Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Call of the Fibres

The mind simply boggles at the immense possibilities.

Professor Yoel Fink and his associates at MIT's Research lab of Electronics, have just announced the possibility of manufacturing "acoustic" fibres with flat surfaces. While we may skim over the complicated processing that happens to make these fabrics just so, it is exciting to note that this means that these fabrics, when worn , will be able to act as sound sensors and detectors.

The fact that the swishing noise of blood flowing in your femoral artery (in the leg) can tell whether you have a clogged artery, brings to mind several scenarios where you wear "intelligent" pants; at some point in your life, they buzz - and you rush to get an angioplasty of whatever. Same goes for blood supply in the brain, though I suppose the sensors will be a bit different; but it would be very useful to get a warning of an impending stroke , say, through a hat or scarf.

While all these medical diagnostic things will happen in due course, it has occurred to me that we will shortly be bombarded with various mini amplifiers installable in such clothes. Sometimes without our knowledge, which should make things exciting. And of course, like the black box in airplanes, these things need to be destruction proof.

Wedding finery for brides, would now include 21 acoustic sarees with grade 1 amplifiers, as well as some salwar suits and jeans embedded with the same. For an extra payment, you could have microchips installed where the nada is, which store all the detected acoustics. Hardware miniaturization companies will get a new life. Brides being troubled by senseless rotten in-laws, will now have proof of their wrong doing. And courts will now have a proof when theyinvestigate dowry deaths.

Khadi clothes will take on a new hue. I am not sure the ministers will, though it is entirely possible that they will go red in the face, followed by an angry purple. It will be interesting, to say the least, to browse through the acoustic downloads from the ministers' khadi kurtas. I recall an erstwhile union home minister (later replaced), who continuously changed into different kurtas for different press conferences, during the Mumbai 26/11 carnage, and now I wonder !

It might reveal a lot about who comes to meet them, who promises what, who threatens what and who quietly gives in. Particularly before important events like the Budget.

Prisoners in jails will have special fibre embedded striped uniforms, with inverse wi-fi capability built in. (Don't ask me how). Authorities will be able to download conversations and stuff happening in jail rooms. This might even get a bit dicey for unscrupulous staff, and it will be difficult to deny things.

Installing this capability in Bollywood will be strangely resisted. Lies will be difficult to separate from what is being touted as the truth. Tweeting , of course will be then studied for its ability to provide supporting proof for what the person is actually up to, as opposed to what he is saying.

Will we have an IPL is those times ? Will Lalit Mody and the BCCI have specially treated acoustic outfits ? Will cricketers have to wear these fabrics on the field ? Will their swear words show up automatically on the huge screen which shows up the referrals today ?

The possibilities are endless. Just like we pass through metal detectors today, there will now be acoustic detectors, particularly for those in power, no matter how small. Police, ward officers, bureaucrats, even some journalists. The detectors will simply download whatever is stored in your outfits.

The problem , as always, will be in the implementation.

The more innovative, will purposely say things , get recorded and get other folks into trouble. Entrepreneurs will come up with acoustic jammers, which they will install in offices, clothes, shawls, scarves etc. Guys from Bulgaria or someplace will excel at creating viruses, that attack these installed devices, and mess up the data, and generate raucous laughs and messages like "Kya Fool hai hum ?" (="What a fool am I") on screen, when important people gather to peruse messages.

Dhobis and Laundrys will suddenly become important people. There will be fellows who will provide special dhobi attachments, where dhobis can download stuff from important peoples' clothes. It will basically be a spyers market .....

It is really a question of who is how techno centric . For every electronic thing, there is something designed to either bypass it or garble it.

But this will probably lead to a reduction in talk. People will not indulge in useless talk, unless they verify it and have proof. Maybe sign language will be popular. Folks will practice gestures. Kathakali experts will hold classes for the general public. Smiling and frowning will be popular.

.....And somewhere, amidst verdant green fields, thousands of miles away, a farmer , after a days hard work, will return to his modest home, ensure that his cows are comfortable, will wash up and settle down to a simple meal, lean back, and wonder , about how he is going to provide for his second daughters marriage.....the monsoon was so unpredictable....

They still had to find out a magical contraption to listen to what the monsoon was be or not to be...


  1. WOW !! Great creativity !!! Just loved this post !! With such an invention like flat acoustic cables, if so many things can happen, My God, the possibilities are endless....

  2. A sort of fabric blackbox for every situation? Mimdboggling indeed!
    An addition: People will come to know what their spouse wants/needs and there will hopefully, be less of the misunderstandings which cause so much pain in the world.

  3. These things would also record and amplify things we may not want to hear like gas and bowel movements...

  4. oooh..I loved the bridal sari one...'sounds' like the solution to everything that is wrong for women in India. How 'bout an eve-teasing...err sexual harrassment recording cloth for all those wolf-whistles and lewd songs??!!

  5. I wouldn't worry about these 'listening' fibres. As usual, Indian markets would probably stock 'number two ka maal' which would not do the job properly!

  6. To me, your creativity and imagination are mind boggling :) Loved this post!

  7. I, too, am continually amazed by your creativity and imagination and I always love your posts! It's been a little crazy around here lately so I'm late getting around. Hope you have a great weekend!


  8. Innovation with a generous dose of imagination... makes it an absolutely delightful blog post!

  9. Do you think that these acoustic fibres could be constructed to work in reverse so that instead of being monitorial they could relay pleasant sounds to send people into a state of euphoria so they would become kind,thoughtful and compassionate. Perhaps it could be made compulsory for garments made of this magical material to be worn for so many hours a day depending on the need .

  10. The last part of the farmer and the monsoon's thinking really touched. Hope we get good weather people soon and the technical developments can come later :).. Wonderful post ji.

  11. Wrote a comment last evening and lost it!

    These acoustic fibres sewn into clothes remind me of the news I read about this school dropout in Benares, who created a device where wires are stitched into a pair of jeans and five a shock to anybody attempting to pick pockets. He says the device is useful to shock sexual offenders too.

  12. UmaS yes, thats what I thought too...the endless possibilities...

    sandhya It just occurred to me that the block box may pickup unwanted knowledge too, that could actualluy cause the problems :-(

    bones yes , that was the first thing that struck me, when i read about the research.....but that would be a separate (terrible) post.....:-)

    starry thank you. We have a government who encourages BT-brinjal, but will probably stall this thing ....too many skeletons to hide..

    manju So true. never thought of that...!

    softypinkngloriousred Thank you !

    Sylvia Thank you. And I think this kind of contraption would be interesting for Sarah palin too....:-)

    RGB Thank you !

    Barbara Blundell What a wonderful idea ! I can think of several people who could benefit by that . ...

    annasarp Thank you !

    IHM Like the Indo-Pak talks, the comments seem to be losing it ....happened to me on Ritus' blog 3 times.

    Great news about the Benares contraption. They can sell it to the Mumbai trains and BEST buses. Will be a hit (in more ways than one ) :-)