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Monday, June 27, 2011

Fancy Pants: Weaving Technology into Trousers

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Rachel Lyra Hospodar fixes a (mildly) busted circuitboard.
  • Rachel Lyra Hospodar fixes a (mildly) busted circuitboard.
There's something a little terrifying about messing with your pants. In this case, it's adding wires, electricity, a literal firecrotch -- and we thought ants were bad. But artist and designer Rachel Lyra Hospodar thinks differently. She's the woman behind Pants Interface, a wearable technology project that basically wants to wire up your trousers.

The Kickstarter campaign is over, but here's Pants Interface's long pitch from Hospodar.

But it's probably not what you're thinking -- instead of actual wires, she's figuring out (with the help of many hardware hackers) the technology of fabric buttons. The idea is to use "soft circuit momentary switches" and wireless radios to allow anyone wearing the pants to trigger, well, anything a piece of electronics can do. And right now, that's quite a lot.

Fabric buttons
  • Fabric buttons

We met for drinks the other day, and after a few it started to make sense (which says a lot, considering I did not pay attention in science class). Apparently the magic I call electronic technology really boils down to a system of on-and-off switches. If you can get that system sewn into some conductive fabric, you've got yourself some fancy pants -- pants that a DJ could wear in a crowd while still DJing, or a performer could use to control lights and camera. Or simply pajama bottoms that, with a slap of the thigh, would turn off my bedroom lights.

It's all very exciting, and terrifying. I brought this up and Hospodar agrees, but mostly with the exciting part. She's no stranger to fabrication (Pandora's Trunk, Medium Reality) and is devoted to clothing as a technology, which is an interesting fact I hadn't really thought about, even though I am in the pants business.

With regard to clothing, the original "problem" is that we all were naked. Through using tools, materials, and knowledge, we solved this problem by creating clothing. But now we're in the digital age, and Hospodar believes that maybe all our devices -- smartphone, pad computer, MP3 player, and so on -- are beginning to be a problem, and perhaps consolidating some of them, even incorporating them into clothing, can help. Instead of fighting technology, why not find a way to live harmoniously with it?

I'm all for harmony, but I'm not entirely sold on living within it. And neither is Hospodar. She's trying to figure it out to see where it goes. You can join in, pants are optional.

How to get involved:

  • Go to Noisebridge and hack away with Hospodar and friends.
  • Tell your friends.
  • Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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    About The Author

    Stephanie Echeveste

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