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Let your T-shirt do the talking

Projects | July 1, 2015 | By:

If MIT’s social textiles take off, they will promote connections among people with like interests living or working in the same environment. Current social media technologies promote connectivity at a distance from day-to-day reality. Photo: MIT Media Lab

The MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab, Cambridge, Mass., asked this question: Are current forms of social media making our relationships better? In response, MIT researchers developed the social textile to improve connections among people with common interests.

T-shirts often carry written messages, but MIT’s social textile T-shirt carries technology—a capacitive sensor along the shoulder seams, a tiny motor on the shoulder, printed letters in thermochromic ink on soft conductive fabric, and an arduino board, a digital device that senses or controls the environment. The letters each T-shirt wearer chooses say something about his or her interests—MIT, for example, signals “I go to school at MIT”; JAZZ, “I play or listen to jazz music.”; NYC, “I love New York City.”; or LOL, “I’m a text-o-holic who likes to laugh out loud.” When someone else wearing a social textile is within a 12-foot range, the user feels a tap on the shoulder, the message that a kindred spirit is nearby. When these two people (who could be complete strangers) shake hands or “high five,” touch triggers changes in the T-shirt’s printed letters to single out combinations the pair has in common.

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