Hungarian designer Judit Eszter Karpati has created a user-programable fabric in a project she calls "Chromosonic." Just think of the Hypercolor t-shirts that were all the rage in the 1990s, and then imagine controlling the changing colors with nearly infinite precision.
Chromosonic is powered by two neat bits of technology: The textile is dyed with thermochromatic ink, which changes color based on temperature, and nichrome wires are woven into it. When the wires heat up, the color of the fabric changes.
Here's the magical nichrome-wired techno-fabric in action:
What we really love about Chromosonic is that Karpati has connected the wires to a tiny Arduino microcomputer, which allows her to feed specific patterns into the fabric.
The two-textile installation she created for her master's project used sound files routed through the Arduino, changing the fabric color in time with music and other audio input. Presumably, if the Arduino were connected to a microphone, the fabric color could shift according to real-time ambient sounds.
For traditionalists, Chromosonic can also change color based on old-fashioned human touch. Like the Hypercolor shirts of yore, body heat directly applied to the fabric will also activate the thermochromatic dyes.
Karpati explained the technical details thusly on her Tumblr page:
"The installation consists of an Arduino with 12V power supply and 20 custom PCBs driving and controlling 4 industrial 24V DC power supplies, that heat two handmade textiles woven with nichrome wires and screenprinted with thermochromatic dying, revealing the preprogrammed patterns."
While we don't see a mass-market future for technology like this, it's certainly the kind of thing that might end up on a runway at next year's New York Fashion Week—or on the set of the next Star Trek TV series.