When you mention Shenzhen, many people think about electronic gadgets, cheap components, manufacturing, and technology. I’m there quite often and find that all of the technology and manufacturing related stress can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes I feel the need to escape it all so I go to markets and places that aren’t traditionally associated with technology so I can clear my head as well as expose myself to something different. It provides me with a constant source of new design ideas and also allows me to escape the persistent tech treadmill that Shenzhen runs on. There are a lot of places in Shenzhen that I consider hidden gems that don’t get a lot of press since mainstream media associates Shenzhen with either factories or technology. Here are my favorite places to window shop and de-stress in Shenzhen.
Google’s Project Jacquard is tackling the age old gap between controlling your electronic device and touching yourself. They are doing this by weaving conductive thread into clothing in the form of a touch pad. In partnership with Levi Strauss & Co., Google has been designing and producing touch interfaces that are meant to be used by developers however they see fit.
The approach that Project Jacquard has taken from a hardware standpoint is on point. Rather than having an end user product in mind and design completely towards that goal, the project is focused on the interface as its product. This has the added benefit of endless varieties of textile interface possibilities. As stated in the video embedded after the break, the conductive touch interface can be designed as a visibly noticeable difference in material or seamlessly woven into a garment.
As awesome as this new interface may seem there are some things to consider:
- Can an unintentional brush with another person “sleeve dial” your boss or mother-in-law?
- What are the implications of Google putting sensors in your jeans?
- At what point is haptic feedback inappropriate? and do we have to pay extra for that?
We’ve covered e-textiles before from a conductive thread and thru hole components approach to electro-mechanical implementations.
[Alica] and [Jerika] are seniors in the Digital Culture program at Arizona State University and for their capstone, the wanted to take something that is traditionally male dominated and make it more female friendly. They chose e-textiles, which are most commonly extremely avant garde and nearly unapproachable with a lot of LEDs and zany mechanisms. Their initial designs reflected this, with multiple LED strips and huge shoulder pads. Then they discovered Flexinol shape memory actuator wire, and found this could be a much ‘softer’ integration of technology with haute couture.
[Jerika] and [Alica] chose to create an electronic flower, able to bloom with the help of a shape memory alloy. When a current is applied to the Flexinol wire, it contracts. Sewing these wires into laser cut fabric petals, the girls created a fabric flower that booms with the help of an LiliPad Arduino.
While they weren’t able to complete their dress due to electronic weirdness and burning out the wire too soon, they did succeed in creating a flower pin that demonstrated the intended effect.
[Karolina] has been hard at work adding a little flair to her bag. Well, a lot of flair actually. She rolled several keyboards worth of keys into one of the panels for this bag. She had seen the idea in a magazine and decided to give it a try. The secret is to use staples.
The first issues is gather enough keys, so if you give this a try make sure to let your friends know you’re looking for old keyboards. Next she wanted each of the keys to lay flat on the fabric panel, which meant cutting away the plastic pegs that extend past the edges of the key. From there [Karolina] laid out her design with each key face down. Notice how careful she was to make sure there were no gaps between them. Now it was time to link them all together. She used heavy-duty staples as connecting brackets. They were bent to provide a large gluing surface on the underside of the face of each key. With the staples in place, each can be sewn to the fabric with a loop of thread. Although she started the project in the fall she’s just now showing off the finished bag.