A couple of design projects caught my eye this week.
“Wearable” Tech: Reactive Clothing
“Photochromia: Creating a future where garments respond” is :” Creating a future where garments respond to our environment”! Cool!
This product is called “wearable” tech, which is literally correct but somewhat deceptive. I mean, all clothing is “wearable technology”, right? So “wearable tech” is supposed to be something technologically significant (computer, sensor, whatever) that can be worn.
“The Crated” sort of has the right idea, at least they talk the game. Liz Stanton reports at Wired that “The Crated is investing in the idea that the future of wearables is not miniaturized wrist-worn computers, but rather technology that’s woven straight into the stuff we put on every day by necessity: our clothes” (quoting Maddy Maxey ). I agree, at least so far as it goes. (Equally important will be on- and in-body augmentations, as well as worn things that are not necessarily “clothing”.)
Unfortunately, Photochromia turns out to actually be “an apparel collection of UV responsive digital prints”. When exposed to sunlight, the printed (monochrome) pattern changes. Not exactly a ground breaking effect, and no where near as cool as, say, active camouflage. Sigh.
I don’t find the graphics especially attractive (the references to STEM are shallow and trivial), and honestly the shifting colors is useless.
This is basically the right idea and gets points for actually being a real product (which was not trivial). But its not really up to the level of the hype.
Vara Lighting Installation
This caught my eye because it is a very striking lighting effect, and has a very distinct bioinspired design. But what is it, and what is it for?
As far as I can tell, this technology is for creating “canopies” (some of their other works are in this vein). The Vana Installation is actually suspended from the ceiling, and hangs down in a complex and self supporting shape. “Vana appears to grow as tree-like branches blending into a continuous canopy that floats above the visitor.” I’m not sure what problem this solves, but it is kind of pretty.
The striking effect is, indeed, bioinspired, and (they say) uses geometric algorithms to generate “topiary” shapes. The reference to topiary is confusing to me, because topiary is created by guiding and pruning the growth of plants, which does not seem to have anything to do with this product.
The lighting effect that originally caught my eye appears to be attractive stage setting not related to the algorithmic design. I think I was disappointed that the lighting isn’t part of the algorithmic design. (Maybe there is more to the story that isn’t clear from the web pages.)
Overall, I was let down by both these products. They talk about really important design issues (wearable technology, bioinspired design), but actually have only the most shallow connection to these concepts. It just feels false and deceptive to me: marketing hype rather than real deep innovation.