Artificial intelligence has a big impact on many industries, and today we will focus on the way it is changing the textile industry, as well as the use of textiles in other fields. AI has helped make the textile industry more efficient in its production and distribution, design, quality control and many other aspects. But one interesting new idea which is being developed more and more is smart textiles. What are smart textiles exactly, and what uses can we find for them currently and in the future?
Smart textiles are fabrics which involve electronic components and are able to perform a certain function. They can observe and detect different states of the person wearing them and communicate this to another device or react to these impulses. This is done by tracking electrical, thermal, mechanical, chemical, magnetic, and other elements that can be detected from the wearer or the external environment. Smart textiles could give us information about the blood pressure or heart rate of the wearer, muscle exertion, posture, the humidity and temperature around the person, as well as various other things.
A certain smart textile doesn’t need to perform all of these functions. Some fabrics will only be able to change shape or color depending on light or humidity, while others will provide a lot of information about the user’s state and potentially react to it in different ways. The desire for such products is increasing and they are being developed with help from other disciplines such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, molecular engineering, garment design, material science, electronics, computer engineering and many more.
The main idea behind smart fabrics in fashion is that they are innovative and can be used to achieve incredibly interesting processes and results on garments as well as during fashion shows. But aside from this aesthetic quality, garments that track bodily functions have the ability to be modified as health or sport aids. Tracking functions in relation to illnesses, or as an assistance in training and performance, these textiles have a wide range of functions they can fulfill. This makes them useful not just in fashion or sports, but also as a potential crucial component of military or healthcare in the future.
The crucial part of smart textiles is that they need to first fulfill their main function of being a functional and comfortable piece of clothing. After this the options are endless. As mentioned previously, the main categories for smart textiles are aesthetics and performance. The aesthetic purposes are already being explored in fashion, especially at the luxury level where there are more resources available and more extravagant options are always the goal. Fabrics that fold and unfold or change colors depending on humidity or the state of the wearer can look beautiful, moving on their own sewn onto a dress on a runway.
As part of the performance aspect there are textiles which just sense and detect their surroundings, as well as those that can also react and adapt to the information they gather. These are already applied in sport performance tracking or creating garments with better water and wind resistance, radiation protection or body temperature regulation. Heating socks, sensing shirts, heat resistant jackets, smart yoga leggings – there are many items which exist even though they may not be widespread and popular yet, but the number and different functionalities of smart garments are only going to increase as the technology is improved and fine-tuned.
The technology behind smart textiles can be fascinating. Using functional yarn combined with regular materials to create clothes that sense our state or our surroundings is a new way to track our bodily functions or interact with our surroundings. As the technology improves and becomes more widely accessible this could become a standard part of sports equipment or healthcare aids. And if this can be applied in the textile industry, isn’t it possible to incorporate such technology into other industries such as architecture or interior design in order to improve our daily lives and experiences? Currently there have already been uses of smart textiles in the military, sports, medicine, entertainment and many other areas, including the use of such textiles to allow deaf people to feel music.
Innovations like smart textiles can benefit our well-being and safety, but they can also be misused just like every other piece of technology. There is a need to explore and study such innovations further and find the optimal ways of using them to our advantage ethically and safely, by keeping best practices in mind and working towards a bright future of interaction between humans and technology.
There are so many useful inventions which can help our lives, not only in a sense of making tasks easier, but also helping us feel better, less alone, allowing sick or elderly people to feel more safe, helping disabled people move or see or hear. We have done so much and there is still so much to do. We have to keep these wonders in mind when developing the technologies of the future, and to think about those in need and less fortunate. Robotics don’t only provide fun and entertainment, they can make the world a truly better place.
It’s great to enhance our physical lives and add robotics to our realities, but when thinking about AI in general, its use in different forms can really help us create a better world – as long as we use it responsibly and for the benefit of all. AI has brought us improvements in infrastructure, safety, the smarter building of communities, advancements in medicine, agriculture and literally every other sector, digital innovations and connectedness which we couldn’t even imagine before, better products, better banking, better education – and the ability to imagine a better future. So much has already happened – and there is so much more to come.