Higher fidelity prototype: the belt-skirt

For the past week, we have been toiling to find the right mechanics and set up for the mechanical skirt-belt. The concept is that a skirt can be pulled up to a ruffled belt and a belt can be extended into a skirt, mechanically.

We chose this to be our fully developed prototype because the rest of our outfit follows the same mechanics, if we can master it for a short bit of cloth, the others should be relatively easy. Unfortunately, we’ve found this to be false. The mechanics of the skirt proved to be a challenge due to our materials at hand. We were initially going to use phidget servo motors, but found that the motors we had did not complete a full rotation. Because of this, we moved on to the next motors we had available, Lego MindstormsNXT motors. Although powerful, these are very bulky. In addition to the bulk of the motor, we have had to construct a gear train for the wheels that we attached the skirt pulleys to. This added to the bulk of it all so that the skirt currently has a 6 inch gear train coming out from the back of the user’s skirt.

Back view of skirt-belt with NXT brick and wheels

Back view of skirt-belt with NXT brick & pulley wheels

In addition to the bulk, we have found that the angle of the motors and the gears now make it such that the pulleys do not wind about the wheel, but get tangled. This basically means that we need another motor for our current design.


Reflections Post-Prototype 1

After presenting our initial prototype to the class, we reflected on their feedback and this is what we learned.

We need to notify the user prior to any transition. This will prevent any unwanted changes as well and potential embarrassment for the user as a transition may be awkward any where public.

To address the weather change concerns that were mentioned in our critique we will attempt to implement heat sensors. With this, however, we will need to consider the possible noise from changing locations (indoor heat versus outdoor heat) and the person’s own body heat.

For the most part, the rest of the comments pertained to the cleaning of the outfits, which is not really being considered at the moment and how awesome our idea is. We will accommodated our user scenario to consider the above changes, appropriately.

Shopping for the first prototype

In order to approach our second prototype, we were considering implementing the pants retraction feature. However, after much discussion and back and forth, we found that a riskier feature is the belt to skirt feature. In our brainstorming for implementation, we found that we needed to keep the belt stationary, rather than use it as our weight because the belt would likely not fall beyond the hips without more engineering.

In this case, we believe that we can have the cloth of the skirt tucked underneath the belt and have weights attached to the skirt that are held up by four strings attached to motors. When the time is right, the weights are released, causing the skirt to come down with the help of gravity. When the skirt needs to be retracted, the motors will spin and pull the skirt back in to place, under the belt.

We also considered how we will communicate with the user’s calendar. We can potentially have a blue tooth transmitter of some kind on the outfit that will receive a notification from the user’s cellphone when it needs to transition. The cellphone might have an app or extension running on it that would notify the user of a scheduled event and the change required.

Preliminary Design Sketch

Sketch of chameleon woman suit- demonstrating transition pieces

The first design sketch of the Chameleon Suit

Related Works

Optical Camouflage Using Retro-reflective Projection Technology

Inami et al.

This paper introduces an optical camouflage, a projection-based augmented–reality system composed of a projector with a small iris and a retro-reflective screen. The object that needs to be made transparent is painted or covered with retro-reflective material. Then a projector projects the background image on it making the masking object virtually transparent. The weak point of this technique is that the observer needs to look through a half-mirror. The current system needs a half-mirror and projectors, which were fixed on the ground.

The main difference between our suit and an optical camouflage cloak is that we will aim to have different outfit options, in addition to the invisibility feature.  We also hope to develop the suit in a way that allows for the observer to view the outfits or invisibility from any viewpoint.

How Invisibility Cloaks Work

William Harris and Robert Lamb

From: http://science.howstuffworks.com/invisibility-cloak.htm

In 2007, a team from the University of Maryland constructed a metamaterial (tiny structures smaller than the wavelength of light) capable of bending visible light around an object. A mere 10 micrometers wide, the Purdue cloak uses concentric gold rings injected with polarized cyan light. These rings steer incoming light waves away from the hidden object, effectively making it invisible.

