Innovate UK:Future fashion: technology that outruns our imaginations


Humans have always had a fascination with enhancing our capabilities through technology. Cleopatra’s scented wig – with perfume that slowly dispenses throughout the day – is often cited as the earliest example of ‘wearable tech’. Fast forward a few centuries to this enlightening (and rather hilarious) Discovery Channel extract from 1992, and unbelievably there was still a lot to be desired in terms of achieving a tech enhancement that was useful, let alone stylistically wearable! I don’t think Cleopatra would have been too taken with having a laptop strapped to her arm.

Sci-fi to real life
Science fiction has always provided an outlet for the imagination to run wild in our explorations of human potential, and writers of this genre often act as our Sherpa’s for the future. We can forget current technological capability as a limitation to potential, and focus on what we’d ideally like to achieve. As such, sic-fi has on many occasions acted as an early predictor for later innovations. Headphones were described in Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 (1953); video surveillance in George Orwell’s 1894 (1949); and credit cards described in Edward Bellamy’s novel Looking Backward (1888), to give a few examples.[…]

Skin as a surface
Robert J Sawyer, author of 2002 novel Hominids, writes about implants embedded under the skin powered by blood flow, and using skin itself as a display or screen. Lynne Murray, Director at London College of Fashion’s new Digital Anthropology Lab talks about ‘skin as a platform’ in our recent Future Fashion spotlight film, and two examples of contemporary tech moving in this direction are electronic tattoos and blood-powered electronics. Google is developing an electronic tattoo that functions as a lie detector, and US company Biolinq makes electronic tattoos to monitor athletic performance.[…]

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