Ebb: Changing the colour of your clothes using electricity

Researchers have created textiles that are able to slowly change colour, revealing a path to interactive garments.

Google's Project Jacquard is about turning everyday objects like clothes and furniture into interactive surfaces. The project envisions a future in which we can look down at our coat sleeves to see if we have any new emails or the possibility of using garments as tactile display surfaces, or simply changing the colour of your outfit when the mood strikes. To this aim, researchers at UC Berkeley in the US have designed Ebb, colour-shifting threads that change their hues in response to electrical charges.

One of the leaders in the study, Laura Devendorf describes the changing of the pigments as slow, subtle, and even ghostly.

“When we weave them into fabrics, they create calming “animations” that move across the threads,” she says. “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.”

It offers a nuanced approach to the display of information on fabrics, adds Devendorf. She goes on to argue that a study conducted by the team with fashion designers and non-designers explored potentials for dynamic fabrics in everyday life and “revealed an important role for subtle, abstract displays of information in these contexts.”

Electricity changes the colour of these smart threads

But, according to a report by Gizmodo, the Ebb team are working toward speeding up the time it takes for the textiles to fade between hues. “So in addition to just changing its colour, dynamic patterns could be introduced to the fabric, animations, and even detailed images,” wrote Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski.