MIT’s Social Network For Wearing Your Heart On Sleeve & Elsewhere

Over the course of the last year, social networking has definitely been evolving. With start-ups such as Tsu and A+ launching innovative monetization models, which pay their users for their content — and major players like Facebook and Twitter adding videos to their playbill, as they attempt to capitalize on the lucrative YouTube market - the playing field has certainly changed.

Fashion That Speaks To You

So, just when you think we've reached another plateau, something new comes along to add a healthy dose of disruption -- just to make things interesting.

As part of new joint venture, MIT’s Tangible Media Group and the Fluid Interface Group have taken social media to the burgeoning new field of ‘wearable’ technology.The university’s team headed up by Viirj Kan, Katsuya Fujii, Judith Amores, and Chang Long Zhu Jin have been experimenting -- believe it or not -- with ways of finding out how social networking could operate outside the confines of the computer screen.

"We wanted to examine more tangible ways of representing ourselves in social media," Kan told CNN.

"While what you wear is very public, social media is able to show who you are to thousands more people and this creates really big social consequences but it often doesn't feel that way."  She went on to say that the idea behind wearables being introduced into the social equation was to probe this question further.

Getting Social in Real-Life

"Current technologies are very good at connecting people over great distances, but they're not so good at connecting them in the same environment," Kan said. "There's this gap and we wanted to explore that through what we've built."

Sporting a chic alphabet design on the front, the T-shirt's pattern is printed in thermo-chromatic ink with a thin circuit membrane under the weave.

The T-shirt uses Bluetooth to pair with your mobile phone and all your pertinent contact data. The wired t-shirts light up and spell out information to clue you in to common interests of new acquaintances, and can even notify you when a friend is nearby.

Sociable Cottons

Called “Social Textiles,” all one of these T-shirts has to do is detect another T-Shirt wearer within 12 feet radius, is to alert him or her through a haptic motor which literally 'taps' them to the attention that there's another wearable device in the room.

After the T-shirt has transmitted the signal to another, capacitive sensors in the shirt read either a handshake, touch or high five before the T-shirt actually kicks into gear and starts transmitting your data.

"We've got a working prototype but we've yet to test it on users -- that's definitely the next step," Kan said.

She also noted that the ability for the shirt to transmit data is only limited by the imagination of the designer. While the shirt is still in the research and development phase, the group says that commercial sponsors have a growing interest in the product going into beta and eventually to market.

What would Christian Do?

However, there is one drawback to literally wearing your heart on your sleeve with this tech-wear. Since the current wearables are only T-shirts, in essence your arms are not really covered by sleeves. But in my estimation -- just  give this tech-savvy MIT team another couple of months, and I’m sure in addition to long sleeves, you also find them experimenting with skull caps, hoodies and even underwear for those more intimate moments of social networking.

And with that said, you probably could already start conjuring up some ideas as to how many additional ‘shades of grey’ Mr. Christian Grey might be adding to his wardrobe and accessories, as soon as he gets wind of this new technology. Perhaps, some exotic voice commands to go hand-in-hand with his whips and chains- just saying!