Georgia Tech researchers in computing and industrial design are planning a series of workshops with artists, designers, scientists and engineers to spark innovation at the intersection of technology and soft goods such as apparel. The initiative is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in the largest grant awarded to Georgia Tech by the organization within the last five years.
The workshops will be centered on a futuristic textile swatch book that looks and acts similar to traditional swatch books, a staple in fashion and design studios. Georgia Tech’s Clint Zeagler and Thad Starner’s version is connected to a notebook computer via USB, with material swatches that incorporate conductive thread, sensors and controllers. As the swatches are exchanged in the binder, the appropriate interface appears on the computer screen.
“The Electronic Textile Interface Swatch Book functions as a guide book for an inspiration and ideation session in the first part of the workshop, driving the design process and helping participants understand the technology and then dream up ideas,” said Zeagler. “We’re especially curious to see how scientists, traditional fashion designers and craftspeople can be inspired to apply on-body interactive textiles within their fields.”
Participants get to make prototypes of their designs in the second part of the workshop using the enhanced fabric.
A pilot workshop was held at Parsons the New School for Design this fall; subsequent workshops will be held at Georgia Tech and Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta.
Zeagler, an instructor in the School of Industrial Design, and Starner, an associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing, have forged new paths in the futuristic wearable computing field. Leveraging Georgia Tech’s strengths in networked products and connectivity, the researchers hope the workshops will advance new ideas in traditional design fields in fashion, interiors and textiles.
The swatch book and supporting research presentations have made numerous appearances in exhibitions and international conferences. This April, the team will present the work at the Smart Fabrics Conference in Miami.