Eleksen are a technology company making the “smart fabrics” that are starting to appear in clothing and bags. If you see a jacket with iPod controls on the sleeve there’s a fair chance it’s powered by Elekson and we spent a bit of time at their booth this afternoon exploring the technology.
The nice thing about their product (apart from the fact that it’s British 🙂 ) is that it is completely fabric based so there are no wires to break. Even the ribbon cable connecting the control to the electronics is fabric, so it can withstand crumpling and movement in the garment.
There were a couple of concept keyboards on display that cought my attention. The first one is a bluetooth keyboard suitable for phones, PDA’s etc. It will take some time to get used to the fabric keys as they have an odd feedback, but it’s useable after not much practice. Whether it’s a better solution than the laser keyboard I don’t know, I’d have to use them both for a while.
Because the “controls” are mapped in software rather than being inherently designed or cut into the fabric they can also do some cool prototype designs like the double sided keyboard pictured. A gravity switch in the plastic control module determines which side is showing and which mapping to use so it will act differently depending on which way up it’s placed.
They’ve also just launched a module combining the fabric control system and a small LCD display to show things like who’s calling the phone that’s in the bottom of your bag, or what track your iPod is playing, or whatever else the manufacturing partners decide to use it for.
Look out for the technology in more bags, rucksacks and jackets over the next few years.