France Telecom invents a flexible fibre optic screen that can be embedded in clothes

3 May 2002 -- France Telecom R&D has designed a prototype for a flexible screen made of woven optical fibres capable of downloading and displaying static or animated graphics (such as logos, texts, patterns, scanned images etc) directly on clothes. Thanks to this innovation, clothes can now act as a graphical communication interface, displaying visual information in real time, and offering access to all telecom services (Internet, video, e-commerce, and 3G mobiles).

May 3rd, 2002

3 May 2002 -- France Telecom R&D has designed a prototype for a flexible screen made of woven optical fibres capable of downloading and displaying static or animated graphics (such as logos, texts, patterns, scanned images etc) directly on clothes. Thanks to this innovation, clothes can now act as a graphical communication interface, displaying visual information in real time, and offering access to all telecom services (Internet, video, e-commerce, and 3G mobiles).

This achievement paves the way for intelligent, communicating garments, but can also apply to other spaces and types of media. Sectors directly concerned by this breakthrough include public safety (firemen fighting large fires), advertising, the automotive industry, interior decoration (furniture and wall fitting applications), fashion (development of fibre optic fabrics), leisure activities (personalized signing on roller blades at night,) and more.

The screen is like a simple fabric, onto which users can download all kinds of visuals from Internet, desktop PC, or mobile terminals (PDAs, and laptops). The development of the prototype includes a suite of software with which users can create and publish their own illustrations, drawings and texts online via a dedicated server. A flexible remote-control hidden in a lapel can trigger the display of visuals stored on the garment and will enable new visuals to be selected from a server over the Internet. It also handles effects such as scrolling, intensity or brightness, and interaction with sounds and gestures.

The display technology comes from optical fibre woven into standard textiles. This combination of properties intrinsic to weaving and optics provides a natural solution to the problems of rigidity, volume and weight encountered in current wearable video screens, and anticipates the future embedding of HD textile screens in everyday ware, such as bags, scarves, clothes and furnishings", says André Weill, director of France Telecom's communicating garments project.

According to Gartner Group, 60 % of the population in developed countries are likely to own a communicating garment by 2010. After first embedding speech technologies in garments, France Telecom researchers have now broken new ground by providing them with a visual component. This vital dimension enables permanent "hands free" connection and expands the range of possible services for the future. The imminent arrival of 3rd generation mobile telephones and HD textile screens will enable users to deploy a screen to read IP text messages or view pre-selected film, modify the colours of their clothes at will, or surf on their favourite musical sites.

Previewed at Avantex 2002, the international trade show for garment textile innovation, this prototype of a flexible screen woven from optical fibres was awarded the prize for Research and Development Innovation. It will be presented at Frankfurt (Germany) from 13 to 15 May with the aim of attracting new partnerships with designers and industrial developers.

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