Imagine yourself donning an accessory or clothing that has stored a varied range of data-from security codes to identification tags, that too without the aid of any sensor or electronics! If you are a hard-core sci-fi addict or big fan of ‘Marvel’ movies; then this fantasy is what you can possibly live in real world.
Thanks to the computer scientists of the University of Washington for having developed a new kind of smart fabric that can be introduced into jackets which can store invisible passcodes and open the door to your apartment. This data can be read through an instrument that is embedded in existing smart phones to enable navigation apps.
Simply iron the smart fabric or place it in the washer and dryer. Built as a completely electronic-free design, this fabric can be thought of as a hard disk which can be worn and can be used for data storage as well.
Actually conducive thread or embroidery thread is being combined by many at present which can carry an electrical current with other types of electronics to make outfits or accessories and even stuffed animals that light up or communicate.
But what makes this fabric developed by UW researchers different, is that the off-the-shelf conductive thread in it is has magnetic properties which can be manipulated to store digital data or visual info like letters or numbers.
You can read all this stored data with the help of a magnetometer which is an inexpensive device that measures the direction and strength of magnetic fields and is embedded on most of the smart phones.
Even fashion accessories like tie, belt, necklace and wristband have been developed by the researchers using this technology where the data is decoded by swiping a smart phone across them. The fabric has been embroidered with off-the-shelf conductive thread with the use of conventional sewing machines. The magnetic poles of the thread start out in a random order and the poles could be aligned in either a positive or negative direction by rubbing a magnet against the fabric. This enables it to correspond to the 1s and 0s in digital data.
The magnetic fabric could be used to interact with a smart phone while it is in one’s pocket. A glove made of conductive fabric sewn into its fingertips can be used to gesture at the smart phone and each gesture yields a different magnetic signal that can raise specific actions like pausing or playing music.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Google; this research is further focused on developing custom textiles which engender stronger magnetic fields and are capable of storing higher density of data.
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