Sep 152014

By Amanda Sparling

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Festivals. Music Festivals. Art Festivals. Movie Festivals. Technology Festivals. People of all ages and socioeconomic statuses find themselves flocking to festivals across the world which cater to their particular variety of fun. Each festival offers a unique experience defined by a diverse and highly passionate cult-like following. The atmosphere is full of energy, as ranges of people descend upon a single area to come together and celebrate a passion for a fixed period of time. In theory, it sounds electrifying. People from all over the world coming together to rally around a common interest and cause – but with so many individuals converging into a single area security and communication become a very real concern for both the administrators and attendees of the event.

However, in this day and age, a new trend in the festival experience has emerged – Smartbracelets. A wearable, functional bracelet that allows attendees and event coordinators to access the festival and seamlessly communicate in both emergency and social environments. Bracelets are sent to registrants in lieu of traditional tickets and can be read at access points to allow entry into VIP areas, Campgrounds, speciality programs, etc… without the bother of physical passes that can be easily lost of damaged. Bracelets also increasingly serve as a method of payment, as festival goers load cash onto their individual festival “account” and can purchase and participate within the event without having to worry about carrying physical currencies.

An upcoming festival in Belgium, Tomorrowland, is taking festival technology to an extreme – pushing past the merely functional needs of attendees and integrating social elements of the event environment into the bracelet itself. The bracelet, like many others will still serve as an electronic ticket granting entry into the festival. However, once inside the festival it becomes a part of the social experience itself. Users are able to link their facebook account and contact information with their festival account, and when you’ve made a new acquaintance at the event – you simply put the bracelets side by side, select the “heart” icon, and your information is transferred to the other attendee. This allows people to connect past the moment, and potentially arrange meet-ups throughout other days and times at the event – or to build long term friendships without the hassle of a more traditional information exchange. The bracelets pass information using RFID technology and can transmit the data to/from the nearest bracelet.

Additionally, brands have begun getting into the wearable technology trends – giving out bracelets that are branded and track activity to reward certain behaviors. At the 2014 SXSW festival, wearable wristbands measured realtime audience interaction and rewarded people who were dancing at a Pepsi sponsored event. They used realtime information from the lightwave technology to adjust sound levels, lighting and temperature on the fly to manipulate the user’s real-time experience. Another brand quickly getting into the smart bracelet trend is Spotify, which enabled attendees at Tomorrowland to record a soundbite of their favorite songs – and automatically import them into their Spotify playlists to bookmark for future listening or share with friends. As mentioned in Critical Thinking’s Manifesto, Theses on Making in the Digital Age, the makers of this wearable technology are allowing a very futuristic vision of interaction to come to life. Those employing this technology are ‘bending reality’ to the use of which ‘they will’ to be true.

The options for wearable technology converging with live events seem to be endless, but it also begs many a question around privacy and the dangers of real-time bulk data collection. With so many various brands plugging into an API that is quite literally feeding your every action to event coordinators, sponsors and 3rd parties the potential for abuse becomes much more realistic and threatening.

Mar 182013

Recently, one of the former contributors, Amy Pickup, for Fashioning Circuits was in a local publication called Art+Seek about her work with the LilyPad Arduino. The article entitled “SXSW Where High-Tech Meets High-Fashion” interviewed Pickup about her work with teaching a summer camp that encouraged young girls to get involved in the STEM fields through incorporating technology and fashion.

Pickup was not the only one that was interviewed by Lauren Silverman from Art+Seek, Silverman also spoke with Jennifer Darmour who is part of the Artefact group doing User Experience Design. Darmour is also the creator and designer behind a new innovation in the assimilation between clothing and technology. One of the designs by Darmour is a charcoal jacket that uses its zipper to control the volume of your music.

The idea is that when you’re unzipping your jacket, you are coming closer to somebody and so that you can have a more intimate conversation the volume goes down.

The company behind the newest prototype is, Electricfoxy which mission statement is, “Clothing is a core part of our expression and offers ways for us to communicate who we are and the context in which we live. Technology enables a richer connection with people and our environment and offers a new platform for communication and expression.” Darmour has created a prototype garment that literally weaves technology into a stylish piece of clothing is called, Ping.

Ping actually uses the same microcontroler that we use in Fashioning Circuits, LilyPad Arduino. However, what makes Ping so interesting is the way that it bridges human interaction with your online self and identity. Ping is a garment that allows you to send messages to your friends on Facebook with different gestures. With a development like this in the technology industry it could make smart phones obsolete for the use of social media and communication. Ping uses a sensor and the LilyPad to communicate wirelessly through gestures like lifting up your hood on your jacket to send an update to Facebook about how you are leaving the house. This new technology allows you to be hands free and almost unconsciously communicate with your social network without being directly connected to the Internet through conventional means.

Since Darmour used the LilyPad Arduino the garment allows you to create your own language. Specifically the garment was built with the Lilypad Xbee and the Facebook application allows you to use two way communication. The application assigns different tapping rythms to different groups of people so you can begin to create your own personalized feedback language that lets you know who is communicating to you and who is trying to connect. The garment is able to communicate to you through the microcontroler located on the shoulder of the garment that provides a subtle “tapping” feeling when a friend messages or sends a comment to you.

What will come next if this is just the first step in the direction that technology is leading us in the fashion industry? We are no longer just using technology for sporting good apparel but we are incorporating two way communication that bridges our physical self and our online self. As a last note it is interesting to ponder a quote from Electricfoxy.

As an outcome, rather than simply attaching technology to clothing, electricfoxy investigates garments that have electronics built directly into them resulting in a new aesthetic of form and behavior that become a core part of our expression, our identity, and our individuality.