08 Jul 2004
France telecom puts mobile phone technology into a flexible LED screen designed for clothes.
Fashion victims and cyclists could soon be benefiting from wearable, flexible displays that can talk to mobile phones. The R&D division of France Telecom has developed a Bluetooth compatible LED screen that fits into clothing and displays text, drawings and animations sent by multimedia messaging service (MMS).
The wearable screen is part of the group's forward-looking 'communicating clothes' project. However, the team believes this working device to be much more than a proof-of-concept prototype and are keen to exploit the innovation commercially.
The 4096 color LED screen comprises a flexible circuit board packaged in a fabric layered sandwich. Weighing 150 g (including battery) and measuring 10 x 7 cm, these displays are lighter, more colourful and easier to fit in clothing than the team's award winning fiber optic screens showcased at the Avantex textile trade show in 2002. The new removable screens insert into a special pocket in the garment and connect to a rechargeable battery with 4 hour charge life.
The display's brightness adjustment and image can be accessed remotely via a mobile phone. Embedded software technology lets users transfer animations download from the internet. The screen can also function as a stand-alone device with images and visual sequences triggered by integrated sensors responding to sounds and gestures.
In July, France telecom plans to run user trials of the wearable display alongside a market research program. The range of potential applications is vast, spanning wearable displays for cyclists through to integrated fashion accessories that reflect your emotional state (see video). The firm has commissioned a range of purpose built garments from designer Elisabeth de Senneville and takes the view that a commercial launch of the wearable display could happen in the near future.
James Tyrrell is reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.
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