Wearable tech may soon go beyond accessories like smartwatches and eyewear, and into the realm of fabrics and clothing. The first step in this transition may be prototypes like the Smart Hoodie, which is being pushed by its creators as a “wearable phone.”
The hoodie, designed by graduate students Alina Balean and Rucha Patwardhan from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), can send preset text messages whenever the person wearing it makes subtle movements, like touching the sides of the hood or rolling up the sleeve. In the demo video (see below), one of the designers sent preset messages to her mom just by adjusting the hoodie.
“If I rolled up my left sleeve it tells her I am in class and can’t talk, if I put my hoodie on it tells her that I miss her, and if I push the right sleeve it lets her know I am free and can chat online,” Balean wrote in a blog post.
The hoodie, which has an Arduino board sewn in, initially had a switch in the left sleeve that sent updates to Facebook, which Balean used to notify her friends that she was in class. Switches were then integrated into the hoodie and other parts of the sweater.
While the initial application may be for quickly sending preset messages to family members and friends, the hoodie could be used to send out calls for help, such as to the FCC’s new text-to-911 help line, without being detected. “Other iterations of this hoodie can be a safety device for individuals traveling alone, children, or others (CIA anyone) that need to communicate discreetly,” Balean said.
The Smart Hoodie is only a school experiment for now. However, we may not have to wait too long for truly wearable tech. Less than two weeks ago, Intel showed off a health-tracking smart shirt.