Light Artists: CuteCircuit

CuteCircuit is a pioneer in fashion wearable technology by merging futuristic fashion designs and smart fabric with advanced technology to create a magical interactive experience for their customers and viewers. Francesca Rosella, who worked as a designer for Valentino, and Ryan Genz, an art and anthropology major, co-founded the company. They met in 2001 at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy. Sharing the common goal of amplifying body senses through technology, they decided to create CuteCircuit. The company made its debut in America in 2004 as the worlds first wearable technology brand. They specialize in creating everyday attire, haute couture, and special projects.

Cofounders Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz

On the CuteCircuit website, casual clothes and accessories can be purchased for roughly 250-1000 pounds. They do a great job at intertwining the tech into the various fabrics use, making the garment look smooth. The LEDs are not noticeable unless they are illuminated at the time. A lot of the items include luminous transparent sequence which helps with this blending. The app “Q by CuteCircuit” can be downloaded in the Appstore and is used to control all the garments worn. This app shows the charge of the battery, allows the user to change the text, pattern, and colors displayed on each product. Each product is powered by the “Twirkle Battery”. This 2cm x 3.1 cm x 0.5 cm battery includes a USB-C port that is used to charge the battery, a motion sensor to detect physical activity and change the colors of the LEDs, and a single button that turns the battery on and off. The battery plugs into the garment by snapping the 6 connectors with the receivers and tucking it into the side pocket. The clothing is machine washable, but the battery must be detached before washing.

CuteCircuit designs gowns for celebrities to wear on the red carpet, artist to perform in, and models to walk the runway in. The Met Gala, established in 1948, occurs every spring at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The gala is hosted to raise money for the costume institute and mark the opening of the annual exhibit, which has a different theme every year. In 2010, Katy Perry wore a CuteCircuit gown composed of 3200 LEDs. The theme that year was “American Women: Fashioning a National Identity”, and Katy represented the theme well as the first attendee in history to ever wear a light-up dress. Zendaya followed a similar style this year. The 2019 theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, so attendees were expected to arrive in something that represented the artifice of an exaggeration, very theatrical, or a parody on pop culture. Zendaya arrived in a plain space grey Tommy Hilfiger gown but at the wave of a wand, the dress came to life as a luminescent blue, just like in the cartoon.

CuteCircuit is a pioneer in developing wearable technology that improves the lives of others. The world’s first telecommunication wearable was invented by CuteCircuit in 2002. Humans need to be touched around 70 times per day and for frequent travellers and elders who spend long times away from their loved ones, physical contact can be tough. The Hug Shirt allows people to send hugs over long distances.  The shirt consists of sensors that capture the strength, duration, location of the touch, body temperature, and the heart rate of the sender and actuators that recreate the sensation of touch, warmth and emotion of the hug to the receiver via Bluetooth. If the users download the hug app and connect it to their shirt then they can send hugs. Each shirt cost around £1000. The Hug Shirt was awarded as one of the Best Inventions of the Year by Time Magazine in 2006. Shortly after the Hug Shirt, the SoundShirt was created. This shirt allows a deaf person to feel the music on their skin and see the lights on the shirt fluctuate depending on various tones, allowing the user to experience a concert for the first time. this tactile full immersion in music is something that truly allows the experience of a live concert to be finally shared by everyone. The shirt consists of a rechargeable USB-C port, Q Software controlled, Haptics (touch communication), wireless broadcasting, and smart fabrics but has no wires. The Soundshirt features 30 micro-actuators embedded in the fabric of the garment. These actuators wirelessly receive the music that is captured on stage while the orchestra is playing and transforms it into data. Therefore, the violins can be felt on the arms and the drums on the back creating a fully immersive experience for the user. The connecting lines also serve as a tacit diagram of the underlying data network, stretchable micro-electronic circuitry, and 3d printed details, present within the garment and otherwise invisible, that control the plurality of the various actuators in the shirt. The orchestra package cost £11,000 GBP, which includes a shirt, audio converter, computer with pre-installed Q Software, 8 microphones with stands and cables, and an antenna for broadcasting to the shirts. Each additional SoundShirt cost £1,500 GBP.

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