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Brief Published: 28 Jan 2015

Smartphone-Controlled Scarf

Microsoft's prototype scarf will measure and respond to wearer's emotions

Researchers at Microsoft, the US tech giant, have made a smartphone-controlled scarf as part of an experiment looking into body-responsive wearable tech.

The garment is formed of interchangeable hexagons that can vibrate or heat up, and communicates with the wearer's smartphone via Bluetooth. It could eventually respond to changes in mood or other physiological signals from emerging sensors.

The prototype's design was informed by discussions with people with disabilities such as autism. The wearable might help manage these people's feelings by measuring and responding to their moods.

Scarves offer a way of wearing tech discreetly, according to the researchers. "You don't have to show everyone, 'Hey I've got tech all over me,' Asta Roseway, principal research designer at Microsoft Research, said in an interview with MIT Technology Review. "It's subtle."

The project is conceptual, but it confirms what we heard during last year's GlazedCon wearable-tech event: many designers are looking to make wearable tech invisible, or screen it behind beautiful design. The concept also chimes in with recent attempts to make wearables do more than simply measure body metrics.

See CES 2015: Personal Electronics for more on the latest directions in wearable tech – from sensor-embedded fabrics to multitasking health monitors.