Creative innovation firm Takram has developed a smart textile with augmented reality capability. A unique ’smart’ textile designed to capture data for a London Transport Museum project about the future of textile design, it is the first e-textile to integrate AR technology with IOT connected live data.
Blending product design with technology and craft, the project tapped into Takram’s passion for creative utility, saying "Our aim was to create a beautiful and usable ‘smart’ textile that can actively help to improve planning and maintenance on London Transport’s busy network of trains and busses and can apply an AR interface to engage customers in the journey experience in different ways”.
Exploring textile design in the context of data collection and display, Takram’s concept was developed with a TC2 digital jacquard loom into which switches and AR markers were woven into an abstract pattern using electronics and conductive yarn, with the aim of creating a textile that can record and map where and when pressure has been applied, and easily ‘visualise’ that data through an augmented reality interface. The pattern was a key element of the design, and Takram’s choice of colorway and abstraction fulfilled rigorous practical and aesthetic considerations.
In terms of data output, by correlating the pressure map to time and location data, this IOT connected textile can offer an exact picture of where, when and to what extent the textile is used – providing valuable insights about consumer behaviour that can support design and planning improvements and textile maintenance.
Yet, the introduction of Augmented Reality technology goes beyond the functional applications of an e-textile with real time IOT capability. Larissa Kunstel explains that the idea behind the project was not to limit data to functional information, but enable the creation of a ‘narrative’ that can bring customers or passengers into the life of the textile in original ways. “We looked for a way to make live data perform in unexpected ways and by introducing AR into the fabric, we can invite interactions that inform, entertain and engage users in the data through different narratives and devices. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination – the textile can output live data to create installations and experiences that enrich a journey or an environment. From a digital abstract art piece that evolves in real time, to projected installations that represent live data in various narrative forms – from infographics to dynamic stories that consumers can shape through interactions – the potential to ‘humanise’ live data offers a unique range of experiences”.
The textile ‘prototype’ has been developed for use on TFL tubes and busses, but the application is equally relevant to rail, aviation and cruise environments and smart commercial buildings where dwell time and throughput of customers means that data can be collected and applied for a variety of functional and engagement purposes.