LONDON, England (CNN) -- Over the past 20 years technology has been shrinking in size as fast as it has been expanding our communication and entertainment horizons.
Designer and inventor of the solar bikini Andrew Schneider estimates that you can charge your iPod shuffle in around two hours
Today's latest gadgets are so refined and petite that they clip on to a belt or slip easily into a pocket or a bag. The next challenge confronting designers and engineers is to make technology not only portable but also wearable.
The 34th annual SIGGRAPH -- Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques -- conference held in San Diego, California last week showcased some intriguing new wearable designs which look set smarten up our high streets and a few beaches in the years ahead.
The new wearable designs were shown off, appropriately enough, on the catwalk at a SIGGRAPH fashion show entitled Unravel. Organizers hoped that the designs on display would "reflect how our evolving relationship and reliance on technology is changing the garments we desire."
One of the most popular inventions on show was the solar bikini. Designed by Andrew Schneider, a student at New York University, the solar bikini is fitted with 1" x 4" photovoltaic filmstrips, which are sewn together with a conductive thread.
A USB port allows the wearer to plug-in any number of small gadgets. According to Schneider an iPod shuffle would be fully charged in just two hours. Although not shown at the fashion show, Schneider said that the male version would be available soon. Because of its larger surface the "i-Drink" will not only charge up your phone or your iPod but also generate enough power to chill a beer.
Whilst this new bikini gives new meaning to the phrase "power dressing", a dip in the sea or the nearest pool isn't recommended as this will produce what is best described as a wardrobe malfunction.
Developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student Connor Dickie's Kameraflage allows images, which are invisible to the naked eye, to be picked up by digital cameras -- which see a broader spectrum of light.
The uses for the technology range from the frivolous, such as placing hidden messages on clothing to the more serious problems of counterfeit goods, in particular pirated movies.
Messages could also be displayed on cinema screens, on billboards or in museums, without distracting patrons from the main event.
If wearing clothes embedded with the latest technology isn't quite your style, why not just accessorize?
Leah Buechley, a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, has created some high-tech jewellery. Created out of traditional beads and thread and powered by a flexible lithium battery, the LED bracelets combine a variety of functions.
Buechley explains that with a 5x10 matrix, the bracelet can be programmed with animations like cellular automata and scrolling text. The bracelets displayed at SIGGRAPH 2007 each contain an accelerometer that senses wrist movement and a Bluetooth module for wireless communication, which not only makes it possible to interact with other wearable's but also laptops and mobile phones.
Elena Corchero, a research associate at MIT's Media Lab Europe has produced a range of accessories for the ecologically minded fashionista.
Her creations which include bracelets, bags, fans and headwear all contain solar cells and tiny bulbs. Charged up during the day, the accessories can then be used at night as decorative light in the home.
Corchero says her work "explores the delicate ways of incorporating organic solar cells into textiles in which technology meets tradition."
Jenny Chowdhury's "Intimate Controllers" describes her invention as "a collaborative video console for couples".
Underwear -- a bra for the female and boxer shorts for the male -- is rigged up with three pairs of touch pads, each one located in an increasingly intimate position. Couples then watch a video screen showing a series of symbols, which prompt them to press each other's sensors in the correct order.
As players get better at the game the software encourages them to touch the pads located in more intimate areas. In order to progress to the next level both players need to successfully touch the right pads.
Chowdhury was motivated in part to create the game due to what she describes as "gamer widowhood" -- where men abandon their wives to play video games night and day. "I wanted to create a type of video game play that would center around a couple's intimacy," explained Chowdhury who is currently finishing her master's degree at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.
Other exhibits at the Unravel fashion show included Barbara Layne and Studio subTela's concept called "Jacket Antics", which featured unique texts and designs scrolling across the back of specially adapted jackets. When a couple join hands their message becomes synchronous and scrolls from one jacket to the other.
Designed by Leah Buechley & Maurin Donneaud "Reconfigure" is a costume for interactive performance. Sensors attached to the torso send data to a computer which reads the information and uses it to control different aspects of the accompanying music and video. E-mail to a friend
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