Radhika Dhuru July 23, 2015

Dutch FashionTech designer Anouk Wipprecht and car brand Audi have joined style-savvy hands for the A4 collection, in a collaboration aimed at merging the provocative with the practical. Here’s a peek at what happens when a tech-inspired fashion designer meets a luxury carmaker: smart cars and smart dresses. (For more details on how Anouk designed this collection, check out our case study!)

To Anouk and Audi, cars and dresses aren’t accessories: they’re interfaces. Looking at them this way takes away the sense of passivity and celebrates the ability of cars and dresses to influence your social interactions. For example, take a look at Anouk’s previous work with Materialise: the 3D-printed Synapse Dress, which logs the wearer’s actions and attention levels, signaling to others as well as the wearer themselves when the wearer is in a high state of focus and should not be interrupted.

Anouk’s approach recognizes that current trends in technology are veering towards increasing interconnection and integration. The internet of things is already an established fact, and Forbes estimates that there will be more than 25 billion devices, sensors and chips by 2020 handling over 50 trillion GB of data. Can it be long before more cars are ‘smart cars’ and dresses are ‘smart dresses’? If it seems outlandish, think of how rapidly phones were supplanted by smartphones. Anouk is optimistic that the increasing integration between electronics, sensors and microprocessors will lead to better interaction between our interfaces and ourselves.

Anouk Wipprecht

How did this project come about?

The collection was digitally designed and 3D-printed by Anouk and her team, using the software AutoDesk Maya and a little bit of Rhino for detailing and repetitions. Anouk worked on this together with Studio Palermo in Amsterdam. During the process, they had access to Materialise’s Magics software. Magics, our data preparation software package and STL editor, helped to fill in holes in the complex design, fix bad edges and clear out all other defects in the STL files. The dresses were then 3D-printed using laser sintering (SLS) and finished in the Audi garage using both matte and metallic Audi paint, followed by the application of a high-gloss lacquer layer. Just like a car.

Scale model of the dress

This was a process which Anouk hadn’t used before: “Being able to finish the pieces with Audi paint and lacquer was an amazing experience and brings so much more highlight to the shapes and geometries in the collection. This is what collaborations are all about: together discovering new methods while combining your skills,” says the designer.

The A4 collection, in collaboration with Audi, was unveiled at the Audi City in Berlin this month. The unveiling showcased the interaction between the new Audi A4 car and the model wearing Anouk’s dress. The Audi A4 and Anouk’s dresses work on the same sensing protocol: ultrasonic distance range. The sensors in the dress can detect approaching forms and act as soon as they enter a personal space. The dress emits an ultrasonic signal and monitors any echoes. It then measures the distance of the approacher based on the time required for the echo to return. It’s much faster than it sounds: the sensors take less than five milliseconds to return a result.

At the Audi A4 event

Considerate cars for good karma

The ultrasonic distance sensor also has innumerable applications for the Audi A4. Apart from the now-common parking sensors, here’s a new use of the technology in its headlights: the A4’s LED Matrix lights serve not only to illuminate the road for the driver, but also dim down to minimize glare when an approacher is sensed. This development is valuable to interaction design in general: it’s a big step on Audi’s part in demonstrating a less invasive way for technological development in society. These Matrix lights are considerate, and dim down wherever the glare might cause discomfort in another car. As Anouk puts it, this is what innovation in a technology-driven society is all about: blending the provocative with the practical.