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Inspired by the territorial displays of arachnids, the Spider Dress 2.0 by designer and electronic wearables artist Anouk Wipprecht is a mechatronic dress with an Intel Edison chip that uses biosignals and learned threat detection to defend the wearer’s personal space. Mechanical arms extend and retract as a response to external stimuli, making it a truly intuitive system. As people approach, the wearer’s own breath will help to signal the defense posture of the robotic arms. The speed of the approach will also feed into defensive behavior; approach quickly and the arms will aggressively posture, but approach in a leisurely fashion and the arms will gently greet you.

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This is not the only project from Anouk that has a wearable design using unconscious biosignals as a control mechanism. Her Synapse Dress used biofeedback to record when the user was stressed, distracted, or particularly focused, and it would initiate behavior depending on the wearer’s mental state. She says,

“If you wear a design that you partly control and it partly extends your agency through its autonomous actions, you start to question where you end and my system begins. When you wear Synapse, for example – it knows you sometimes better than you know yourself, as through Intel Edison it captures wireless bio-signals and data visualizes them while monitoring user behavior.”

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The aesthetic as well as the wearability of this dress are both admirable. Fully 3D printed using the SLS technique (selective laser sintering) in a ridged PA-12, it is full of beautiful and aggressive geometry. An elegant design that makes use of 3D printing to create something that is unique and wearable because of the medium, the design seems light enough to have on for hours without weight fatigue or becoming unbalanced. To keep the print stable and strong, Materialise’s ‘Magics’ software was used to check the complicated structures for a cohesive print. Wipprecht teamed up with Philip H. Wilck (Studio Palermo, Austria) to create the upper dress bodice. Wipprecht says,

“Together we have been straddling difficult geometries and making all the mechanics (press) fit and work to be both mechanically, aesthetically as interaction-wise correct.”

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As this is the second piece to feature the Intel Edison board, I was immediately interested in hearing about the system architecture of the software and hardware. She told me:

“The Edison module runs embedded Linux, the design is programmed in Python. The dress interactions are defined in ’12 states of behavior’ through two Mini Maestro 12-channel USB servo controllers from Pololu and uses inverse kinematics. I am working with 20 small 939MG metal gear servos (0.14sec.60o / 0.13sec.60o – stall torque 2.5kg.cm/2.7kg.cm) all servos run back to the system. I am also working with Dynamixels (XL-320 series) of Robotis, which are super nice to work with as they are smart, strong and very accurate.”

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This dress’ style isn’t the only elegance in the room; the hardware design solutions are as well. Heat isn’t a problem with this dress, as the Edison is neatly integrated into the design in a housing as part of the back of the 3D print where it is cooled away from the body, making the piece easy to wear with no heat to worry about. System wires come in through plugs to the housing making connections easy and secure, and are threaded into the interior structure of the piece meaning the design stays clean and fresh. Sensors are also integrated into the 3D print design, so there are no sticky medical pads to mess up your look.
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Check out the video below for a teaser, and then be sure to see this piece in person at CES in Las Vegas January 6-9, 2015 where it is being showcased for Intel.