Sep 242013

We live in a world where our pocket-sized supercomputers tell us the best place to have dinner, how to get there, and what the traffic is like, while our cars have sensors that warn us not to back in to the fire hydrant at the end of the driveway on our way out. With all of the technology that surrounds us and directs us through our daily life, it is a shame to know that the visually impaired, the people who need direction the most, largely still depend on the use of canes and service animals to navigate.

MIT named Anirudh Sharma as Indian Innovator of the Year under age 35 for his "Le Chal" project.

MIT named Anirudh Sharma as Indian Innovator of the Year under age 35 for his “Le Chal” project.

Anirudh Sharma, a 24 year old researcher in Bangalore, India, made it his goal to change that. He has designed the first low-cost, unobtrusive, haptic shoe for the blind. The project has been eloquently named “Le Chal” which is a Hindi translation of “Take Me There”.

The shoe works in partnership with a smartphone application which can use Bluetooth to connect any GPS enabled smartphone to the shoe. The shoe itself contains small vibrational actuators on each side, as well as proximity sensors, and is powered by an Arduino Lilypad, all of which are located in the interior of a completely normal looking shoe.

The user speaks his desired destination into the voice activated smartphone app, which finds the best route via the phone’s GPS system, and gives the user vibrational cues on how to get there. Also, when the user comes within proximity of an object that could obstruct his path, the actuators on that side of the shoe begin to vibrate, getting stronger at closer range, alerting the user of the object’s location and the direction to navigate around it.

Possibly the best part of this system is how unobtrusive it is. The visually-impaired rely on their sense of hearing to understand what is going on around them, so a directional assistive device that used vocal or sound cues would impede upon that. The quiet vibrational cues free up the rest of the user’s senses.

This product is still in the testing phase and is projected to be released before the end of 2013. If testing goes well, this innovative product has the possibility to free the visually-impaired from their canes and service animals within certain environments, making them feel empowered and independent. However, some places (specifically many large US cities) are not built to be very pedestrian-friendly, and a service animal would likely remain the safest means of navigation. But, having the freedom to make that choice, and to travel safely and independently in pedestrian-friendly areas is a significant step in the right direction for the visually impaired.

Further Readings:

Anirudh Sharma’s Portfolio – Le Chal
The Economist – Footwear for the Blind
CrunchWear – Bluetooth Shoes Offer Independence for the Visually Impaired
MIT Technology Review – Haptic Shoe for the Visually Impaired

Sep 092013

Galaxy Gear

Recent years have seen a large influx of smart devices. Everything from our phones to our cars to even our refrigerators is “smart,” so why not our watches? There have been a few “smart” watches surfacing recently, but nothing that’s really taken off yet. A week ago, Samsung announced the Galaxy Gear, which is looking to be a truly smart piece of gear. Sporting a 1.63” AMOLED touch screen display, the Galaxy Gear will connect wirelessly to your Samsung Galaxy phone and offer a variety of control options for said phone. Running on an Android based system, the Galaxy Gear will be able to control everything from your music to phone calls and texts to more than 70 apps at launch. Also included in the wristband is a 1.9 megapixel camera so users can take pictures without ever having to take their phones out of their pockets. On top of all of these features, the watch will sport a stylish brushed metal face and come in a variety of colors.

Will these features be enough to make the Galaxy Gear a success?  More importantly, will it be enough to make smart watches in general a success? If trends have anything to say about this, then the Galaxy Gear will be a huge hit. What about other companies? Many websites have speculated that Apple will make a similar announcement at their big event tomorrow, September 10th. If these rumors are to be believed, we will soon have another technology war, but this time it will be slightly more fashionable.

Arriving in the US in October, the Galaxy Gear will retail for $299.

May 082013

Rape, women’s rights, and abortion are always a hot topic in politics and the development of an anti-rape underwear invented by students from SRM University is a powerful statement in regards to those three hot buttons. The Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE) was developed by 2 females and 1 male from Sri Ramaswamy Memoria (SRM) University after the merciless rape of a young Indian woman in December, according to the India Times.

After research the team found that attackers often grab for the breast first which is what led them to developing the SHE camisole. When a woman gets attacked the camisole will send an electric shock to her attacker of up to 82 volts. The electric shock circuit board is positioned on the chest of the camisole and is equipped with a GPS tracking unit. When the sensors are activated the GPS and GSM unit would send out an alert to an emergency number and the woman’s parents.

The product is still in it’s early phases as they are partnering with The National Institute of Fashion to find a fabric that can be washable but the concept is out there and on it’s way to helping women. This is just one advance towards the problem of rape in our society that will possibly only protect those that are fortunate enough to purchase one. There are still many more strides that need to be taken in our society to help prevent women from being brutally raped but I’m excited to say fashion and technology is on it’s way to helping!

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

infographic from

infographic from


Mar 192013

It’s interesting to see the full video of Hussein Chalayan in contrast to the animated GIFs that first hit my radar by way of Errolson Hugh’s Twitter and then later by an io9 post. Both broadcasts were distillations of the video down to those few key moments in which models tug at their dress only to have them transform into something entirely different while they walk. The idea is compelling, and the GIFs are absolutely hypnotic, but there’s a few things I find interesting here:

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 Posted by at 11:23 pm
Mar 192013

One of the many things that makes Tumblr a very notable space is the way the microblogging site fosters communities. Through the use of tags and reblogs, communities are built usually upon a similar mindset, manifesting themselves into very secluded and secure spaces for users. Through this, subversion of cultural paradigms can be nurtured on such an open format as the Internet.

