e-textile

e-textile
(ee-TEKS.tyle)
n.
A textile that has electronic circuitry woven into the fabric. Also: eTextile.
Example Citation:
The rainbow-striped swatch of cotton in Mark Jones' and Tom Martin's lab at Virginia Tech would spice up any college dormitory as a nice throw rug. But peer closer between the purple, green and orange weaving and it's apparent why their students aren't grabbing at it for decoration.
There are wires and sensors in there, connected by thin strips of steel. With small processors connected every few yards, the cloth is actually an extremely flexible, wearable computer. "I can wrap it like this ... and it will still work," Martin said, twisting the fabric around his torso like a beach towel.
Jones' and Martin's "eTextile," which is being developed with the University of Southern California, is a prototype of a new breed of fabric that is woven not only for looks, but for computing power...
The idea, Jones said, is to turn tents, tarps, parachutes — anything made of fabric — into some kind of computer. The technology could someday help the army track enemy troops and tanks, detect hazardous chemicals or change color for camouflage.
— Chris Kahn, "Is it a shirt or a computer? In future, it will be hard to tell," The Associated Press, November 27, 2002
Earliest Citation:
A growing group of researchers is coalescing around the idea that the future of mobile computing may have less to do with small PCs and more to do with smart yarn. At the center of the activity, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has released a request for proposals...that aims to bring together people and technologies in the textile and electronics industries to forge the tools, processes and fundamental technology needed to build a new class of wearable systems made of fabric. Darpa said it will devote "tens of millions" to the so-called e-textiles program over the next five years, with the first projects slated to be announced early next year.
— Rick Merritt, "Switching fabric — Darpa spins wearable computer initiative," Electronic Engineering Times, November 5, 2001
Notes:
E-textile is also called smart fabric, smart yarn, or intelligent textile. It's used to make, among other things, smart clothes and wearable computers (or just wearables).
A recent issue of American Demographics magazine featured an interview with an e-textile researcher. This person has a doctorate from MIT, so you have to assume she's pretty smart. However, when asked about the future applications of e-textiles, she mentioned "shoes that tell you how fast you're going," "jackets that tell you what the temperature, barometric pressure or smog level is," and, my personal favorite, "a baseball hat that tells you the score of the game." These ideas are so comically useless that I had to double-check that I wasn't reading the latest issue of The Onion. Thankfully, it appears that most other e-textile gearheads have their eyes on more practical prizes.
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