Do You Want Your Fashion to Interact with the World?

Imagine a dress that would react to people around you. Lash out if you felt threatened. Light up if you were happy? Sound like something from Bladerunner? Think again. These dresses have become reality, thanks to Dutch fashiontech designer Anouk Wipprecht.

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This is Anouk’s Spider Dress 2.0. The spider leg epaulettes on each shoulder are actually tiny robots. They link to proximity sensors and a respiration sensor. This means that if someone moves aggressively towards you, and you don’t like it, your increase in respiration will trigger the mechanical legs to move up and into an attack position. Additionally the black LED shells stationed along the garment, meant to  resemble spider eyes, automatically flash in warning when someone gets near you.

Robotic Spider Dress [Intel Edison based] // 2015 teaser from Anouk Wipprecht on Vimeo.

Anouk’s original Spider Dress (designed in collaboration with engineer Daniel Schatzmayr) shows the sinister robotic spider legs. These legs also extend, but won’t react to the proximity of others. It was simply meant as a performance art piece about personal space.

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Although the Spider Dress is Anouk’s most recent project, he has experimented with interactive clothing for a while. Take the Smoke Dress, which covers the wearer with fog as soon as people approach. The Smoke Dress functions as a protective shield, the designer says, “just like an octopus in self-defense” envelops itself in clouds of ink.”

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Interactive Smoke Dress @ AUTODESK Gallery pop up Paris from Anouk Wipprecht on Vimeo.

Anouk also created her Synapse Dress which reads the wear’s thoughts. When the person is excited about something, this triggers the LED lights in the dress to glow. It creates a sense of vulnerability because everyone around you will know what you are thinking.

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Much of the interactivity in Anouk’s fashion are thanks to an Intel chip called Edison. Watch the micro-documentary about how the chip helps the clothes sense the users thoughts.

Interactive Intel-Edison based Synapse dress by Dutch fashion-tech designer reveals wearers metal states from Anouk Wipprecht on Vimeo.

One of Anouk’s earliest fashion and tech mashups looks like it came straight out of a Steampunk novel. The Faraday Dress lights up when exposed to the power of high-voltage, low-current, high-frequency, alternating-current electricity. That forking lightning you see in the picture is real. 94 metal panels comprised the outfit, cut out of a sheet of metal using the water jet.

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In this making of video you can see a hesitant model wearing the dress as the faraday device launches arcs of electricity at the dress.

Anouk Wipprecht lives and works in San Francisco. She strives to create fashion that will connect the body and the clothing. She began combining fashion and technology three years ago. A one year sting to Sweden offered her a chance to study “body, fashion & technology” at the Malmo university. There she worked on Arduino-based application possibilities and smart fabric concepting.

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Tim Kane

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Hero of Alexandria was the Tony Stark of His Day

If the ancient world has taught me anything it’s this: Everything was invented thousands of years ago. Only we’ve forgotten nearly all of it.

Hero Iron Man

One such uber-inventer was Hero of Alexandria (also called Heron). He lived and studied in the city of Alexandria in Egypt (between 60 and 70 AD). This city had become a center for learning, drawing scholars from all over the ancient world to exchange ideas and, in Hero’s case, build some pretty cool machines.

Hero was responsible for the first steam engine, wind-powered machines, robots, and the railroad. After that, he built some more crazy contraptions. Enough to make Wile E Coyote look like a layabout.

Hero had the disadvantage of being born two centuries before the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. Thus, most of his inventions were millennia before their time. Even his own life is a mystery. He most likely taught at the Musaeum at Alexandria, the gathering place for scholars. It was there that he thought up his Iron Man inventions.

The Steam Engine

Okay, so this wasn’t the type of steam engine that could power a locomotive across the Wild West. But it could have, if Hero had spent more time on perfecting it. Basically he used steam to cause a ball to spin around, thus converting heat into mechanical energy. Hero called this an aeolipile.

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Hero’s Aeolipile was a fascinating curio and nothing more because although it could create mechanical energy, there were no gears or cars or other machines that could use that energy. This was the ancient world after all. However, there is no other mention of such a device until we get to the Ottoman inventor Taqi al-Din in 1577, who was hailed as the greatest scientist on Earth. If he was the greatest for copying Hero’s steam engine, what does that make Hero?

Railroad

Instead of iron tracks, the ancient world’s version of a rail road consisted of grooved paths pulled by people or horses. The most famous was the Diolkos, cutting across the narrow isthmus of Corinth. It allowed ships to be hauled overland (sort of like a land version of the Panama Canal).

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Hero didn’t invent the railroad. It dated back to 600 BCE. However, if Hero had combined it with his steam engine, we’d have the industrial revolution back in ancient Greece. Imagine steampunks in togas.

Robots

Although he might not have created the railroad, Hero was very much into automating tasks. He created all sorts of devices that were “programmed” to do certain functions and the left alone (with no human input) to complete those functions.

He constructed an automaton called “”Hercules and the Dragon”, powered by water. As water pours into the container Hercules hits the dragon’s head. This causes the dragon to shoot water into Hercules’ face.

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He used wind to power a pipe organ (making him the first to use wind to power a machine). As the arm turned from the wind, it transferred the motion to an air compressor. Then the organ was activated, the air was released to create a flute sound.

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He even created a vending machine that served up holy water.

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Drop a coin into the slot and a balance beam moves, drawing out a plug from a jar of holy water. As the balance beam reverts to equilibrium, the jug of holy water is sealed and your purchase ends. If only Hero had invented the candy bar.

