Smart Spider Dress, powered by Intel Edison, blends fashion with robotics and wearable technology to express the wearer’s emotions and protect their personal space.
Call it a smart cocktail dress with a kick, an outfit with built in self defense.
Experimental designer Anouk Wipprecht’s latest Spider Dress unabashedly blends beauty with a bite, or better said, a poke.
This creepy and captivating couture is her latest exploration into what can happen when the worlds of robotics, wearable technology and fashion collide. It made it’s public debut at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV today.
The Dutch designer is known for creations such as the brainwave-monitoring Synapse dress, Smoke Dress, Intimacy 2.0, 3D-printed outfits for Cirque du Soleil and the dress Fergie wore during the Black Eyed Peas live performance at Super Bowl 2011.
She came to Intel last fall to work on projects that inspire innovation in wearable technologies beyond wrist and eyewear. She calls her one-of-a-kind Spider Dress “badass” for how it pushes and bends the boundaries of social norms. In collaboration with architect Philip H. Wilck of Studio Palermo and the New Devices Group at Intel, this new design saw daylight last December.
“Fashion and tech are merging at the moment, beyond blinking dresses or cute skirts. I’m showing how fashion can be thought provoking, something that pushes people to think and share their feelings.”
Her latest creation is a 3D-printed experimental dress crowned at the collar with robotic spider legs.
It’s a violent thing of beauty, at once mesmerizing, provocative and intimidating. The legs constantly move, reacting to real-time biometrics based on pre-programmed social norms and violations.
“Spider Dress acts as the interface between the body and the external world,” said Wipprecht. “It uses technology and the garment as a medium of interaction.”
The so-called animatronic arachnid limbs on the Spider Dress know exactly when someone is invading the wearer’s personal space. The legs are driven by computer and sensor technologies that allow it to be autonomous, but assistive and adaptive to the owner’s emotions and desires.
“Since the system based with mechanic spider legs is literally hosted on the shoulders of the wearer and attacks using the same viewing angle as the wearer, the system knows how you feel and adapts to those feelings,” she said.
Using wireless biometric signals, the system makes inferences based on the stress levels in your body. It can differentiate between 12 states of behavior. Wipprecht calls it an interesting interplay between co-control and education of your own body and mind.
“When approached at an aggressive pace, the system answers in a territorial attack mode,” she said. “But when you walk up to the dress in a more cautious, friendly symbiotic way, you can almost get the dress to invite you closer, as if to ‘dance’ with you.”
She calls it her most complicated dress so far because of the depths she explored around human-system interactions.
It also brought out her rebellious side.
“This dress is created with the aim to give more power and ‘psychological thrill’ to the sugar sweet character that performative wearables often have,” she said.
“What is there to learn from a system that bows and agrees to everything we do?” she asked defiantly.
“Often you see electronic fashion that only bleeps and blinks. I like to think of creating intelligent agents that live with us, on the notion of extremes, in the hope we can find new ways of interfacing with the world around us.”
The embedded Intel Edison module brings computing intelligence the dress. Wipprecht said that she was originally measuring behaviors using external sensors, but embedding Edison in the dress has allowed her to store and measure data from anybody wearing the dress.
“Intel’s Edison technology allowed me to upgrade my [original prototype from 2013] design to a mature version, one that is fully 3D printed, mechatronic and extra sensory,” she said.
Today microprocessors, microcontrollers and other modules that bring computing, communications and Internet access to things are shrinking in size and can run on little power. Wipprecht said these kinds of technology allow her to rethink where, and in what situations, computing is possible and desirable.
“Now I can create designs that quickly compute complicated sets of signals, optionally store them and interconnect wirelessly to displays, and understand input data all at once in a more advanced and intelligent way.”
She said cool, new technologies come and go but the module she used is the ‘heartbeat’ of Spider Dress. It’s the central part that needs to lead and control everything fluidly, without delay.
“When my mechanics are responding a few seconds too late, it does not convey an engaging message.
Wipprecht, who has always been interested in robotics, says by using behavior adaptation, you’re essentially creating a robot that becomes a part of you, instead of something separate that stands beside you.
The technology gives Wipprecht a playful way to leverage personal data, according to Todd Harple, an experience engineer at Intel’s New Devices Group.
“Whereas the Synapse dress measured EEG brain activity and heart rate in real time, Spider Dress uses proximity and breathing,” said Harple. “It will almost immediately react differently when heavy breathing vs. calm.”
By understanding the body’s limits, the dress might be able to sense rising stress levels even before the wearer realizes what’s happening.
“It’s an interface that acts on behalf of the wearer but also considers its own opinion based on the logic and data programmed through social studies and environmental psychology,” explained Wipprecht.
She believes that if mechanics like this can challenge or prompt a person, it might bring healthcare benefits, such as alerting a person to sit down before vital signs reach heart attack levels.
“The position that technology has in our society — the role to please us — will get more and more intimate,” says Wipprecht, adding that technology can encourage interactivity and shouldn’t just be about people glancing at screens. “As technology crawls closer to the skin we will need to rethink and recreate the relation that we have towards technology.”
Details of the Design
The dress shoulder plates have nine degrees of freedom.
It’s equipped with 20 servos for movement.
The design uses proximity sensors that measure up to 23 feet around the body.
There’s a built-in respiration sensor that connects to the skin, which sets the programmed behavior to a ‘friendly fire’ mode.
The dress was digitally designed and 3D printed using a Selective Laser Sintering method.
It was created out of pearly white nylon and took more than 60 hours to print the complex geometries.
There are 40 parts that screw or press fit together.
Editor’s Note: For more on this and other stories from the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, watch the replay of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote address.