait for days in line just to be the first to have one. It has yet to be seen how Google will market this item to the mass public but it will be interesting to see if your average customer will want to try them on.

In an article from Mashable.com they referenced an infographic from footwear retailer Brantano that seems to be quite useful in this discussion.   

infographic from http://www.brantano.co.uk

infographic from http://www.brantano.co.uk

 

May 082013
 

Researchers in Sweden have recently come up with a new way to differentiate between designer products and knockoffs, by weaving a high-tech thread into the fabric that can be detected through a polarizing filter. The thread reveals a pattern that is only visible while being polarized, with the intention stopping the shipment of counterfeit goods.

invisiblethread

 

Counterfeit products, (or knockoffs) are high in demand in many places that are prosperous enough to desire them, because they are status symbols and signifiers of taste without the heavy price tag. Those that create the knockoffs know that they will always have a market for them (especially if they’re good knockoffs), so once they get past inspection it’s smooth sailing from there.

I didn’t really think much of this until a writer at Slate brought up why this is significant by labor standards. Actual companies can be held accountable for the labor conditions that their workers exist in, but there is not an authority or watchful public that monitors those that make knockoffs. It’s idealistic to think that major companies would abide by labor laws because they will get into trouble if they don’t, but there is that level of pressure that consumers can exert on them until they change their practices. Existing in a space where there is no monitoring public could lead to poor working conditions and abuse of workers. Having an easier way to identify counterfeit goods could, ideally, curb the creation and distribution of them,which would not only help the designer companies, but potentially shutdown illegal factories.

May 082013
 

I read about Wanelo as a sort of new way for shoppers to interact with each other by sharing wish lists, tagging friends on items, and following certain stores and people. The “posting things I want” aspect is pretty reminiscent of Pinterest (though that’s not Pinterest’s expressed function, it’s frequently used that way), with the huge difference that the photos are directly linked to stores. Social online shopping originally made me extremely uncomfortable, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that shopping is, for some, a very social activity. With friends who largely communicate online, would it really be that much of a stretch for them to shop online together as well?

startshopping

Since its inception the website has become very popular. The utility of being able to follow people online (say, fashion bloggers or your friends) and see what they have selected from shops, with the added ability to purchase that item, takes a few steps out of the shopping process. So in a way, shopping online becomes more or a social activity than it was previously, and fans of fashion are able to more easily purchase things recommended to them by stores (if they choose), friends, or fashion bloggers.

My hesitancy about this is very similar to my hesitancy about fashion blogs and sponsored posts. The line between expression and shilling a product is very thin in that regard, and even though most fashion bloggers announce what posts are sponsored and profess not to have a sponsored post for a product that they do not care for, it seems unlikely that everyone would be able to differentiate sponsored posts, and that the motivation of money had little to do with the choice of sponsorship in the first place. Wanelo as a service is easy to critique on a consumption basis, but I get more concerned about the information certain stores might have on you after you start selecting and tagging your friends in their products. Before clearing out my browser, I had the same advertisement for a pair of shoes that I had looked at following me everywhere online, so I imagine that problem might be exacerbated for those that frequently select products on Wanelo.

followpeople

Online shopping is usually risky when it comes to privacy and retaining information about yourself, but it seems like for those not particularly careful, services like Wanelo can make for uncomfortable marketing experiences in the future. I can definitely see that Wanelo has its uses and value, but I worry about the information that might potentially get shared, and who it would get shared with.

May 152012
 

 

Photo from a runway show overlaid with the Amazon "add to cart" button.

Original image by Flickr User annelope; Modified for use on Fashioning Circuits under a CC-by license.

Wearable media may be limited to certain tech savvy or avant garde sectors of society, but this does not mean that emerging media has no impact on fashion for most users.

Shopping is one area in which much of the population might encounter the intersection of fashion and emerging media. On Fashioning Circuits we’ve covered a multitude of ways in which retailers are attempting to leverage emerging media to increase sales.

Though one has long been able to purchase clothing, shoes, and accessories on Amazon, Monday’s New York Times article makes it clear that the online retailer has set its sights on the fashion elite.

Unlike retailers such as Target who have recently moved to feature lower end lines from big-name designers, Amazon is trying to capture the attention of those who are accustomed to shopping in high-end stores. It would seem that the availability on Amazon will deplete the aura of scarcity that is often associated with such high end consumption.

Virgnia Postrel’s essay “How Unhip Amazon Can Walk the Fashion Runway” offers some interesting advice to Amazon. The opportunities to showcase new talent and connect with philanthropic missions seem as though they could work particular well to use the affordances of the net and overcome the aura issue.