Next time you are at the beach take a close look at the girl next to you as she could well be getting turned on from the solar panels on her boobs – or at least her iPod will.

There was a time when all we expected from our clothes was to preserve our modesty, protect us from the elements and pull in a few curves. Not any more. Now one can power up an iPod using panels on a bikini top and the bigger the bikini the more cells one has to generate the power.

If the Siggraph 2007 exhibition of future fashions in San Diego is anything to go by, your wardrobe will soon charge your iPod, convey hidden messages, light your home and act as a video game console. Get ready for clothes infused with electronic gadgets and computers that can help you in your daily life – or just give you a laugh.

One piece of smart clothing you might decide not to wear in public is designer Jenny Chowdhury’s “intimate controllers”. These are a set of wired-up his-and-hers undies that she describes as “a collaborative video console for couples”. The garments have three pairs of touch pads hidden in increasingly intimate places which the couple have to press in the correct order while being prompted by a set of symbols on a computer screen. As players get better the software encourages them to go for the more intimate pads. “You can’t get any further unless both players are playing the game well,” said Ms Chowdhury, who developed the idea as a solution to “video-game widowhood”.


A device that could give a whole new meaning to the phrase wardrobe malfunction is Andrew Schneider’s solar bikini. The skimpy swimwear is covered with 40 flexible photovoltaic cells which feed into a USB connection that can plug straight into your iPod.

Mr Schneider, of New York University, said that just two hours of sunbathing was enough to charge an iPod shuffle. But fans of a dip in the ocean will have to be careful. “You can go in the water, you just have to make sure you are absolutely dry before you plug your iPod in,” he said. He is currently developing a pair of solar-panel covered shorts called iDrink. With the extra sun-capturing area, he predicts these will be capable of generating enough charge to chill a beer.

One of the more popular creations was designer Andrew Schneider’s solar bikini that overlays the basic swimsuit with narrow strips of photovoltaic film sewn on with conductive thread.

The suit produces a five volt output that, via the attached USB connector, can recharge gadgets like the iPod.

The only drawback is that wearing it means no dip in the pool to cool off.


Bra and boxer set
The underwear is designed to be used with associated video games

New media artist Jenny Chowdury describes the “his and hers” bra and boxers set she has designed not as underwear but as a “collaborative videogame platform”.

Intended for couples, the garments have six controller spots on them located at different areas.

Couples play an associated video game by touching the controller panels in sequence, exploiting their intimacy to progress.


Digital cameras reveal the hidden messages in the clothing

Created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab student Connor Dickie, Kameraflage exploits the CCD and CMOS sensors in digital cameras to add a hidden layer of meaning or interest to clothing.

Designs that are invisible to the naked eye are sewn onto garments. These are then picked up by digital camera sensors when the clothing is photographed.

The prototype Kameraflage garments were all hand-sewn but Mr Dickie is now working on machined versions incorporating much more intricate designs.



Messaging jackets
When couples hold hands the jackets’ messages light up

These jackets, fitted with sensors, microcontrollers and LED arrays, are designed for couples who want to let the world know how they feel.

When two people wearing the garments hold hands the sensors pick up the connection and pipe text messages onto one array that then scrolls across to the other.

By contrast, when the jackets are being worn singly they display their own individual message.


Garment with motion sensors
Sensors relay the wearer’s movements to a computer

Leah Buckley’s creation is less a garment and more a costume for a performer.

It is studded with a variety of motion sensors that feed information, via built-in Bluetooth, about how the wearer is moving to a computer that interprets the sensor data.

This can be used to create music or cue up video, audio or light displays to enhance performances.


Foot pump shoes
The shoes are designed to transform walking into performance art

Joo Yung Paek’s “conceptual garment” is made from polyethylene and connected to shoes that are adapted foot pumps.

Via attached tubes, each step in the foot-pump shoes inflates the bubble attached to its rear a little more.

When the bubble is big enough, the wearer sits down and slowly deflates the comfy seat.

The idea, said Ms Paek, is to transform walking into something more akin to performance art.


Solar panels store up energy during the day

These accessories, created by MIT Media Lab research associate Elena Corchero, are intended for those who consider themselves eco-conscious.

Each accessory, be it handbag, fan or bracelet, has built-in solar cells and low power light bulbs.

By day, as the accessories are worn or carried the solar panels charge up.

At night, when the accessories no longer need to be worn, they then transform into decorative ambient light sources for the home.

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