Sep 26, 2014

Thermal Camouflage in Fashion and War

I am fascinated by the cycle of war and technology. Almost every major technological advancement of this century came from defense research. Nuclear power, electronic computers, radar and microwaves... The list goes on and on. Many of these eventually make it onto the consumer markets, the intersection of many of these advancements allow a smartphone to exist today.

By looking into current defense technologies (and areas of interest), we can predict what will end up on the consumer markets in years to come. 
Me C.2011
One technology we will see hit the mainstream markets in 2015 is thermal imaging (the ability to see heat).  FLIR (who makes insane thermal cameras for the US military) already has a fairly expensive case-camera for the iphone. The Seek thermal camera has released another iPhone camera. Project Ara (Google's modular smartphone) plans to include a small thermal camera module in their smartphone. A man from FLIR showed me a prototype unit for Ara smaller than 1cm³.

Thermals cameras are here, but what is not in the consumer market are ways to become almost invisible from them.  Invisibility has fascinated mankind for centuries, and humanity is just beginning to make it work. The only glimpse of defense research is this 2011 image by BAE: 
But what if the same could be done with something as small and comfortable as a jacket? This is a prototype fabric material inspired by wearable circuit technology I saw at a Wearables Meetup here in San Francisco:
Instead of an LED panel, there wold be tiny Peltier thermoelectric modules at the center of each hexagon. The technology I saw used conductive thread sewn into the fabric. This would be CNC sewed on a layer beneath the waterproof layer above. The small coolers would look something like this:
These coolers would be attached to a hexagonal, flexible, heat conductive material that would be sewn into place beneath waterproof fabric. Hundreds of these would be sewn into place and controlled by onboard batteries, cameras, and a micro computer. A person would wear this comfortably as a jacket. When not acting as camouflage it could keep the wearer in perfect comfort, even charging the battery from body heat (Utilizing the Seebeck effect).  Electronic garments will hit mainstream fashion, though it will take perhaps another 8 years. This is all feasible today, although very expensive.

When observed from afar, the jacket would read the surrounding heat image with tiny thermal cameras, then render that onto the jacket as a pattern of hot and cool tiles. The wearer's heat signature would be masked by the jacket, rendering them invisible from a thermal camera. Maintaining comfort wold be difficult in this arrangement as the tiles dump heat from the surface of the jacket into the wearer's body. I have yet to imagine a heat dump system.

It is only a matter of time before advanced technology meets mainstream fashion (it has already started). It will likely all happen here in San Francisco.

No comments:

Post a Comment