Wearables and data visualization

Ricardo O' Nascimento
4 min readNov 18, 2017

Have you ever been in a situation where you got embarrassed because of what someone said, and you started blush immediately? Or you were out, and the weather suddenly got cold, and you had a constant goosebump and started shaking?

Our body reacts to the surround and has mechanisms to signalize this interaction. This reaction is the biology response to external stimuli. Our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the Fight or flight response, and this is an involuntary reaction. The skin is the place for many responses like that. The more prominent organ in our body is also responsible for displaying the effects of the environment in our bodies.

There is a research line in wearables that works with the concept of the second skin. Our clothes are our second skin, and they can be smart and be able to understand the environment and create a visual output of it. This data could be anything: from news to coral bleaching. From air quality to our mood.

I will present here six wearable projects that use wearable technology for data visualization. If you know other projects related to wearables and data visualization leave a message in the comments.

  1. Tremor (2017) by Melissa Coleman (NL/UK) and Leonie Smelt (NL)

This stunning dress is an example of a politically engaged wearable piece. According to the creators, the dress is inspired by our ability to measure the seismic waves produced by an earthquake all across the planet. It emphasizes our interconnectedness: in the words of Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree.”

Every light shiver we see in the dress is a visualization of the death of a woman as the result of unsafe abortion.
It is simple, expertly crafted and compelling.

2. News Knitter (2007) by Ebru Kurbak and Mahir M. Yavuz

This project brings me lots of memories from when I was studying in Linz and had the chance to meet and Mahir and model for their fabulous “News Knitter.”

It proposes a new way to visualize large scale of data by converting daily political news into clothing.

The pattern of the knitted sweater comes from an interpretation of online news feed.

According to the creators “News Knitter converts information gathered from the daily political news into clothing. Live news feed from the Internet that is broadcasted within 24 hours or a particular period is analyzed, filtered and converted into a unique visual pattern for a knitted sweater. The system consists of two different types of software: whereas one receives the content from live feeds the other converts it into visual patterns, and a fully computerized flat knitting machine produces the final output. Each product, sweater of News Knitter, is an evidence/result of a specific day or period.”

More info: http://www.casualdata.com/newsknitter/

3. Coral Love Story: Chapter #1 getting Acquaintance by Kasia Molga and Electronudes

Coral Love Story: Chapter #1 getting acquaintance is a wearable device responding to real-time data from coral bleaching alerts. The piece provides physical responses to the wearer to signify the change in the environment.

The back of the garment is embellished with a thermochromic latex that changes color whenever there is a bleaching occurring in the corals. A small motor vibrates, reinforcing to the wearer the conditions of the coral.

This performance uses wearables, smart materials, and the internet of things to tell a history about a relationship between a human and a coral.

4. Human sensor by Kasia Molga

The human sensor is another project that I had the chance to collaborate with Erik Overmeire and Kasia Molga. By now you should have notice I am a huger fan of Molga’s work. The human sensor is a stunning garment that lights up in different ways according to the quality of the air. This piece is an excellent example of how art and science can work together to create awareness.

The human sensor by Kasia Molga

5. Mood sweater by Sensoree

Sensoree created a sweater that reveals your feelings to the world. They developed a super simple sensor that is placed on the hand and detects your humor. After you wear the sensor and the sweater it needs one minute to calibrate ( during the calibration time you should take deep breaths). After the calibration, the color of the seater will correspond to your mood. This iconic wearable is finally on the market. You can buy it at www.moodsweater.com

6. Wearable Facade by Ricardo O’Nascimento

The wearable facade is a performance that aims to investigate the influence of the landscape on the clothing. A camera on the back o the garment takes a picture every 10 seconds. Each image is analyzed by an algorithm that generates a pattern based on the primary shapes and colors. This patter in then broadcasted in the front part of the jacket and also in a building media facade.

This project aims to create a connection among fashion, technology and architecture.



Ricardo O' Nascimento

Ricardo is a Postdoctoral researcher in human and material experiences at the Materials Science Research Centre.