Imagine walking around with your clothes lighting up like a digital display, allowing you to send messages and emails and turning into a keyboard. Even more shocking, imagine a direct communication with your clothes allowing them to adapt to varying temperatures or share crucial fitness information with your instructor while you are in the middle of a marathon run.
While it sounds like an ironman suit straight out of science fiction, smart fabric is quite real and scientists from the Fudan University in China have been able to create a fabric with embedded digital components that can conveniently be used as a digital display and communication tool while being folded, washed, and worn like your regular clothes.
The introduction of durable smart fabrics are set to revolutionize the world of wearable gadgets. According to experts the market size is expected to exponentially increase by 30.4% from 2019 to 2025.
The attempts at building conductive yarns that could be woven into fabrics had been going on for decades, but most attempts barely made it out of the research labs and onto people’s bodies since the resulting fabrics were extremely fragile and couldn’t withstand the abuse our clothes are usually put through.
Other smart fabrics which have been able to make it to market operate in predetermined ways such as the high-end beachwear manufactured by a French startup Spinali Design, with ultraviolet sensors which notify users when to apply sunscreen.
However, this new fabric developed by the researchers in China has been able to withstand over 100 washing and drying cycles and its display continues to work just fine, becoming a revolutionary leap forward in the field of electronic textiles that will have an insurmountable impact on industries worldwide, according to research published in the journal “Nature.”
The authors of the research journal suggest that the practical use for smart fabrics will not just be limited to fashion designer being able to integrate adaptive electronic displays into their outfits, but will have far more serious and life changing applications.
People with physical or cognitive impairments will be able to conveniently communicate with the smart fabrics. In addition, the speech-to-text display will allow communicating in foreign languages. The use of smart fabrics for the advertising industry will also evolve the concepts of marketing & advertising allowing people to turn into walking billboards.
Many tech giants around the world have been actively working on integrating the smart fabric technology to new applications. For instance, Google has been working with Levis for quite a few years to develop a smart denim jacket using Google’s Project Jacquard Smart Tech giving built in touch controls to the sleeves of the jacket. Similarly, Apple filed a patent to integrate health monitoring technology into clothing.