The days of the silence being broken during a live theater performance by some ridiculous ringtone buried inside an inaccessible handbag or jacket pocket may be as long-gone as the “brick phone” thanks to this smart-shirt for theater ushers. Designed by Richard Etter, the special shirt called AwareFashion detects mobile communications devices in its vicinity that haven’t been switched off.
The shirt looks like a standard fashionable shirt, but if mobile phones are near the shirt glows unobtrusively at the end of sleeves. It alerts the wearer to active communication technology 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) and the custom-build circuit board processes them and converts them to light. The light travels through flexible fiber optics to the cuffs that makes identifying the perpetrator much easier and hence, avoids embarrassing breaches in theater etiquette.
Etter says he has made the shirt to be as “normal” as possible so that people wearing the shirt feel comfortable and not like a cyborg. The antenna and circuit board are small and lightweight (future circuit boards will be based on small SMDs) and can be hidden in a pocket that corresponds to the fashion design of the shirt. He says the fiber optics that are sewn in the cloth are used as fashion design elements, resembling tribal tattoos.
“When a mobile is near not the whole shirt begins to glow since people would eventually mistake the wearer for an alien," he adds. "Instead, small light spots appear at the end of the sleeves.” This allows the wearer to identify a mobile phone carrier easily while performing other tasks. The lights come in the standard LED colors of red, green, yellow, white or blue.
The pocket containing the electronics can be easily attached and detached from the shirt for cleaning purposes. 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 re-attached with push buttons and the fiber optics can be connected conveniently with a plug.
Etter says the flexible pocket system enables it to use the shirt with other technical units with different sensors and functionality.