from the world's big
Fashion Week, 2050
- The clothing of the future will look nothing like what we wear today. Or maybe it will.
- A hunger for sustainability is leading researchers to new organic materials from which to design clothing.
- Other visionaries are working to make our future outfits as smart as we want to look.
Nature knows best<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA3ODcwOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDA5ODk1NH0.dYFYGU2aNbn8NSYY__AONBlNLNQ0-LOa06gHGDHjZgc/img.jpg?width=980" id="487d3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="75a32433c594f6a9222e30128f0f90f9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Spiderweb" />
Image source: freestocks.org/Unsplash<p>About 60 percent of the clothing we wear contains plastic <a href="https://www.oceancleanwash.org/the-issue/" target="_blank">microfibers</a>. The best-known are polyester, nylon, and acrylic. Unfortunately, these fibers don't stay in our clothing. While some of them leach out as we go about our business, taking to the air and so on, doing laundry may be a significant contributor to the 8 million tons of microplastics dumped into our oceans annually. (Fun fact: Experts only know where about 1 percent of that plastic goes.) Nonetheless, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X16307639" target="_blank">research</a> published in 2016 says that for an average wash load, over 700,000 fibers could be being released into the water supply.</p><p>In addition to ongoing efforts to find new ways of incorporating used materials in new clothing, textile-industry scientists are experimenting with a range of less environmentally damaging, more sustainable materials for us to wear. Much of it is derived from naturally occurring sources.</p><p><strong>Pineapple fabric</strong></p><p>Piñatex is a leather substitute made from pineapple-leaf fiber. These leaves are discarded during harvesting of the fruit, and so they're readily available with no additional farming necessary, according to the <a href="https://www.ananas-anam.com" target="_blank">Piñatex web site</a>. The material, which is produced in sheets, is already being used for making shoes, handbags, and dresses.</p><p><strong>Mushrooms</strong></p><p>There are a few mushroom-thread-based fabrics.</p><p>There's a synthetic leather called <a href="https://boltthreads.com/technology/mylo/" target="_blank">Mylo</a>, from <a href="https://boltthreads.com" target="_blank">Bolt Threads</a>, a vegan, eco-friendly material. The company's partnering with fashion brands Stella McCartney and Patagonia in making actual clothing from Mylo.</p><p>Then there's MycoTEX. The most startling thing about MycoTEX is that this living material can be <em>grown</em> into clothing. As producer <a href="http://www.fungal-futures.com/exhibition" target="_blank">Fungal Futures</a> puts it, "the garment can be built three-dimensionally and shaped whilst being made, fitting the wearer's wishes," using clothing-shaped molds. Since MycoTEX grows into the desired shape without cutting, there's no waste material when a garment's complete.</p><p><strong>Not-silk</strong></p><p>One of the wildest ideas is another technology from Bolt Threads called "<a href="https://boltthreads.com/technology/microsilk/" target="_blank">Microsilk</a>." Based on the way in which spiders produce real silk, Microsilk is derived from yeast-based proteins, extracted, and then spun into fibers. The company released, and immediately sold out of, a Microsilk tie in 2017, and Stella McCartney showed a <a href="https://cms.qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/boltxstella_moma.jpeg?quality=75&strip=all&w=1240&h=1274&crop=1" target="_blank" class="hoverZoomLink">gold dress</a> made from the fibers at NYC's MoMA that same year.</p><p><strong>Eucalyptus yarn</strong></p><p>A company called Wool and the Gang (a pun better read than said) is selling a product, "<a href="https://www.woolandthegang.com/en/products/tina-tape-yarn?taxon_id=49" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tina Tape Yarn</a>," made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees. They call the material Tencel and claim it's "more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen." It's also biodegradable, made with renewable energy and — heads up, sheep — totally vegan.</p><p><strong>Agraloop BioFibre</strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.circular-systems.com/agraloop/" target="_blank">company</a> takes plant-based textiles beyond pineapples. We say that because pineapple leaves are just one of the castoff materials sourced to make their line of BioFibres. The others are oil-seed hemp, oil-seed flax, banana tree, cane bagasse, and rice straw. Agraloop notes that these six crops provide 250 million tons of textile fiber per year, 2.5 times the global demand.</p><p><strong>Some of the rest</strong></p><p>Other natural substances being reworked into clothing include chitin fiber from crustacean shells, seaweed, banana fiber, coconut fiber, and corn fiber.</p>
Don’t forget to recharge your underwear<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA3ODcxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Nzc5NjM2Nn0.6TuudX93Ilw66UefO5z3Y9ULbZ8KczlgCXqqgphWpp4/img.jpg?width=980" id="0511d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d092d2edbe7db674945ecf653bd346e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Smart textiles" />
Popular future brands?
