ISEA has done a wonderful job of finding women keynote speakers: there are many to look forward to. Joanna Berzowska is speaking now. Berzowska is an expert on wearable technology and as the first speaker for the wearable theme of ISEA she’s given us an overview and is showing us some of her own projects.

She speaks of words like

  • non-emissive displays (reactive clothing)
  • soft computation
  • wearables as intimate technologies
  • memory-rich garments

Many people working with wearable technology are terrified of the body, she says. People like Steve Mann talk about clothes as buildings or exo-skeletons. Berzowska is interested in the intimacy between our bodies and our clothes. For instance, she has made a skirt that lights up on the spaces where you have been touched. The matching top lights up when somebody whispers into your ear, the force of the lights depending on the intensity of the whisper. The lights fade over time. Other clothes make spots (“camouphlage”) fade away and disappear when your body touches another body, but only, of course, in the areas that are touched. Other clothes allow you to reclaim physical space by inflating bubbles of air around you when people crowd you.

She’s finishing by posing what she calls “the hard question”: WHY? Why would we want this? Well, yes. I don’t think she really answered the question. Instead she went on to talk about the new kinds of garments we might want in the future, citing Bruce Sterling’s keynote address at SIGGRAPH last week.

I think there’s going to be a wearable fashion show. I’m looking forward to that.

[Update: Even has posted more detailed notes from this session]

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