The Rich Tapestry of The Future

Waiting for a thing? Waiting…. Waiting some more….

Then Bam! Two come along at once!

Two friends dabbling in wearable technology happened to post their videos on exactly the same day! One friend is fearlessly leading the charge into an entirely new market and the other creatively challenged herself to demonstrate the capability of wearable music technology.

Check out the videos!

The MiMu gloves were created by Imogen Heap and her team and you can find out about them in the MiMu Project. http://mimu.org.uk/

The other garment utilises optical fibres so the threads themselves are integrated into the technology. As the fibres get stressed the light back scattering signal changes predictably and electronics infer the motions of the person. Peculiarly, I gave a talk about the future of self-assembling in manufacturing alongside a professor at Cambridge, who is using exactly the same optic fibre back scattering technology to detect changes in building dimensions over time.

So is this all a big coincidence that all these things happened recently or is it more meaningful?

There are three main challenges in this kind of wearable technology (whether its a human or a building that is wearing the garment). One challenge is sensing the movement of the system. Another is to make sense of the data that results and the third challenge is to decide what to do with this information once you have it, such as make music!

For a good example, think about all the information on the internet. Is it a coincidence that two of my friends are into this kind of technology? I tend to like and meet people who like this kind of stuff, so probably not really that much of a coincidence.  Is is a coincidence that they both posted on the same day? or is this slight correlation in the overwhelming amounts of data surrounding us a genuine signal scattering from some kind of future set of events?

How could we tell?

These kind of correlations I call “emergences” and sometimes in a system they are just random. But sometimes they are meaningful, even if quiet, signals. The challenge for a bridge full of sensors is to detect that one quiet ‘creeeeakkk’ indicating that a catastrophic bridge failure is imminent and the bridge should be closed it immediately. Even though a lorry could trundle across the bridge and make a larger, but less meaningful, signal.

Same with the garment based technology. Two similar technologies have reached similar levels of development at more or less the same time. A coincidence? Unlikely. Much more likely to be a signal that some new wave of technology is just round corner.

Could one develop a system to find such correlations and exploit them? or even create them? Biology does just that. Life is essentially an innovation capturing system where the patterns are created by the system and then tested in the crucible of life.

Maybe that is the way all technology should go. A generic system that can generate any kind of technology or material and allow it to be tested. A hi-tech material’s lego kit.  Just as computers can run any kind of program such a system could be used to develop random technologies and then see which one wins in the real world?

As soon as someone had a new idea for the system there would be waves of copy cat technology spreading out and being varied and tested in all its glory and then the systems that won would win! In this case copying is good!

Who could say in advance which would win?

The value of a competition lies in the quality of the defeated opposition and that is reason enough to compete.

I shall watch the battle of the wearable textiles with interest from my ivory tower.

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