Calgary

Stylish tech hits the catwalk at Calgary fashion show

'Brainwave-controlled LED dress' lights up MakeFashion event

Fashion merges with cutting-edge technology 1:38

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It is crunch time in a Calgary basement.

Two engineers, a singer with a background in neuroscience and a retired doctor who dabbles in dressmaking are putting the finishing touches on a dress that reads minds.

Well, sort of.

Angie Coombes, a Calgary singer-songwriter with a background in neuroscience, is the driving force behind this project to design a dress that reflects the mood of the wearer.

Dress

A combination of hi-tech and high fashion, the LED lights on this dress respond to the brainwaves of the wearer. (Erin Collins/CBC)

"It is basically a brainwave-controlled LED dress. You can see all of the lights are changing colour based on the activity as I am speaking, as I am moving."

The dress includes a wireless headset that measures brain activity and communicates it to a series of LED lights that have been created and attached to the dress with a 3D printer.

Coombes is showing off her hi-tech garment at the MakeFashion gala in Calgary on April 2. The MakeFashion project showcases wearable tech, which could be anything from a shirt that measures blood sugar to a jacket that can charge a phone.

"The organizers of MakeFashion want to make Calgary a real tech hub and do really cutting-edge things with fashion and focus on the technology." says Coombes.

engineers

Kent Brockman and Ksenia Nadkina are the engineers tasked with making sure this hi-tech dress really shines. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Across the room Kent Brockman sits on the floor tapping away on his laptop. Brockman is one of the engineers making sure Coombes's dress shines.

"We are basically looking after the electrical engineering and the programming and the wiring and all of the technical aspects of the dress to make sure we are able to pull your brainwaves send them over to the phone and make sure the chest plate LEDs light up."

Brockman says he thinks wearable technology will become more common. He points to devices like Fitbit and the Apple Watch as early examples of technology that works well while being worn.

"I have always wanted to do geeky electronics stuff because it seems like this portal to a bigger world of cool things you can do because electronics and programming are pretty universal." 

Mike

Mike Morley with his 3D printer. (Erin Collins/CBC)

And doing that "geeky electronics stuff" is getting easier and cheaper.

Mike Morley helped print the lights that are attached to the dress on a 3D printer.

"Prior to these things coming out it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars before you even got to see what you were trying to create."

Morley says that means quirky projects such as this one have become affordable.

"They are now able to print these materials out and also adjust them specifically for the purpose that they are working towards. They actually print the LEDs right on the dress itself, which is really wild."

Coombes knows precisely how she intends to add a little art to all that technology coursing through her dress.

"I will do a little bit of piano when I get down to the end of the runway, and we will see how that makes the lights change on the dress."

Take a 360 degree tour of Mike Morley's 3-D printing set-up. Just click and drag on the video to navigate.

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