Anouk Wippecht is a hi-tech fashion designer from the Netherlands who specializes in engineering and user experience design for what she calls technological couture. Her designs function as a type of artificial intelligence or ambient intelligence that responds to its environment. She is a firm believer that what fashion is lacking is micro controllers and sensors. Wippecht forcasts the future of fashion as technology becomes more and more embedded in the things around us.
Smoke Dress is a collaboration between Wippecht and technologist Aduben Darriba created in 2012. The dress functions as a wearable smoke screen. Through embedded technologies, the garment can detect when another individual comes close and creates a veil of smoke around the wearer to camouflage her/him. The technology works through a the use of a custom micro controller and sensor system. This system calculates data about the personal space of the wearer that sends these data sets to the smoke generator positioned between the shoulder blades. Anouk describes her wearables as "host systems" on the body. She considers Smoke Dress a parasitic host that creates borders between its host and others. Wippecht leans towards natural and biological terms when describing her art. She explains her use of materials to Valérie Lamontagne for fashioningtech.com:
"I like to work with unusual and uncontrolled materials like fluids, smoke, inks, nano particles and foils to create effects around the body. I prefer the word 'organic' over everything else and am interested in mimicking nature's charming tricks next to working with sensitive and experimental high tech technologies rather than overdeveloped products." Whippet, Anouk (12. Nov. 2012) TECHNOSENSUAL Review + Interview with Anouk Wipprecht
Wipprecht later went on to create another iteration of the Smoke Dress with technologist Niccolo Casa as part of an 8-piece collection for Volkswagen in 2013. It was presented at the International Motor Show in Germany and was printed by Materialise out of the first fully flexible 3D printed material. Wipprecht often teams up with different engineers, scientists, technologists and companies. She believes that the implementation of collaboration is where true innovation occurs. This type of collaboration could be read as commercial or branded, but the collaboration between Wipprecht and companies like Intel and Audi broaden the scope of whats possible with tech. It allows Wipprecht to flex her ideas without limits. Smoke Dress is a beautiful piece of couture without the technology and shows the artist's keen design sense. With the smoke camouflage technologies it brings this work to a whole new sphere of design. Its implementations range from a military camouflage application to a simple "leave me alone" at a bar or the grocery store.
Wipprecht continued with her explorations of personal space in 2013 with the creation of the robotic Spider Dress. The artist created this piece in collaboration with engineer Daniel Schatzmayr. On the shoulders of the dress are robotic spider arms. The robotic arms draw the whimsy of a spider by dancing around the body, but in true spider fashion, protect the wearer from intruders. Wipprecht went on to collaborate with Intel on another iteration of Spider Dress with 3D printed materials in 2015. Intel provided the artist with their smart wearable technology sets to push the first iteration prototype to new heights. For this iteration, the wearable is embedded with biosensors that allows the garment to responds to the body's emotions. For example, the wearable will go into a territorial defensive mode if an individual approaches the garment too quickly, startling the wearer. Alternatively, it will be welcoming if you approach in a friendly manner. Ken Kaplan, executive editor of Intel IQ, explains the technology of the new design:
"It’s a violent thing of beauty, at once mesmerizing, provocative and intimidating. The legs constantly move, reacting to real-time biometrics based on pre-programmed social norms and violations...The legs are driven by computer and sensor technologies that allow it to be autonomous, but assistive and adaptive to the owner’s emotions and desires...Using wireless biometric signals, the system makes inferences based on the stress levels in your body. It can differentiate between 12 states of behavior." Kaplan, Ken (6 Jan. 2015) Robotic Spider Dress Powered by Intel Smart Wearable Technology
Despite both garments exploring ideas of guarded personal space, they are implemented in vastly different ways. Smoke Dress performs as an ambient technology by guarding its wearer with a smoke veil. Its design is also ambient because its technologies are veiled as well. An onlooker might gawk at the dress's beautiful design, but it would not be able to detect its technologies. On the other hand, Spider Dress feels much more invasive and aggressive. The technology works as one with the body to protect itself and robotic legs protrude from the collar bone. In this way it is a symbiotic host opposed to a parasitic host like Smoke Dress. The dress is designed as a physical shield that looks as hardcore and it operates. Spider Dress feels more like contemporary medieval armor compared to Smoke Dress, which feels like a magic trick.
Advanced wearable technologies have become a hot design concept and Wippecht isn't the only artist pushing the limits of speculative design. Artist Neri Oxman also uses 3D printing to create wearable technologies that speculate about the future. Oxman created the Wanderers collection in 2014 that investigates future scenarios of space exploration on planets in our solar system. Mushtari from the series speculates on Jupiter exploration. Oxman created a 3D printed glass wearable inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract. The design is one long tube filled with living matter meant to serve an a subsequent organ to sustain life on the planet. Mushtari would be used to consume, digest, and expel biomass. The singular and translucent tract is designed to use sunlight to create sucrose from engineered cyanobacteria. Oxman's designs speculates with actual bioengineered organisms and thorough research of what it would take to sustain life on different planets.
Oxman's wearables are similar to Wippecht's because they function as a type of protection shield. Oxman is engineering around ideas of protecting life. Her research is displayed in wearable form emulating the idea of physical outer protection, but more so thinking in terms of physical biological protection. One large difference between the two artists is their implementation into current everyday use. Oxman's designs could hypothetically be used on other planets considering their factual specs, but many other factors of space travel have yet to be designed. Thus, her work cannot be tested in its intended space and may only be tested on our planet. Alternatively, Wippecht's design speculate on the future of wearable tech and personal protection, but can be implemented today. Wippecht's design have not gone mainstream and are still in phases of testing, but have the ability to be worn and used by a person today. All in all, both Wippecht and Oxman are pioneering wearable technology for the future in interesting and provocative ways.
- Spider Dress was presented at the IAA in 2013 in collaboration with Niccolo Casa & Volkswagen