A scarf that changes color

Japanese researchers from Keio University have made a chameleon scarf which changes color according with what you wear. Put a green jacket, and the scarf will turn green. Add a blue coat, and the shawl will glow blue. This chameleon scarf incorporates optical fibers and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) able to render more than 4,000 colors.

Here is something you can add to your wish list of gifts, but not for this holiday season. According to a brief article from New Scientist, Japanese researchers from Keio University have made a chameleon scarf which changes color according with what you wear. Put a green jacket, and the scarf will turn green. Add a blue coat, and the shawl will glow blue. This chameleon scarf incorporates optical fibers and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) able to render more than 4,000 colors. So far, this scarf has only been demonstrated at computer fashion shows, so don't rush to your shopping mall to grab one.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the New Scientist article.

People lacking any sense of fashion no longer need worry about their scarf clashing with their clothes this winter - researchers have created one that automatically changes colour to suit an outfit. The colour-shifting garment, dubbed a chameleon shawl, was developed by Akira Wakita and colleagues at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan.
Interwoven into the scarf material are pixels containing red, blue and green light-emitting diodes (LEDs), so adjusting the brightness of each type of diode turns the scarf a different overall shade. A small sensor embedded in the garment also enables it to identify the colour of the nearest item of clothing. A microcomputer then selects a suitable colour for the scarf itself to adopt.

Akira Wakita's web site at the Information Design Lab doesn't contain -- today -- information about this chameleon shawl. But it gives some details about experiments done with clothing changing colors depending on the environment. Below is a diagram showing how two pieces of clothing can communicate and engage into a collaborative action (Credit: Akira Wakita and colleagues at Keio University).

Coordination between pieces of clothing

This page about "wearable synthesis" gives additional details.

Our concept is based on the perception of clothing as a module. This clothing has both input and output. Say, we have an inner wear that senses the body temperature and changes its color. In this case, body temperature is input through a temperature sensor and processed by microcontrollers. Here, by assuming the output of a module as the input of another module, linkage between two modules is realized. By connecting another fashion item, for example outer wear, that inputs the light output from the inner wear, "the coordination of information" can be established.

Let's come back to the chameleon scarf. It uses 100 optical fibers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), a color sensor and an LED color controller. As said Wakita, the goal is to add new value to fashion items by blending IT technology into them.

This scarf has been presented at the ninth International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC'05), which was held on October 18-21, 2005 in Osaka, Japan.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a link to a photo gallery of this "fashion" show. The pictures were taken by Shigeyuki Baba, from Sony, and don't have legends. However, be warned that this page "weighs" about 3.4 MB. Below is a picture of a woman carrying a "wearable piano" (Credit: Shigeyuki Baba, Sony).

A woman carrying a wearable piano

The research work from Akira Wakita and her colleagues has been published in the proceedings of ISWC'05 under the name "A Coordination Model for Wearable Fashion." Here is a link to the abstract.

Recently, the wearable computing technologies keep empowering a variety of fashion items. Each wearable fashion item is attractive and providing quite new possibilities in terms of new computing devices. However, the conceptual model that supports fashionable coordination among those items is not proposed yet. To address this problem, we present a coordination model for wearable fashion by utilizing the conceptual model of analog synthesizers. We show some behavior styles and these description method with schematic block diagram. A set of prototyping clothing based on the model will also be presented for estimations.

When will we able to buy such clothes? Probably not before a few years.

Sources: Will Knight, New Scientist, December 9, 2005; and various web sites

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