Robotics will inevitably manifest prominently in our lives in the form of automation, domestic companionship, and of course, artificial intelligence. These are the big ideas of robotics. But the MIT Media Lab – in collaboration with MIT Mechanical Engineering, Royal College of Art, and Stanford University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering – is exploring robotics from a different angle – one much smaller, and fashionable as well as functional. Kino is an intriguing speculative project imagining micro-robotics as a means of changing an outfit on a whim while adorned with ‘living jewelry’.
Spearheaded by MIT Media Lab’s Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, the Kino team set out to explore numerous paths using miniaturized robotic components and integrating them into clothing. For example, a pair of kinetic brooches can move on command or programmed intervals to change the pattern of an outfit, liberating traditionally static jewelry into an instantly reconfigurable experience.
We envision that in the future, these robots will be miniaturized to the extent that they can be seamlessly integrated into existing practices of body ornamentation.
Other designs pursue a hybrid approach, with reactive and learning functions that change according to the environment without input from the wearer. Above, a pair of drawstrings react to temperatures to either pull or loosen jacket hood as an example of Climate Reactive Clothing. On-body personal assistants built into wearables will revolutionize sportswear and health monitoring.
At this time the limitations of how small each of these components can be miniaturized is hampering the inconspicuous integration into clothing. But with the inception of nanotechnology now here, it’s not all too difficult to imagine a near future when clothing evolves into an adaptive and shape-shifting extension of our own bodies needs and personal style.