How AI-powered fabrics could transform fashion

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STORY: “I’ll have one in every color” may one day be a saying of the past thanks to this dazzling color-shifting fabric, developed by a research team in Hong Kong.

The garments on display here are embedded with a tiny camera, and use artificial intelligence to generate an array of colored illuminations, from lush purples, to vivid reds.

The intelligent textile was showcased at Milan Fashion Week earlier this year, and the team behind it believes it could push the fashion industry towards a more inclusive, sustainable and vibrant future.

Jeanne Tan is a member of the team that developed the glowing fabric at the Hong Kong-based Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence in Design, or AiDLab.

Their research focuses on the integration of AI with design.

“So we have used a polymeric optical fiber with textile-based yarns. So when you touch it, you can see that the hand feel is just like any ordinary knitted fabric. So it actually is very soft and very tactile.”

Not only is the material comfortable, she says- it could also be used for rehabilitative purposes.

“Because multi-sensory stimulation is something that is very common for, it’s a form of well-being for a lot of people, people with dementia, people with learning challenges. So it actually encourages their well-being and gives them a sense of calm and also a very easy way for them to have engagement and direct response. So by having a simple gesture or simple movement, they can see a color change. This is how they will be able to get instant reaction.”

For instance, a thumbs-up triggers deep blue, a finger heart gesture elicits pink, and an ‘OK’ sign prompts a jewel-toned green illumination.

The latest feature even enables wearers to choose colors from photos on their phone and project them onto the fabric.

Researcher Miffy Yu also underscored the sustainability benefits of their technology.

“When you purchase a clothing item with a style you like, you can change the item’s colors due to this innovative material. This way, you won’t end up like other young people who may buy all the colors of a style they truly adore. When they happen to fall out of favor with that style, they often discard all their clothing, resulting in waste.”

AiDLab hopes that the technology will one day be commercialized.

It’s currently on display in installations at shopping malls and other locations in Hong Kong.

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