The Object-Based Media group at the MIT is developing a revolutionary system of computerised fabric patches called BYOB (see the PDF of “Build Your Own Bag”.) Each patch contains a functional unit made of a microprocessor and memory plus either a radio transceiver, a sensor, a microphone, batteries or a display.
The patches are joined with a modified Velcro enabling electrical and physical connections.
The patches can be assembled to create a variety of information-providing or environment-sensing objects according to the way you put them together. The square and triangular patches allow you to fashion, and refashion, objects such as bags, belts, curtains or scarves.
The patches also allow you to swap modules and use the system for many functions. For example, the researchers have made a bag that prevents people forgetting things. A unit is programmed to listen for signals from RFID tags on objects. If it does not detect a required item, the bag uses a voice synthesiser module in another patch to warn: “Cellphone, yes! Wallet, yes! Keys, no!”
A Bluetooth chip will be added so it can connect to the internet and automatically download weather reports. Then it would only speak up if you forgot your umbrella and it was raining. With such add-ons, the system can be upgraded by simply snapping on new sensors. “People would add functionality to their bag, just as they download ring tones for their phones today.”