Some of these communities verge on social unacceptability, like pro-eating disorder Tumblrs (often referred to as pro-anna or pro-mia), that post photos of thinspiration – motivating pictures of very thin people that they would like to emulate. As toxic and unhealthy as the thinspo sites are, there are other Tumblrs that flirt with unacceptability in a very different way, notably the fat fashion blogs.

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Feb 212013

DVF [through Glass] – YouTube.

Google has launched its #ifihadglass explorers project. Prospective developers can submit a 50 word application indicating what they would do if they had Glass. The video above shows how Diane Von Furstenburg worked Glass into her New York Fashion Week show this past Fall.

There is a financial aspect of the competition that will exclude many: $1500 for the glasses, plus the travel expenses to attend a “pick up event” in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. This of course encapsulates a lot of the issues that will surround the technology when it is available for general release. The price point is well above that of higher end tablets and smart phones (the ubiquity of the latter is largely due to subsidies from cell phone carriers).

In short, I’d love to see what some of our Fashioning Circuits students could do if they had Glass, but given the expense, I think we’ll have to wait a while. $1500 plus travel expenses would buy a lot of arduinos and peripherals!

May 142012

Fashion apps and sites are trending right now, and there seems to be a new one gaining attention every week. While researching some of the latest fashion and style apps and websites, I realized that most of them pin their hopes of success on one lofty expectation: that consumers want to share their personal style with others. These fashion-related apps and websites would not work if people did not sign up for accounts, snap photos of themselves and their clothes, Like items they’ve seen online, aspire to learn name brands and designers, or were not willing to discuss their personal style with strangers. However, people do flock to these apps and sites—in droves.

I’m increasingly wary about creating any type of account that requests personal information or access to my Facebook account, but it sure seems as though many people accept that as part of the terms when they want to use a fashion and style tool. Eager to see what I was missing, I decided to try one out. After finding a fashion site that looked to turn Cher Horowitz’s virtual closet into a reality, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

Image Courtesy of Honey in the Sun blog

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May 042012

For my wearable media object, I chose to create an LEDs-only circuit using the LilyPad Arduino Board. After attending Ettiquette Creative’s LilyPad Arduino Workshop, I had the resources and references to begin my project. I installed the Arduino software, checked the drivers, and referred to a tutorial provided on the SparkFun Electronics site to design my wearable media object.

In order to allow the light display to be the focus of the media object, I sewed the LilyPad Arduino to the inside of the purse. The majority of the stitches are also on the inside of the bag, and the cloth flowers hide the more noticeable threads visible on the outside.

LilyPad Arduino

My goal with this project was to create a media object that could combine both style and technology. The outside of the purse has cloth flowers that camouflage the sewn-in LEDs. When the LilyPad Arduino is activated, the LEDs blink and fade in a random pattern. The soft blinking lights and smooth pattern are meant to tie back to the idea of flowers being delicate and graceful.

While I was working on my project, I wondered if there was a way to make the LEDs respond to the beat in music. I chose the track (in the video) with that in mind. I loved how the lights almost look like they’re dancing to the music. That might be something I’ll look into for a future LilyPad Arduino-related project.

May 022012

Not really fashion – but playing off Tameeka’s earlier entry about the underwear vending machine – I thought this was also pretty creative and definitely attention grabbing (even if it is old news and just now hitting the social media sites).

I’d like to teach the world to sing …in perfect harmony.  Remember these lyrics?  The official title is “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” but either way – this tune definitely has had a LONG lasting connection with the public. The commercial has consistently been voted as one of the best of all time!

The US release in July 1971of the hit immediately had an impact with its listeners and viewers.  Coke and its bottlers received more than a 100,000 letters about the commercials.  From the listeners – they called radio stations pleading for them to play it.

Well, they are at it again. As part of Coca Cola’s regional initiative; “Open Happiness” campaign, they have machines dispenses free cans in exchange for hugs.  It’s the latest ploy for social media and it looks like Coke has hit it big again.  Check out these links:

What is coke trying to accomplish?  Coke wants to form and strengthen the “bond” between customers and the brand.

Everything the customer experiences and observes merges in their minds into a single image, a brand.  It creates an emotional bond between Coke and the customer.  A strong brand builds confidence, improves loyalty and makes Coke stand out from the others.

What does one feel when hugged and why do we hug?  As humans we view a hug as a form of nonverbal communication that hopefully makes you happy and is some sort of bond sharing.  Hugs have also been known as a way of releasing tension.  A hug is pretty much known around the world as a form of physical intimacy (not necessarily sexual intimacy).

So – we now witness Coke machines dispensing free coke and vending machines available with underwear – what’s next?

If you are in the US dont run out looking for the HUG machine….unfortunately you will not get to experience the “bond” between yourself and Coke.  See this video – this will be you!

WHO doesn’t like hugs -life’s simple pleasure?  Brilliant campaign!