Image source: Boris Bobrov/Unsplash<p>Technology in textiles is not a new thing, but it's a <a href="http://sustainable-nano.com/2018/11/28/nano-textiles/" target="_blank">booming field</a>. Antimicrobial silver nanoparticles that prevent smelly bacteria — and therefore require less washing — have been embedded in fabrics since early in the new millennium. Researchers are working on water-repelling fabrics, and nanoparticles can also make clothing <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169433217335626" target="_blank">less flammable</a>. Just this month, a <a href="https://phys.org/news/2019-09-world-smallest-accelerometer-era-wearables.html" target="_blank">nanoscale accelerometer</a> was announced, perfect for incorporating into future motion-sensitive clothing.</p><p>What can clothes do? What <em>can't</em> they do? Get ready for <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesstylefile/2014/05/07/what-is-the-future-of-fabric-these-smart-textiles-will-blow-your-mind/#72cbe95e599b" target="_blank">smart textiles</a>.</p><p><strong>Google goes beyond Glass</strong></p><p>Having been early into smart wearables with their Glass products, Google has has begun weaving its <a href="https://atap.google.com/jacquard/" target="_blank">Jacquard</a> platform into clothing, in particular a jacket co-developed with Levi's. The jacket is a wearable touch device you can use for controlling your devices.</p><p>Another smart-tech use being explored for fabrics are materials laced with sensors that can <a href="https://www.mpo-mag.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2016-04-26/textile-based-sensors-offer-healthcare-monitoring-functionality" target="_blank">monitor the wearer's health</a>, going far beyond fitness watches to clothes that keep an eye on a wide range of health indicators. </p><p><strong>Clothes that change color</strong></p><p>Scientists from the College of Optics and Photonics at The University of Central Florida have developed <a href="http://www.chromorphous.com" target="_blank">ChroMorphous</a>, a color-changing fabric your can control using your smartphone. They cal it "eFabric." (What, does Apple own "iFabric?")</p><p><strong>Haptic fabric</strong></p><p>Some of the new materials are designed to be helpful. <a href="https://www.wearablex.com" target="_blank">Wearable X</a> specializes in materials that support <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic_technology" target="_blank">haptic</a> feedback, electrical signals that mimic a sense of being touched or of interaction with virtual objects. The company currently sells <a href="https://www.wearablex.com/collections/nadi-x-smart-yoga-pants" target="_blank">NADI X</a> yoga garb with embedded haptic feedback that provides training cues. An earlier product put the "fun" in <a href="https://www.wearablex.com/pages/fundawear" target="_blank">Fundawear</a> by allowing touch to be transmitted from a smartphone to a partner anywhere in the world, "created with long-distance couples in mind."</p><p><strong>Optical communicator hat</strong></p><p>We'll let Yoel Fink of MIT pitch this one: "Think about pedestrian safety and self-driving cars. Tremendous investments are going into cars. How about the pedestrians? Do we as pedestrians or bikers get to know if the car has detected us? With fabric optical communications your baseball cap can not only alert a car to your presence but importantly let you know if the car detected you. Fabrics for the self-driving future." Alternately, those cars could just honk?</p>
Look good, feel good<p>Obviously, any new materials designed for fashion need to be attractive, workable, and feel good to wearers in order to gain any traction, and these goals are very much elements in the development process. Will they be the comfy, loose-fitting fabrics of <em>Star Wars</em>, or will we be parading around in <a href="https://www.pinterest.com/kaylmoodybooks/sci-fi-fashion/" target="_blank">metallic armadillo-like facemasks</a>? Who knows? Given our past track record, the odds are that we have no idea. We'll just have to wait to see what we'll look like when we control our personal universes from our intelligent pineapple jumpsuits.</p>
Harvard engineers make a breakthrough polarization camera.
