In Brief
A new thread developed in the US has the ability to change colors in response to electrical charges, bringing the possibility of smart clothing and wearable displays closer to reality. Using electrical charges, the thread can change hues at will.

Changing Shades

Wearable tech is all the rage nowadays. Putting computer and chips on your glasses, on your contact lenses, even on your skin is the common trend, so that we never have to leave our electronic lives behind.

But the most important thing we wear—our clothes—rarely if ever gets an upgrade.

Until now. A new thread developed in the US has the ability to change colors in response to electrical charges, bringing the possibility of smart clothing and wearable displays closer to reality.

The tech, called Ebb, was revealed in a video released online by researchers at UC Berkeley in California. While it shows the color-changing properties of the thread, one will note that it was sped up significantly. This means that it takes a while before the change in color occurs—so you can forget people walking around with flashing advertisements on their clothing anytime soon.

The development of this thread is part of Google’s Project Jacquard—one of the company’s spin-off endeavors that’s looking into the potential of making our clothing touch-sensitive and interactive. The project aims to “seamlessly” integrate our electronics into the very clothes we wear.

Calming Clothes

The thread was made by coating conductive threads with thermochromic pigments, and then learning to incorporate the geometries of weaving and crochet to create the textiles’ unusual aesthetics.

“The thermochromic pigments change colours in slow, subtle, and even ghostly ways, and when we weave them into fabrics, they create calming ‘animations’ that move across the threads,” writes Laura Devendorf, who is leading the development of Ebb over at her site, Art for Dorks.

“The name ‘Ebb’ reflects this slowness, as it conjures images of the ebb and flow of the tides rather than the rapid-fire changes we typically associate with light emitting information displays,” she adds.

Can’t decide between the black dress or the red?  No worries.  In the future, you’ll be able to wear them both, changing the colors of whatever clothing you happen to be wearing at will.

A welcome development for the indecisive among us.