Elizabeth Fuller

Adventures in ITP

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Close-up in the Life Dress

Life Dress

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The Life Dress is a wearable piece, depicting the symbiotic relationship of living organisms through an array of LEDs embeded in a dragon skin dress running Conway's Game of Life.

It is a challenge to find the right interactive balance within groups of people. We can be overwhelmed if we stretch ourselves too thin. Yet, we have a fundamental need for interaction just to survive.

This is reflected in the life and death cycles of LEDs on the Life Dress. Conforming to the rules developed in Conway's Game of Life, LEDs turn on if the cells they represent are "alive" or off if the cells are "dead." Whether a cell is born, survives, or dies is determined by the condition of other cells. A lone cell cannot survive by itself. Similarly, too many companions can overwhelm a cell. Thus, this algorithm expresses the interdependence of organisms.

The Life Dress is a garment constructed of dragon skin silicone with leds embedded inside. The dress is largely a conceptual experiment in constructing a dress our of unusual materials. The dragon skin is poured as tiles with an led embedded in each tile. The tiles are then linked together in a grid formation to construct what is, in effect, a platform for dynamic patterns, animations, and interactive displays.

The form of the dress is inspired by the grid layout used in running John Conway's algorithm, the Game of Life. I was intrigued how, with a simple set of rules, the algorithm generated simple animations which I could visualize on a dress as a dynamic pattern. Thus, each tile on the dress represents a cell so that the dress becomes a board that envelopes the wearer. The pattern is also easily reinterpreted as a cylindrical screen with three inch square pixels so that the dress can easily be repurposed for other other patterns and interactive displays.

Additionally, while the dress is semi transparent to diffuse the light, it also means that observers can see through the dress to what is beneath. However, when lit, the tiles obscured whatever is underneath so that an observer can only see vague shadows. Thus, depending on what tiles are on and what tiles are off, the Life Dress can be considered an exercise in public indecency.