Rewind: Some of the most T-rrific ideas of 2014

Our clothes already say a lot about us, but thanks to the latest breakthroughs in wearable technology, they’re about to say a whole lot more. For decades, many of us have turned to fashion to express ourselves, particularly with those good ol’ graphic t-shirts. However, sometimes these t-shirts don’t do us justice.

With the advent of wearable electronic platforms (powered by versatile Atmel MCUs), we’ve seen a transition from off-the-rack apparel to embedded masterpieces that are truly unique to a wearer. As 2014 comes to an end, we’re looking back at some of our favorite t-reffiic idea from this past year…

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A shirt that plays Tetris…

To celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary, Maker Mark Kerger created a Tetris-playing shirt by embedding an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), four AA batteries and 128 LEDs into the garment. Pretty much the only thing this nifty wearable game can’t do is play the Tetris soundtrack.

A shirt that blasts tunes…

A Maker going by the name “BBrodsky” gave a much more literal meaning to the term ‘walkman.’ The Maker developed an MP3-equipped workout shirt powered by an Arduino LilyPad (MP3) (ATmega328P) and an accelerometer to detect whether or not the wearer is moving; if so, the garment would play his or her music. According to its creator, the goal of the system was to promote an active lifestyle for wearers.

A shirt that visualizes sound…

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Created by the folks at New York-based design lab CRATED, the Sync shirt is described by its Makers as “an audio responsive VJ Shirt” that visually connects its wearer to the background music in a club. This visual connection is derived from an LED-embedded patch that is inserted into the front of the shirt that pulses at varying degrees of intensity depending upon what music is blaring. Inspired by the emergence of visual DJs that use light and sound in their performances at nightclubs throughout New York City, London and Europe, this eccentric shirt lets partygoers become active participants in the light shows instead of just passive watchers.

A shirt that folds itself…

In addition to their Sync shirt listed above, CRATED’ Maddy Maxey and Mari Kussman have also experimented with what they refer to as “textile manipulation.” According to the duo, the Zygomatic is “a tessellating shirt controlled by a computer interface.” Both Maxey and Kussman believe this is just a small segue to modular clothing systems and a different take on manufacturing.

A shirt that simulates being tackled…

Ever wanted to know what it feels like to be tackled by an NFL linebacker? Now you can, thanks to the Alert Shirt — all from the comfort of your own couch. In an effort to demonstrate ubiquitous communication and a newly-discovered fourth-demension of entertainment, the shirt’s built-in technology receives real-time feeds, ranging from scores and tackle data, and transmits them to its companion app via Bluetooth. Think of it as haptic feedback on a much larger scale, against your body rather than the tip of your finger. Anyone who has downloaded its app will receive the data instantly on their mobile device, which is then translated to the shirt.

A shirt that sparkles…

The Twirkle Disc Shirt reacts to body movements creating unique light and glow effects. As one of the first commercially available, ready-to-wear LED shirts on the market, Adafruit’s Becky Stern and Ladyada had to take a look inside the motion-activated garment — and what do you know, there’s an ATmega168 inside!

A shirt that is making a ‘racket’…

In a new venture with OMsignalRalph Lauren introduced a new revolution in on-court wearable technology during this year’s U.S. Open. As the official outfitter of the two-week Grand Slam, Ralph Lauren teched-out the ball boys’ attire with nylon t-shirts comprised of conductive silver-coated thread and sensors knitted into its core to read biological and physiological information. The embedded sensors, which include an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a heart rate monitor, were housed in a black box that was discretely hidden inside shirt.


While wrist-adorned devices seem to grab all the attention as of late, research firm Gartner reports that the emergence of less invasive devices, particularly smart garments, will potentially disrupt the wearables space over the next two years. So much so that embedded clothing shipments are projected to rise from a mere 0.1 million units in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016. We can’t wait to see what’s in store over the next 12 months!

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