- Harvard researchers create a tiny camera that can see polarization.
- Seeing the invisible light can help in numerous applications, from self-driving cars to satellites.
- The scientists used nanotechnology to achieve this feat.
Check out how the camera works here:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="86c974d0345333348aa160750c9d6a29"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tGcimk8yd-Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
It's a big, bold plan.
- At an Amazon event, actor Robert Downey Jr. announced plans to launch a foundation that would use robots and nanotechnology to clean up the environment.
- The foundation is called the Footprint Coalition. Details of the foundation's plans are unclear.
- Researchers are exploring a variety of ways that nanotechnology could help protect the environment.
Speaking at Amazon's Re:MARS conference in Las Vegas this week, Robert Downey Jr. announced plans to start a foundation that would use robotics and nanotechnology to clean up the planet. In true Tony Stark fashion, his goal is bold.
"Between robotics and nanotechnology, we could clean up the planet significantly, if not totally, in 10 years," said Downey Jr., adding that he'd been speaking with experts about the plan, according to Variety. "God I love experts. They're like Wikipedia with character defects."
Downey Jr. posted a snippet of his talk on Instagram.
The actor said he's concerned about the environment.
"I have this quiet sense of crisis," he said, acknowledging that his lifestyle has been less than environmentally-friendly, according to Variety. "I'm a one-man carbon footprint nightmare colossus."
Legend. https://t.co/M73qUOJBiz— Chris Evans (@Chris Evans)1559756924.0
The foundation is called the Footprint Coalition, and it'll reportedly launch in April 2020, though it's unclear exactly what it plans to do. A website for the foundation currently lists a newsletter sign-up but little else. Downey Jr. is also currently working on an eight-episode YouTube docu-series about A.I. that's scheduled to air sometime in 2019.
How could nanotechnology improve the environment?
Researchers are exploring a variety of ways that nanotechnology — which seeks to manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular level — could help protect the environment and curb climate change. Some examples include improving the efficiency of solar panels, generating less pollution during manufacturing, cleaning up oil spills, and creating stronger, lighter materials.
But one of the most exciting potential applications for nanotechnology, in relation to the environment, lies in using nanomaterials to convert CO2 to make products.
"Nanomaterials can convert carbon dioxide into useful products like alcohol," Arun Chattopadhyay, a member of the chemistry faculty at the Center for Nanotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, told Scientific American. "The materials could be simple chemical catalysts or photochemical in nature that work in the presence of sunlight."
But the main problem with this approach — and with most nanotechnology strategies — is cost; it's still unclear how to make nanotechnology economically viable. What's more, the extremely tiny scale of nanoparticles raises unique questions about potential health risks. Still, it's entirely possible researchers will find ways to surpass both of these barriers as nanotechnology continues to get cheaper.
The neuralnanorobotics are coming.
- In a new paper, 12 international researchers claim that an "internet of thoughts" might be mere decades away.
- By utilizing neuralnanorobotics, humans will be able to download information from the cloud by thought alone.
- Potential applications in medicine and education make this a promising endeavor, though the consequences are uncertain.
