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Wearable tech: A discussion with Madison Maxey

Last week, Allen Hall’s Guest of Residence was Madison Maxey, Co-Founder of “The Crated – A design and engineering studio innovating at the intersection of technology and apparel.” For five days she disseminated information and talked shop with students and the public regarding wearable technology and other emerging creative technologies. At the ripe old age of 22, she is not what you would expect from someone seeking to reach out to the budding young professionals of tomorrow. But when asked what her motivation was for this lecture and workshop series, she spoke of sparking creativity and raising awareness toward the exciting emerging field of wearable technology.

The idea to leave her cutting edge design studio in NYC and hit the road was sparked by a blog post followed by a conversation with Smile Politey contributor Robert McGrath. Maxey mentioned how she wished she had known about wearable technology and the possibility of making inroads in emerging tech sectors when she was younger. So out into the sticks she ventured to pay C-U a visit. Her goal was to inspire University of Illinois students and the local tech community.

Maxey defines wearable technology as “objects that live on the body and are advanced electrically, structurally, or chemically.” In this day and age, with smartphones and a large variety of other electronic devices used as tools to enhance our experiences or augment reality, it is natural to look towards the integration of our clothes into this new tech landscape. Maxey talked about wearables such as “Ringly,” a ring that communicates information to the owner from their phone via haptic feedback, jackets with a network of nanoparticles conducting heat to the wearer, and even yoga pants that give feedback on your posture during lotus pose.

The future of wearable technology is indeed intriguing — but don’t get too excited. Don’t expect to buy that personal jet-pack you’ve had your eye on next Black Friday. There is still a large divide between some of the prototypes Maxey has built for the likes of Google and what’s hitting the shelves next year. The current obstacle is scalability. Maxey explained in her discussion on Wednesday that there is currently a large void in the market regarding technology for the means of production beyond single handmade prototypes. However, there are some workarounds until this sector catches up.

One of these workarounds was the basis of the workshop/demonstration held last Thursday at Allen Hall. Maxey brought conductive thread along with simple LEDs and button cell batteries for participants to add a little wearable tech bling to a patch or their clothing. The thread seemed ordinary and was able to be used with the sewing machines she brought from her studio, but it was also suitable for creating low voltage electrical circuits sewn in to fabric. This fun end to her stay was joined by representatives of the local Fab Lab: a wealth of information, resources, and neat people.

The Fab Lab is a great first stop for anyone wanting to know how to make wearables or realize any of those dreamt creations that keep you up at night. Or, if you’re interested in learning how to make a career out of creating new wearable technology, you can always ask Madison Maxey how she did it.

About Matt Doyle:

Matt Doyle has always been facinated by technology. The more cutting-edge, the better because he lives to learn. Follow his journey covering and learning about new technology on Smile Politely and feel free to contact him directly.

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