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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Seamless, the Computational Couture Fashion Show...

*
Here's a report on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology "Seamless: Computational Couture" fashion show in Boston. Show co-producer Nick Knouf comments:

As for the perception of fashion and technology, you have the beginnings of mass-market integration with iPods in belts, iPod jackets, and so on. Yet all of those garments or accessories revolve around an existing object that doesn't need to be merged with clothing in order to function. What I think we'll see in a few short years are clothes that use new materials and technologies (such as conductive threads and rubbers) to make clothes in which the technology is an essential part of the garment, and not simply an afterthought. With that said, we still have not come up with the "killer-app" of computationally-infused clothing. Much thought, research, and development still has to happen in order to create garments that not only seamlessly (pardon the pun) combine the technology with the garment, but do so in a way that is interesting and meaningful to the wearer. It's not that people's perceptions of fashion and technology have to change per se; rather, the technology and the application must be compelling enough, and designed well- enough, such that the garments still look like clothes and the application is interesting, relevant, and
useful.

Though I think Mr. Knouf has a point, I suspect we won't get much integrated digital technology into clothes until it's incredibly cheap to add modifications. Why?

Because until micro-computers become almost insignificantly inexpensive to include (like printing on a box or can) the impulse will be to keep technology that's non-essential to the item's function separate. Again, why?

Two reasons. One, people don't like unnecessary bulk or weight added to their clothes for no reason. And two, most people will keep technology like IPods separate because it's still an expensive item they want to carry around regardless of what they're wearing, yet also something they want to upgrade or customize as desired. And you can't get a new IPod too casually when the one you want to toss is irretrievably joined to a $300 leather jacket.

Does that mean that tech-fashion is a blind alley? Hardly. As we've seen with the IPod, tech itself can be seen as a fashion statement. And stylish stand-alone devices are probably one major expression we'll see of this aesthetic in the immediate future. Like watches, IPods, slimmed-down cell phones and nifty laptops/PDAs/Blackberries, there's no shortage of stylized tech already running around.

Odds are that we'll eventually see slimmed down shades with heads-up displays linked (by Bluetooth, or whatever) to our other tech -- but that's just another example of customizable technology (though admittedly technology that would at least be able to shade your eyes, making it more wardrobe-like than our other examples). Still, that's probably one model for designers of fashion/tech to remember -- developing killer-ap devices that happen to be usable as garb or ornamentation. People fundamentally like IPods and handheld computers because of what they do, not just how they look.

Still, there's another element in this picture -- eventually digital technology will be cheap and small enough to put in every consumer item out there... becoming as affordable and ubiquitous as printed words. But what applications would you include? Would you want your ITunes recorded in all your clothes, or even most of them, even assuming your garments could play them (through earphones, vibration of your bones, Flanagan neurophone effects, etc)? Maybe. But you might also prefer having a wristwatch/IPod/cell phone/palmtop computer/etc that's a little easier to keep track of, especially if you could automatically backup all the data on your harddrives and keep everything secure.

Instead of constantly wondering, "Wait a second, what the heck happened to my scarf?!"


Cyber, Soc, Tech
Future Imperative

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