And yes, he also made the very first robot. Sources suggest that Heron created a cart programmed to move along different directions. Around 60 CE, he built a cart with a rope wrapped around two independent axles. A falling weight provided the power. Pegs projected from the axle (sort of like cogs) and Heron used these to change how the rope was wound around the axel. This let the cart change direction and move the way Hero wanted to.

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The cart was controlled with knots tied to ropes. When Hero pulled a rope, the knot moved a lever which caused certain actions to happen. He used the same process to create a mechanical play almost 10 minutes long, including dropping metal balls onto a sheet of metal to resemble thunder.

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Genius at Math

If you any doubts that Hero was a genius way before his time, take a look at his mathematical accomplishments. He came up with the basics for Fermat’s principle. Hero stated that a light ray would always take the shortest route between two points. This is the basis for optics and fiber optics.

In his spare time, he discovered a quick way to find the square root of a number. He also created a formula (called Hero’s formula) to calculate the area of any triangle using only the lengths of its sides. Finally he discovered imaginary numbers. No, they’re not made up. When you square a number, say 4, the result is 16. When you square a negative number, like -4, the result it also 16. (The negatives cancel out). But, what happens when you take the square root of a negative number, like -16. The answer isn’t 4 or -4. It’s imaginary 4 (can you tell I was a math geek in school?).

Enough. Let it be known that Hero of Alexandria was the most amazing inventor of the ancient world, and perhaps all time.

Tim Kane

Home Decor for Your Hell House: Six Evil Home Additions

Imagine you’re an interior designer or contractor and you get contacted by a fellow who wants an iron maiden installed in his basement. Perhaps accessed through a secret door with a few traps. It makes you wonder, where do some of the horror movie villains get their homes made? Here are the top six bizarre home building projects that would drive any contractor nutty.

#6 Secret Passage from Young Frankenstein

Put the candle back.

I have a secret, I’ve always wanted to build a secret passage. It would be so cool to be able to access your den or writing room via a chamber that no one else can see. Yes. It’s everyone’s dream, right? Of course, you’ve have to access it with a candle, just like in Young Frankenstein. I only hope I never get stuck like Gene Wilder.

#5 A Swinging Pendulum from The Pit and the Pendulum

Imagine a clock pendulum swinging, only now, it’s set to slice you in half. I don’t even know where you’d have room to put this in any house, much less make it work. Only Edgar Allen Poe could dream this up and only Roger Corman could execute it.

#4 A Smoky Pit to the Netherworld from Lair of the White Worm

An unwilling victim

As kids, we all tried to dig a hole to China, but in horror flicks, holes in the earth tend to lead other places. In Lair of the White Worm, a nasty slimy serpent slithers up to chomp on young maidens. With that in mind, think how long it would take to drill this out?

#3 A Personal Torture Chamber from Princess Bride

Not only is this my favorite movie, it also has it’s own torture equipment. Who knew? The machine is there to instill pain on its victims with suction. So basically its one giant Hoover. As an added bonus, it’s made entirely out of wood. That would take a fleet of carpenters to build.

#2 Your Own Mechanical Band from The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Sure, all your songs fit onto an iPod, but nothing replaces having live performers. Barring that, you could go the robotic/mechanical route. Nothing says creepy as faceless horn players. I’d like to see Apple market that.

#1 A Vat of Acid in the Floor from House on Haunted Hill

I put this as number one simply because…why? Why would you ever need a vat of acid in the floor other than to dissolve someone. I know there was some sort of explanation for it in the film, but let’s face it, death by acid is just awesome.

Tim Kane

Is the Steampunk Mechanical Hand a Reality?

Rasputin's Steampunk Hand

Okay, so the mechanical construct Rasputin wore in the first Hellboy movie was actually a glove, but it illustrates the dream of steampunk aficionados everywhere: The Mechanical Hand. With today’s robotic technology, we should have Luke Skywalker hands. Right? But what about the heyday of the Victoria? Could gears make the cut?

Victorian Prosthesis

It turns out there was a macabre looking Victorian prosthesis on display in the London Science Museum. This construct of steel and brass articulates at the elbow via a spring, and the wrist joint rotates and moves up and down just like the real McCoy. The fingers curl up to grip items. This was the actual appearance, so the arm was most likely concealed with a glove.

This doesn’t offer much support for the mechanical arm. Yet, if you travel back another 400 years, you’ll find the legendary Gottfried von Berlichingen (aka Götz of the Iron Hand).

The German "Iron Hand" Mercenary

This German mercenary lost his right hand from a cannonball in 1504. He commissioned a custom mechanical hand that connected to his elbow. This remarkable feat of engineering contained spring mechanisms, buttons, and levers that allowed the fingers to operate with amazing dexterity. It earned him is nickname: “that one of the iron hand” (mit to der eisernen Hand).

Strap on super gauntlet

Gottfried’s iron fingers were controlled with ten mechanical wheels. These were sensitive enough to grip a sword (for terrorizing wealthy nobles), or clutch a quill (to write those ransom notes).

Medieval Skywalker hand

So there you have it. Looking back at Army of Darkness, the machination banged out for Ash looks pretty plausible now.

Give me some sugar baby

My question, why don’t we have more cool mechanical prostheses? If a German noble could bang it out 500 years ago, why can’t we? This historical precedent bodes well for all those steampunk constructs.

Tim Kane