BBC: Clothes that do the thinking

From: Ziana Astralos (
Date: Tue Jan 02 2001 - 12:03:36 MST

Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 08:34 GMT
Clothes that do the thinking

By Julian Siddle of BBC Science

Scientists in Belgium are working on what they think
will be the definitive clothes of the future.

The clothes, known as "i-Wear" for Intelligent Wear,
will perform many of the current functions of
mobile phones, computers and even hospital monitoring

Starlab, a research institute based in Brussels and
specialising in the field of artificial
intelligence, is trying to make clothes that seem to

The company says the range of tasks that the clothes
will be able to perform is vast, from taking phone
calls to keeping a check on the health of the wearer.

Environmental sensors

"The layer which is closest to your body will be the
layer that is monitoring your body functions such
as heartbeat, blood pressure, temperature," says
Katrien van Gerven.

"Other layers include sensors, and these sensors can
measure what is happening in the environment. They
can measure the light so they know when it's dark. They
can also measure sounds to determine whether
you're in a loud environment.

"These kinds of data can be processed through other
technology that is in your clothing, like mobiles
for instance. So, if you are in a very loud
environment, this will mean that your mobile should
louder and if you're in a meeting, the mobile shouldn't
ring at all," she says.

Commercial production of such clothes is some way off,
but a shirt with a simple memory function has
already been developed.

Memory shirt

This smart garment could help you remember your keys or
wallet. Microchips in the shirt are linked to
other microchips in objects such as wallets and keys,
so the shirt will know whether or not a key is in
its pocket and can warn the wearer if the key is

In the far future, the company predict they will be
developing clothes with the ability to assess the
wearer's mood. Clothes could even remember where you've
been on holiday, creating a snapshot of
atmosphere, sounds and even smells.

But fashion has not been a major consideration in the
design of the prototype clothes, it seems. The
thinking shirt, although finished in a nice check
pattern, has a small antenna protruding from one

Perhaps i-Wear will not be appearing on the catwalks
just yet.

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