One Dutch designer has created a 3D-knitted, Arduino-powered onesie that can purify the air around its wearer.
Borre Akkersdijk recently made a name for himself with a unique form of intelligent clothing: a 3D-knitted onesie capable of turning someone into a walking Wi-Fi hotspot. As the concept of modularity continues to rise in popularity and evolve throughout the Maker community, the Dutch designer decided to further develop his concept of interchangeable, high-tech fashion with a platform that adapts to one’s location of the wearer.
Akkersdijk believes that the current generation of wearable technology — ranging from smartwatches to fitness bands — isn’t so much something you wear as it is something you attach to yourself. This is what he likes to refer to as “carry-able technology.” His original garment, dubbed BB.Suit, was created in an effort to turn this so-called “carry-able technology” into a much truer wearable form.
This project was inspired by his earlier work on a Wi-Fi pillow that established a positive interaction between a caregiver and an individual suffering from severe dementia. He accomplished this by designing a thick padded shell of conductive yarn, copper wire and internal motors, so that the patients could share their gestures with a loved one holding the other side through vibrations. The innovation prompted the interest of SXSW organizers, who requested Akkersdijk come and show it off; however, he wanted to make a bigger splash than just a pillow.
And so, the first version of the BB.Suit was conceived, which featured electrical threads woven into a 3D-knitted fabric along with a GPS tracker, a Wi-Fi access point and a crowdsourced musical library. Beyond that, a wearer’s location was displayed on Google Maps using the suit’s built-in GPS. Initially conceived as a demo for the SXSW 2014 music festival, the Maker collaborated with 22tracks to allow its user and their community to access and upload songs.
As you can imagine, the initial prototype of the suit caught the attention of mainstream media as well as the organizers of Beijing Design Week. Riding the wave of its success, Akkersdijk returned with a second iteration of the conceptual onesie, one in which would solve a meaningful conundrum. Inspired by the city’s smog and pollution problem, version 0.2 introduces a few additional features, most notably an air purification system. In order to bring this to life, the Maker collaborated with Martijn ten Bhomer from the Eindhoven University of Technology, Daan Spangenberg Graphics, Eva de Laat, StudioFriso and Dutch magazine WANT.
Once again, electrical yarn was woven into the body and legs of the outfit, while the sleeves and hood are comprised of ordinary textiles. BB.Suit 0.2 employs a patented technology called Cold Plasma, which divides oxygen and water molecules into free radicals that then easily react to toxic gases, bacteria, viruses and dust particles to clean air. The air quality sensor is located at chest level and is connected to a hidden Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4), which receives and processes the data from the sensor and GPS receiver. The Arduino also controls the air cleaning device. This system communicates with a hacked TP-Link router running OpenWRT which sends the data to an online database.
What’s more, Akkersdijk sees these projects as the very first step to the ultimate goal for wearables: to enable communication in an organic, smartphone-free way. To make this a reality, the designer is already conducting experiments that use sensor-laden clothing to transmit thoughts and feelings. As its creator notes, the updated suit highlights the opportunities of such next-generational intelligent clothing.