Textiles&More:Feeling the metaverse

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As the world becomes more immersed in digital experiences, new interaction models are needed and technologists are taking the opportunity to reimagine how we interact at a foundational level: through touch.

Analysis

While fitness trackers and smartwatches have been getting all the attention when it comes to wearable technology, new advancements in smart textiles have the potential to revolutionise how we sensorially interact with materials in the digital world. The e-textiles and smart clothing market size itself is projected to reach $14bn in value by 2030.

Smart textiles have been long developed and researched by the technology industry, but it’s only now that they are readying for mainstream usage. This is possible in part because of IoT devices, such as smart speakers and VR wearables, which have become more commonly accepted and widely used by consumers. However, another important driver is also the industry excitement around the metaverse, which presents new opportunities to introduce and experiment with new interfaces and smart surfaces in the hopes of creating virtual experiences that feel natural and pleasant to use for longer periods.

Materials such as graphene, carbon nanotubes and nanowires are enabling sensors and other electronic components to be incorporated into clothing for monitoring and feedback; facilitating an interaction that will feel more comfortable for the user.

Alex Shuper

From the US comes Google Jacquard x Levi’s denim jacket, featuring touch-sensitive remote controls inside the fabric to navigate journeys and connect to digital applications. H&M Lab Germany’s Wearable Love allows users to feel and receive touch through a denim jacket.

Japan-based company AI Silk’s conductive natural silk fibres are used to make LEAD SKIN, a soft-to-touch and comfortable-to-wear smart textile AR haptic-glove that gives wearers tactile feedback when they “touch” metaverse objects, enabling users to enjoy a truly immersive experience.

MIT has developed a soft and stretchable electronic textile conformable suit that can collect physiological data such as temperature, heart rate and respiration. The textile can also be customised using standard mass production textile manufacturing and garment patterning processes.

Deepmind on Unsplash

Why it matters

Touch will continue to become a key element in allowing richer interactions between the digital and physical worlds. With the growing popularity of the metaverse, it’s important for developers to explore ways of integrating smart-textiles as a way to provide smooth, seamless experiences without compromising factors such as washability and comfort, both of which are key for mass adoption.

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