| Anne Armbrecht |
Berlin (dpa) – Hats that help you navigate the streets, knitted headphones and gloves for the deaf-blind are a few of the fashion innovations that the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of the Arts has been working on.
The lab carries out projects to develop intelligent fashion. Its garments are not just smart to wear, but smart in what they do.
The lab, led by Gesche Joost with a team of 20 researchers, designs wearable tech aimed at people who want to live healthier, or overcome a disability, or get a job done.
One of the projects is a glove with in-built sensors designed to help people who have neither hearing nor sight to communicate.
“This glove can open up a new world for deaf-blind people,” says Joost.
People who have both hearing and sight impairment often learn tactile signing.
The glove translates speech into a hand-touch alphabet developed in the 19th century by a deaf-blind inventor, Hieronymus Lorm.
The wearer can feel the words being spelled out. They can “lorm” their own words by pressing on selected locations on the glove to compose text messages.
The first time that the prototype functioned, the test person wearing it cried for joy.
Wearable IT is a sector of the economy that is steadily growing. In Germany alone it was worth about US$520 million last year, and the state of Berlin is keen to promote it, since it combines two local skills: Digital inventiveness and fashion design.
Next door to the room housing the glove project is another room that could belong to a dressmaker. Inside are knitting machines that look as if they could have been used by your grandmother in the 1970s.
But using a high-tech form of thread, the machines are there to produce very special types of garments.
“You don’t need very much to make something brilliant,” says Joost.
Joost is holding another type of glove in her hand, this time a pretty black and white knit. Built into the glove is a thin, leather armband with a microchip and a tiny light – a pulse meter.
“The light starts blinking if you overuse your wrist,” Joost explains,
That could help a wearer at risk to prevent carpal-tunnel syndrome. Joost says the same technology could be used to protect other joints on the body.