Clothes that sense your digital and social environment

by Richard Etter, Diana Grathwohl and Sigmund Homolya

Introduction - Concept - Scenario - Shirt 1.0 - Festivals - Press Coverage


Today an ubiquitous digital layer lies over the real world. Cities, houses, cars and people are increasingly connected to each other. Communication technology becomes smaller, wireless and invisible. The consequence is that communication technology is omnipresent, but we lack of means to be aware of it. Everyday we ask us questions like: Am I recorded? Am I alone? Do I have WiFi here? Am I connected? Can I call for help

Concept of AwareFashion

AwareFashion are clothes that answer the above questions. They react to invisible communication technology in the surrounding and thus enable the wearer to sense their immediate digital environment. AwareFashion has also a social dimension. Since most people wear mobile devices AwareFashion also enables the wearer to sense the presence of other people.


The staff working for an opera has to make sure that every mobile phone is switched off. Instead of annoying announcements via the communication system the staff wears shirts that slightly glow at the end of the sleeves when switched-on mobiles are near. This enables them to perform various tasks while at the same time being aware of activated mobiles in their surrounding.

AwareFashion Shirt 1.0

a shirt that senses mobile phones

Design and Implementation

As an example of AwareFashion we designed a shirt that senses switched-on mobile phones in the proximity. The shirt looks like a fashionable normal shirt, however if mobile phones are near the shirt glows unobtrusively at the end of sleeves. The design is orientated at the human sensory perception. Humans sense their environment with sensory cells, that generate electronics impulses which travel though nerves tracts and are processed.

Similar to this concept we designed a shirt that is augmented with an antenna, a tiny circuit board, button cells and fiber optics woven into the cloth. The antenna detects radio waves of GSM mobiles (900MHz). The custom-build circuit board processes the radio waves and converts them to light. The light travels through flexible fiber optics to the end of the sleeves. There the light emits and indicates the presence of near mobiles. The detection range of mobiles is currently fixed, but we are working on a solution that enables the wearer to adjust the range by himself. This will further increase the usability of the shirt.

In regard to the design of the shirt special attention has been paid to avoid a technical impression. People wearing the shirt shall feel comfortable and not as a cyborg. Therefore the antenna and circuit board are small and lightweight (future circuit boards will be based on small SMDs). Furthermore these two components are hidden in a pocket that corresponds to the fashion design of the shirt. Also the fiber optics that are sewed in the cloth are used as fashion design elements, they resemble tribal tattoos. When a mobile is near not the whole shirt begins to glow since people would eventually mistake the wearer for an alien. Instead small light spots appear at the end of the sleeves. The wearer can check this place easily while performing other tasks. The color of the light can be chosen by the wearer, so he can match it to his style. He can choose red, green, yellow, white or blue.

The pocket can be easily attached and detached from the shirt. When the pocket is detached the shirt can be washed since it only consists of cloth and highly flexible fiber optics. There are no electronic contacts. After washing the pocket can be attached with push buttons. The bunch of fiber optics can be connected conveniently with a plug.

The flexible pocket system enables us to use the shirt with other technical units with different sensors and functionality. To see another item of the AwareFashion collection please click here.


>>> AwareFashion will be presented at the renowned VIPER FESTIVAL. The technophile fashion design was nomiated in the category ‘processing’ and can be seen live in Basel, Switzerland. VIPER is one of the major European film, video and new media festivals.

Press Coverage of AwareFashion

AwareFashion has been mentioned by several newspapers and a variety of weblogs around the world. Now you can read about it in your favorite language :-) Please find selected articles below.

>>> The AwareFashion Shirt will be featured in the forthcoming book “Mobile Audience” by Martin Reiser.

>>> An interview and article about AwareFashion appeared in Mobile & Wireless (Prag, Czech Republic).


>>> The newspaper Electronics Weekly (London, UK) reported about AwareFashion in their last issue! With 43000 subscribers Electronics Weekly has an unrivalled reputation in the electronics community in the UK.


>>> LARGEUR “Cette chemise … n’entache donc ni le look ni le bien-être.”

>>> Engadget “AwareFashion project provides cellphone alerts via clothing”

>>> EYEBEAM Art and Technology Center, article Glimpse of what’s to come

>>> Textually “The shirt that senses switched-on mobile phones”

>>> Smartmobs “Aware Fashion: Clothing That Detects Wireless Devices”

>>> Softpedia “Camasa care detecteaza activitatea celularelor” (Italian)

>>> Smartmobs “The shirt that senses mobile phones”

>>> Ira Vehementi “Detecta teléfonos móviles con tu camisa” (Spanish)

>>> ITNEWS.SK “Košela, ktorá cíti prítomnost mobilov” (Slovak)

>>> Mobile Bulgaria (Bulgarian)

>>> Onliner - Digital Lifestyle (Russian)

>>> MPort (Russian)

>>> Share you life AwareFashion… aware! (French)

>>> Charshija Queen Da ne bi sta propustili (Bosnian)

>>> - “Illuminami i polsini” (Italian)

>>> Sensory Impact - “This week’s glimpse of whats to come”

(Pictures by Katrin Felicitas Schmid)