Wearables Project: Cellular Scarf

Scarf MockupMy concept for my wearables project is a scarf that reacts to your cellular phone, lighting up when an incoming call is received. Conceptually I am interested in making a statement about our need for communication, and the hidden messages we send to people when we pick up our cellular phone: I am important, or popular, or busy. Conversely, the phone distracts us from our surroundings, and ultimately shuts out the rest of the world; the caller gets our focus, and everything else is moved to the peripherae. Notice the fake psychosis of cellphone talkers on their bluetooth headsets, talking to thin air, oblivious of their surroundings. What message are they communicating?

The basic idea for the scarf, then, would be to send those unconscious messages in a more overt, if abstract, way. The scarf would be lined either LED’s or some other form of incandescent such as electro luminescent wire, which would activate and glow when an incoming call was received.

I am of two minds as to make the scarf functional or merely fashionable. As a silent ‘ringer’ there is a built in functionality of alleviating missed calls from a phone tucked away in a purse or pocket that cannot be heard or whose vibration cannot be felt. Another possibility is to embed a speaker and microphone and allow it to function as a wireless headset, but I like the idea of it sending the signal of ‘importance’ without having the wearer talking on the phone.

One thought I have, without having researched the mechanics of Bluetooth pairing, is if the scarf were paired with the phone as a Bluetooth headset, but had no speaker or microphone, then it would in fact prevent answering the phone entirely; the pairing would have to be disabled, allowing the phone to function in its normal mode.

Another techinical possibility is to simply have the scarf react to the radio frequencies of incoming calls. In the same way that poorly-shielded speakers ‘buzz’ when a call comes in to a GSM cell phone, the scarf could passively react to these signals. This invites the possibility of the scarf lighting up in response to any cellular phone; the statement of the scarf would then be less about the individual’s importance, and more about our societal shift towards ubiquitous communication.

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