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From bioluminescent dresses to emoji pins, Intel struts its stuff at Fashion Week

Intel has a problem. Hell, the entire computer industry has a problem: It’s woefully unhip.

Bill Gates, bless his brilliant mind, helped form an image in America’s collective unconscious of what programmers should look like, a mental picture hasn’t shifted from the pocket protector despite the fact that most modern tech CEOs dress like ordinary folks — think Mr. Roger Federer, not Mr. Rogers.

Still, gadgets are for geeks … right? Not so fast, explains Intel.

“Tech and fashion are really at the heart of modern culture,” said Sandra Lopez, vice president of Intel’s new devices group. Tech touches all of our lives, everything we do during every minute of every day, she told Digital Trends. How best to convey that? “How do you bring the ecosystem together, specifically fashion and technology? It’s about the combination, the blend of style, function, and form.”

At an event at New York Fashion week, Lopez and her team set out to showcase what’s possible when fashion and tech collide. Along the way they set out to highlight the power of Intel’s Curie module, a system-on-a-chip, or all-in-one embed module with memory, processors, sensors and all, that’s little bigger than the eraser on a pencil.

Related: Intel says tomorrow’s processor technology ‘will be fundamentally different’



On the runway, Intel showed off a fresh collaboration with Becca McCharen, founder of the design house Chromat. Chromat’s models walked the runway in the Lumina collection, inspired by color theory and bioluminescence. Thanks to hand wraps that integrate Intel’s chips — they look sort of like the protective sleeve an archer would wear — the model’s dresses glow and change color, a reaction to the movements of the model’s hands. Algorithms control the exact nature of the glow response, Lopez explained: “A lot of this stuff is being worked on real time.” Last year at Fashion Week, Chromat showed a Curie-powered dress that expands into a menacing shape when the module senses adrenaline, to mimic a living creature’s fight-or-flight response.

Off the runway, select fashion influencers will sport pins adorned with emoji — unicorns, diamonds and so on — that track location, step counts, movement, and more, thanks to accelerometers and gyroscopes in the Curie chips.

“Consumers want to know a day in the life of a fashion influencer. There’s a preconceived notion that it’s a glamorous life, but in reality they’re running from show to show to show,” Lopez said.

Pins are hot now in the fashion industry, as are emojis. Coupling the two trends with new functionality, marrying them, brings meaningful new context, she said.

Like the bizarre garments we see on runways, none of which are actual products a consumer might wear, Intel’s designs are more proof of concept than finished product – designed to inspire and show what’s possible, Lopez said. The company will highlight new partners in the future, however, to show even more ways that eraser-sized silicon chip can transform fashion and culture.

“It’s a brain. It’s a mini computer. The possibilities are endless.”