How would you like some magic fabric that you could use to make, and remake useful objects depending upon the job you neededon a given day? A wallet might inform you that you have run out of money, a belt might tell you that the pollen count is low, or a hat might tell you that the sunburn index if high. The wallet, the belt and the hat will be the same set of patches used in different ways on different occasions.
The New Scientist Magazine reports on a system of computerised fabric patches developed by engineers Adrian Cable, Gauri Nanda and Michael Bove at MIT’s Media Lab (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Each patch contains a functional unit of the system – a microprocessor and memory plus either a radio transceiver, a sensor, a microphone, batteries or a display. It’s like intelligent Lego or transformers – you can put the patches together in different ways to create a variety of information-providing or environment-sensing objects. You can then pull it apart and put it together again to perform an entirely different function.
In order to remain waterproof, the circuit board inside each patch is first coated with a hard transparent resin and then padded with a thin layer of foam before being housed in the chosen fabric. It can be populated with a variety of components, from Bluetooth transmitters to a cut-down PC motherboard, reports the New Scientist.
The dressmaking exercise continues as the patches, which can be square or triangular, are joined using Velcro. Wires from the circuit board are attached to silver-coated contacts in the Velcro so that data and power can flow from between modules.
To make a bag that prevents people forgetting things, Nanda and Cable have incorporated a sensor module in the bag’s handle that detects when the bag has been picked up, indicating that the owner might be leaving, says the New Scientist. This triggers the reader to check through the objects the computer module has been programmed to look for, and it uses a voice synthesiser module to warn the owner if items are missing.
All Grandparents should get this bag for Christmas!