Ray Kurzweil: Get ready for hybrid thinking<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0581c925db118fa3b92de1d8cb691629"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PVXQUItNEDQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Don't misunderstand: this is a fascinating and important technology. Take Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological ailment that results from a lack of dopamine-producing neurons. More than 10 million people suffer this tragic fate, which completely undermines motor control, resulting in rigid muscles, loss of autonomic functions, and severely limited speech and writing. A nanorobot that can identify and even fix this problem would be a breakthrough application.<br></p><p>The implementation of this technology will require a brain-machine interface (BMI), at least during its initial phases. Similar devices currently in the market include prosthetics that link artificial limbs with peripheral nerves. The team imagines a minimally invasive surgery to implant neuralnanorobotics — massively distributed or regionally specific, to be determined. Cloud computing power will also need an upgrade to handle the massive load of distributed information. </p><p>Philosophizing over medicine is one thing. We simply can't imagine this without hitches, and not only Google Glass-level failure. For example, I'm certain that Oculus, incredible as it currently is, will soon feel clunky, with its heavy headset and vest. One day the VR tech will only require glasses, or eyeshades, along with pair of sound pods that might also transmit vibrations down our spine to mimic video game bullets. Eventually contact lenses, then implants. Our virtual and augmented realities will be seamless. </p><p>Oculus, like this internet of thoughts, also features educational aspects. The team is championing new forms of learning. Recently I Oculused around my old college campus — in Google Maps — observing vast infrastructure upgrades since my time there. Perhaps in another decade or three I'll enter classrooms and download entire books directly to my cortex. Another boon. </p><p>But let's be realistic. Goldman Sachs <a href="https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/ev5gmw/alibaba-vr-shopping-buy-singles-day" target="_blank">estimates</a> that virtual- and augmented-reality retail operations will fetch $1.6 billion by 2025. That's well before the neuralnanorobotics invade our parenchyma. Will anyone take advantage of this direct connection between cortex and cloud? Mark Zuckerberg <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/technology/personaltech/mark-zuckerberg-covers-his-laptop-camera-you-should-consider-it-too.html" target="_blank">infamously covers</a> his laptop camera to protect himself from himself. Can we really expect that gliabots will be equipped with proverbial duct tape to shield our data from companies interested in our purchasing habits, political inclinations, sexual deviations, drugs of choice, and everything else about us? </p>
Ray Kurzweil speaks at The SXSW Facebook Live Studio, March 13, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW)<p>As fascinating as Oculus is, it's also disorienting. It takes me a few post-headset moments to integrate back into Reality 1.0. The researchers of the new study believe this sort of disassociation to be a feature.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Fully immersive virtual reality may become indistinguishable from reality with the emergence of neuralnanorobotics, rendering many forms of physical travel obsolete. Office buildings might be replaced by virtual-reality (VR) environments in which conferences could be attended virtually, replacing today's VoIP conference calls and Internet-based video conference calls with highly realistic, fully immersive VR conferences in virtual-reality spaces."</p><p>Which is where a snowflake turns into the avalanche. Our sense of self is inextricably entwined with our environment. As our relationship to what we used to call "the environment" shifts to screens and headsets, disorientation will deepen. Our mental maps of our bodies navigating the surroundings — proprioception and exteroception — will become relatively obsolete. This imagination upgrade will come at a cost: the ability to control our bodies moving through space. Take a walk down any street in America and observe people walking around staring at their phones for a preview.</p><p>Despite the metaphysics of futurism, we still need our bodies. We need the planet too. As science writer, Feriss Jabr, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/opinion/sunday/amazon-earth-rain-forest-environment.html" target="_blank">wrote yesterday</a> in celebration of Earth Day,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Like many living creatures, Earth has a highly organized structure, a membrane and daily rhythms; it consumes, stores and transforms energy; and if asteroid-hitching microbes or space-faring humans colonize other worlds, who is to say that planets are not capable of procreation?"</p>
A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.
- Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
- Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
- The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.