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This flying dress could be the start of wearable transportation

Wed, 12/11/2013 - 12:44pm
Stephanie Carmichael, Contributor

Pop singer Lady Gaga has worn some pretty weird outfits on stage (meat, anyone?), but her latest is so crazy, we might just all be wearing some version of it in the future.

A flying dress sounds pretty fun — at least once a week, I’d like to hover down to the mailbox. But as outlandish as it may be, we’ve taken our first steps into a future where wearable tech could become as common as blue jeans. Eyewear, watches, shirts, even wigs — there’s no limit to how we might integrate our technology into our clothing and accessories.

These products need to be practical in order to hit mass production. Gaga’s flying dress (“Volantis”) might have wowed audiences, but it took a lot of work to create and energy to run. The battery powered costume was operated remotely via radio signals, and it lifted about five feet off the ground. It could travel about 10-12 feet at once. That would be a lot of trouble just to get me down to the mailbox. I’d probably be better off walking.

Honestly, I can’t think of a good reason why any woman would want to wear a flying dress other than to look stylish. But Volantis, which fashion-technology company Studio XO helped design, isn’t all that pretty. Aesthetics can have a lot to do with the mainstream success of a product — just consider how sleek and lightweight Google Glass is.

But forget looking good: We should be asking other, more important questions about what makes or breaks wearable tech — what its value is to us. We can already figure that this kind of clothing wouldn’t be very practical, and I can’t imagine it would be safe. I can just see myself and other poor ladies toppling over and needing assistance to get back on our feet. (We’re not going back to the corset days of helplessness, thank you very much.) But the beta run went OK — no crashing or falling — so that’s at least a good sign.

However, I couldn’t even guess how much a dress like this one costs to make, and price is important if anyone’s going to be trading in a car for one of these babies one day. It sounds expensive and involves some tricky engineering. The six “booms” positioned over the dress in hexagonal formation, complete with two electric motors at the end, powered two carbon fibre “pusher and puller” propellers. This created enough thrust to lift the combined weight of the contraption (which includes heavy copper wire to feed the motors) and the 100-something-pound passenger.

Investors are already interested in the dress, which for now is “priceless,” but at least this kind of transportation — however slow, clumsy, or just plain weird it may be now— won’t pollute the Earth if the women of tomorrow ever start wearing it. She may be boring white in color, but Volantis is as green as they come.

So, gentlemen: What would you say to a flying three-piece suit?

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