The obvious disadvantage to this technology is its tiny size. For now, metamaterial invisibility cloaks are also limited to two dimensions.  A full size cloak would be much too heavy for an average person to wear. As a result, the technology might be better suited to applications such as hiding stationary buildings or vehicles, such as a tank.

Bubelle Emotion Sensing Dress

Philips Design

From: http://www.crunchwear.com/bubelle-emotion-sensing-dress/

The Design group at Royal Philips Electronics of Netherlands won the 2006 Inventions Of The Year title from Time magazine. Their prototype dress uses biometric sensors placed within a dual-layer garment to detect a person’s emotions and project them in colors onto the other layer. By incorporating LED lights into fabrics, the dress allows instantaneous change to the appearance of the overall costume.

Texture overlay onto deformable surface for virtual clothing

Jun Ehara, Hideo Saito

From: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1152399.1152431&coll=ACM&dl=ACM&CFID=103130044&CFTOKEN=82930067

Researchers wanted to display texture on command onto different articles of clothing and have the texture look as if it was the actual texture of this clothing. Using vision recognition, they took a shirt and put markers on it. Then the shirt had and image of a texture or design projected on to it. If the subject moved, the “texture” would reflect that movement and update the image.

Smart Clothing Prototype for the Arctic Environment

Rantanen et al.

From: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=594096.594098&coll=ACM&dl=ACM&CFID=103130044&CFTOKEN=82930067

Though this project does not require such intense survival gear, it may require loading some equipment onto a person in a way that is unobtrusive and convenient. This paper is a good reference for such designing.

User Scenario

Camila Chameleon is a typical hard-core Wellesley girl who often bites off more than she can chew. Consequently, she’s always pressed for time and is a great multi-tasker; efficiency is key to her lifestyle. Because of her busy schedule, Camila encounters several different, often contrasting, settings throughout the day, and her Chameleon suit helps her adapt to her surroundings, saving her time and energy.

At 7AM sharp, Camila jumps out of bed, puts on her Chameleon suit and switches it on. At that moment, the suit boots up into her default casual outfit—a yellow t-shirt and jean shorts.

After raising her hand obnoxiously for an hour in CS class, she’s hungry and ready for lunch. As she walks to Tower dining hall, her suit receives notification from her Google Calendar that she has scheduled a finger-lickin’ good pork brisket lunch date with her homies. Upon receiving this notification, a vibrant flower pattern appears on her previously plain yellow tshirt (via LED lights) to show her personality in this joyous event.

After devouring a dozen ribs and downing four cups of Coke, the suit receives another calendar notification and begins morphing—her shorts extend into formal pants and her shirt grows a collar and long sleeves. Now she looks professional and is ready to make a good impression in her interview with her potential employer, Hello Kitty Nerf Gun Design Inc.

She really wowed the interviewers of HKGD Inc. and is ready to celebrate. She calls up her boyfriend Harry G. Nome, asks him to join her for a fancy dinner, and he agrees enthusiastically. She places one hand on a discrete hotspot on her waist to unlock the “User Override Option.” Touching her other hand to her chest, legs, and belt, she transforms her outfit to look stunningly gorgeous for him—she chooses a low V-neck with a flirty skirt.

To end her productive day, she’s going to party it up at Club Tangerine Uh Igloo, and she needs a flashy outfit so she’ll be invited to dance on stage and show off her awesome “Do the Funky Chicken” dance moves. When she enters the club, her suit’s noise sensors hear the loud bass and recognize that she’s in a club. The LED lights begin flashing to the beat and the club owner immediately invites her on stage.

Camila ends her day in a great mood. She accomplished so much and made her way through so many different settings with ease and efficiency. She always looked great and appropriate for whatever she was doing, and she didn’t have to stress about running back to her room or carrying a bulky bag of clothes. Thank you chameleon suit! You da you da best!


A user of “The Chameleon Suit” is someone who would like to fit into her environment quickly, appropriately, and easily. Often times, this user has a very rich and diverse lifestyle in which she encounters contrasting situations daily. Because she is always on the go, this user is looking for convenience without sacrificing his/her options, creativity, and ability to express herself.

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