LED display closeup

Wearable display shines information through clothing

Image credit: Dreamstime

A wearable display designed to shine basic information through fabrics has been developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

The new technology, dubbed 'PocketView', can function as a standalone piece of tech or could be incorporated into existing or next-generation smart devices.

Researchers created prototypes that mimic smartphones, pens, key fobs and other shapes and sizes. The display shines through fabrics to show notifications for email or messages, time, weather or other forms of basic information.

“The idea is not to show all the information that you would normally see on your smartphone display,” said researcher Antony Albert Raj Irudayaraj. “These are displays that show minimal information. That’s good enough if you’re walking or biking, for example, to show basic navigation instructions. Or let’s say you received a message and don’t want to divert attention from what you’re doing. You can peek at the display and see the notification.”

After conducting a public survey, the researchers realised they needed to create their displays in various form factors in order to appeal to different demographics. Researcher Nikhita Joshi said: “The different sizes are important because so much women’s clothing has tiny pockets.

“A phone in the front pocket can be uncomfortable. So having something small just gives people way more options. We created a whole variety of form-factors that would also be suitable for smaller pockets that are common in women’s clothing.”

As the display devices can take various shapes and sizes, they have the versatility to be worn and used in any piece of clothing that has a pocket. The researchers also say the technology is “relatively inexpensive” and could easily and quickly be rolled out on a large scale. The prototypes are Bluetooth-enabled so they can sync with existing devices.

Although currently working with standalone prototypes, the researchers say the next generation of these kinds of LED displays could easily be incorporated into existing devices.

“Obviously, we’re focused on the tech and programming side of the invention,” said Daniel Vogel, an associate professor of computer science at Waterloo. “Even just as a fashion accessory, it’s something people told us they want. People could use it at clubs or in sports or in so many other ways. It’s such a simple thing but also such a radical idea that has so much potential.”

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