From the Department of Utterly Impractical Ideas:
I don’t usually get jazzed up about clothing. But consider this amazing new glowing fabric from Italy.
Actually, it’s not a fabric in itself — it’s a new type of luminescent fiber that can be sewn throughout all sorts of fabrics. You attach the fibers to a microchip with a battery power source, turn it on and the whole thing glows brilliantly.
The fibers are colorless by default, but they emit whatever color the microchip instructs them to emit. Imagine adding optical sensors and a little intelligence, so that your glowing clothes constantly change colors to match your surroundings. Walk from room to room in a dark club and you’ll change colors like a chameleon. Or imagine using audio sensors to make the colors pulsate with the surrounding music, or in time with the wearer’s heartbeat.
Better yet, could you use Luminex to turn your clothes into a video display? Perhaps you could cover thousands of fibers with an opaque coating except for the tips, then distribute the tips regularly throughout the clothing to form pixels. Then a microprocessor could control it all to display any imagery you can imagine.
How about having tiny video cameras in the clothing that capture the imagery in front of you and behind you, then display that imagery on either side of the video-display clothing? People facing you at just the right angle would see a freakish mirror-image of themselves — or they’d see a freakish live image of what’s behind you, so that you’d seem nearly transparent to them…
A big question: how expensive is this stuff? The Luminex site doesn’t even hint at the answer, which probably means it’s very pricey. Let’s hope Moore’s Law drives down the cost soon because I’m dying to play with this stuff.
(Credit where it’s due: I snagged the simulated-invisibility idea from The University of Tokyo’s Optical Camouflage project.)
UPDATE, 3-10-03: Thessy reports that a Swiss distributor sells Luminex at prices much lower than the U.S. distributor’s: 40-60 Euros per meter, which equals about US$41-US$61 per yard. Details below in the comments.
UPDATE, 3-7-03: The U.S. Luminex distributor sent prices and details. In brief, it’s very expensive (fabric costs US$280-US$450 per yard, depending on the type of fabric used) and so far you can’t light up a fiber with any color on the fly. But the fibers are lit by LED’s at the base, and you can have two LED’s merging light of two colors into the same fibers to create the range of colors between the two chosen LED colors. Theoretically, I think it could be possible to create a triple-LED system to create any color, but apparently nobody has done this yet. Details below in the “comments” section, where the full sales message was posted. (By the way, I don’t know any Luminex people and I’m not getting any sort of commission or kickback.)