London-based company Eleksen has developed a technology that makes it possible to manufacture sensors and switches from textiles, allowing for electronic components to be integrated into clothing. The textile sensors can measure how hard they are pressed and also whether moisture is present. The fabric can also be sewn or washed.
Eleksen already manufactures a soft keyboard , made of a fabric called elektex, for PDAs that can be rolled up and has created controls for an MP3-player on the sleeve of a jacket. Elektex can sense location and pressure, so users can control behaviours like scrolling or repetition by pressing down longer.
Other applications would include a mobile phone that can be folded, or airplane seats with integrated control elements in the upholstery.
The fabric is a combination of conductive fibers and conventional textile fibers. The tech fabric is essentially a sandwich of conductive textiles with two outer layers separated by a partially conductive inner layer.
The thin sensor layers can withstand enormous strain — not even the weight of a car will damage them. Another application might be a doll that can tell whether it’s being rocked or patted and sleeps or burps accordingly. Future houses could be filled with sensory fabrics. “For example, you would have carpets that when you walked on them would turn the lights and arm chairs or your favorite cushion with remote controls built into them.”