The Flutter Dress: Utterly Cool Blend of Textiles and Robotics
The Flutter Dress is the invention of designers, Halley Profita, Nicholas Farrow and Professor Nicholas Correll. It was created at the University of Colorado at Boulder, but received international recognition in 2012 when it received First Prize both for Best in Show and Most Inclusive and Usable Design at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers Design Exhibition in Newcastle, England. While it may look like a typical dress, all is not what it seems.
How does the Flutter Dress work?
The secret to the Flutter Dress lies in its bodice, which is constructed of cotton and polyester textiles. The microphones underneath its pretty surface form a collective network that picks up sounds emanating from a specific direction and activates body sensors known as leaflets attached to the dress to flutter in that direction. This wearable tech innovation provides the ultimate in alternative sensory awareness.This is accomplished by permitting the wearer to "feel" rather than hear surrounding sounds.
Known technically as vibro-tactile feedback, sensors detect and store data about the external environment, which becomes auditory signals that are in turn relayed to the brain via auditory receptors. The Flutter Dress provides this feedback in the direction of a loud sound, allowing those suffering from hearing loss to respond more effectively to their surroundings.
The Flutter Dress is ingenious
The Flutter Dress integrates function and fashion and its extraordinary merging of robotics with textiles calls attention to the beauty of the garment rather than to the disability it represents. Although the hearing-impaired can and always have relied on assistive protocols such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and specially-trained hearing dogs, these aids can fail or prove to be inappropriate in certain circumstances. (A dog requires one hand to hold a leash and hearing aids are easily lost or misplaced.)
A wearable system that empowers hearing-impaired individuals to receive information that helps them navigate their environment, the Flutter Dress compensates for the inability to detect warning signals such as fire alarms, police sirens and even the honking of horns. The dress alerts the wearer to impending danger by its winglet sensors that flutter in the direction of the sound.
A Computer Science doctoral student in the Correll Robotic Lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder, her interests lie in interactive technology projects of all types. Human Computer Interaction is a source of great fascination, as are mobile and ubiquitous computing, with a specific focus on how wearable and embedded technology can be used to help improve the quality of life. Hence, the inspiration for the Flutter Dress which became a living, breathing project with the collaborative support of Nicholas Farrow and Professor Nicholas Correll.
The Flutter Dress marks a new trend in assistive wearable tech innovation. Its ingenious and stylish design promises a new direction for truly chic fashion that has a function. For the hearing-impaired this big world we live and navigate within has just become a bit more manageable and smaller.
M Dee Dubroff
Fashion and Technology Blogger