Not many people know about Jacquard, a small side-project from Google’s labs that aimed at designing a ‘smart fabric’. The project, which was announced years ago, culminated in something pretty elementary… a jacket that let you play or pause music on your phone. Designer Irmandy Wicaksono’s KnitX smart fabric aims at doing much more.
Imagine if your clothes could respond to certain stimuli? Imagine fabrics that were smart enough to know when it’s cold or hot outside, or interactive enough to be able to respond to your actions? Boston-based designer Irmandy Wicaksono believes that fabric has the unique ability to be more than fashion… it can be an interface too. A PhD Student in the Responsive Environments department at MIT Media Lab, Irmandy is working on interweaving (quite literally) fabrics with tech in unbelievably complex and innovative ways. By relying on computerized knitting machines that are capable of creating customized, complex 3D weaves, the KnitX can integrate functional yarns, such as resistive, conductive, thermochromic, photochromic, and thermoplastic fibers with polyester, nylon, spandex, mink, and other synthetic yarns. This results in being able to create fabrics that respond to physical stimuli such as proximity, pressure, touch, and stretch, or environmental conditions like light and darkness, or cold and heat. Irmandy’s current explorations include a strip of cloth that’s capable of functioning like a musical keyboard, allowing you to play notes just by touching the cloth, as well as responsive cloth backpacks that change color when exposed to UV light, and even three-dimensional, thermo-formed responsive knit textiles that can instantly change shape on command. Future explorations of this unique series of digitally knit functional textiles even includes clothes that can become warmer in the cold or more breathable in the heat, and even change appearance based on your personal mood or sense of style!