CTIA: Sniffing out the hot trends in wireless

Scentsory Design touted 'wireless aromas' at this year's show

NEW ORLEANS—Looking for the latest in wireless? Forget cell phones and laptops. At this week's CTIA Wireless 2005 show, some of the hottest technologies were those shown off by fashion models.

CTIA's "Fashion in Motion" show, a staple of the annual wireless event, included the requisite laptops and handhelds—but these were covered with fabric patterns designed to compliment most any outfit. There were also sophisticated heads-up displays like the ones used by jet-fighter pilots, and even wireless aromas.

Previous CTIA fashion shows have featured many of the same concepts shown off this year. There was, for instance, a ScottEVest Inc. jacket for men featuring a plethora of pockets for handhelds and batteries but updated for the '05 season with a shapely solar-powered panel draped across the shoulders. Inclosia Solutions touted notebook computers and cell phones covered with designer fabric to complement clothes worn by models, while Motion Research Corp. showed off a SportVue motorcycle helmet with a computer display just above eye level.

For the health conscious, FitSense Technology Inc. showed off its Medstat health monitoring system, which transmits heart rate and other body-function data wirelessly to a display. A female model at the "Fashion in Motion" show wore the sensing device in the middle of her back along with jogging togs.

And NetworkAnatomy showed off ruggedized emergency response gear, including its Commander Vest and Commander Gauntlet, complete with a sophisticated backpack, a helmet and a flashlight equipped with a wireless camera.

While some of the wearable and wireless technologies in the show were aimed at industrial or some other rugged settings, a few focused on fun and funky fashion concepts. Among them: Scentsory Design, a project of the Innovation Centre at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London, touted a prototype bracelet worn by a model in a backless black evening gown.

Using the bracelet (which was a large spider brooch made of a silver material attached to the model's wrist), the wearer could communicate wirelessly with a similar bracelet worn by another person at a party. "Communicate" in this case took on a different meaning: Instead of saying hello or sending over a video, the bracelet sent over an aroma for the recipient to sniff.

The Scent Whisper prototype requires the first user to whisper a secret of some kind into the spider's abdomen, which has a humidity sensor embedded within that reacts to breath, said one of its creators, Jenny Tillotson. Tillotson, a senior research fellow at Central Saint Martins, worked with professor Andreas Manz on the prototype, while the actual jewelry was designed by jeweler Don Baxendale, Tillotson said. The design has already won an innovation award in the U.K. and is being talked up as a communication tool for people who can't see or hear.

The scent message from the spider is delivered by wireless Web to the second user, who wears a beetle brooch. The beetle then emits nanolitre-size droplets of fragrance. Just what kind of fragrance depends on the original whispered message. The aroma can vary from pleasant (for a friendly message) to odious (for a less friendly message). Which scent gets sent is based on the sensor built into the spider, Tillotson said.

"My work is inspired by the defense mechanisms in insects" found in nature, Tillotson said. "The audiences for this could be anyone. Teenagers would find it a fun gadget, but lovers could send a sample of their own pheromones."

Scent Whisper – The Spider and Beetle
Scent Whisper – The Spider and Beetle

Scent Whisper is a wireless jewelry set designed by jeweler Don Baxendale. The set is worn by two people and works when the first user whispers a secret into the spider, which has a temperature sensor embedded in it. That sends a wireless message to the bombardier beetle broach worn by the second user. The beetle then sprays a scent the second user can smell, dispensing airborne droplets of fragrance at about 20,000 droplets per second using microfluidic technology.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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