If you don’t want to talk to that creepy guy at a party, you could put on your best bitch face while pretending to text someone. Or–more fun–you could don this magnificent Spider Dress, by Dutch “robotic couture” designer Anouk Wipprecht. The dress uses motion and respiration sensors to mimic the vicious territorial instincts of a spider. The sci-fi-chic confection strikes with its animatronic spidery claws when it senses unwanted advances.
“I was keen on re-creating communicative aspects of animal behavior,” Wipprecht tells Co.Design in an email. To do this, she created a garment that reflexively defends itself: If you enter the wearer’s personal space aggressively, the dress attacks. Animatronic arachnid limbs attached to its shoulders lash out at intruders. But if you approach calmly and slowly, these limbs might beckon you forward. “It almost dances with you,” Wipprecht says.
The futuristic garment resembles a corset fused with an insect’s exoskeleton. An hourglass of white ribs and pincers cover the wearer’s torso, along with 10 shiny black globes, inspired by a spider’s surplus of eyeballs. Six white legs extend from the shoulders, which fold in demurely in times of safety, but lash out when they sense danger. “The changing shape of the dress and its interactions are, to me, a form of data visualization,” Wipprecht says, since these interactions are dictated by sensory input from the wearer’s body and surroundings. The dress measures the wearer’s stress levels with wireless biosignals, and aggregates this information with measurements of others’ proximity and speed of approach (it can detect movement up to 22 feet away). The dress changes according to these various data inputs, gauging how the wearer is feeling about the people around her.
In 2013, Wipprecht created a prototype of the Spider Dress in collaboration with Austrian engineer and roboticist Daniel Schatzmayr. This past winter, she worked with technology company Intel to upgrade the design, using their new microcomputer, Intel Edison. It was test-printed in collaboration with 3-D printing companies Materialise and Autodesk, and the final product was manufactured with Rapid Made, a local 3-D printing company in Oregon. “They helped me create a perfect white-pearl finish, which I was never able to reach on my prior designs,” Wipprecht says (the prototype was in black). Now, the dress is entirely 3-D printed and mechatronic, with extra-sensitive proximity and stress sensors.
Along with Iris Van Herpen, who excels in futuristic, 3-D-printed conceptual couture, Wipprecht is one of the most imaginative designers working at the intersection of fashion and technology. The complexity of the Spider Dress is rivaled by many of her other creations, which she calls “robotic couture.” These include the Intimacy dress, which becomes transparent when contacted with electrical currents; the Smoke dress, which veils its wearer by puffing out bursts of smoke; and the DareDroid 2.0, which makes fresh cocktails for its wearer. Then there’s a dress she created that shocks the wearer with 500,000 volts of electricity. Don’t worry! Thanks to a built-in Faraday cage, the wearer comes out unscathed. (Though Wipprecht was the only one bold enough to demonstrate this one: the models she usually works with chickened out.)
Marvel Comics recently gave its Spider-Woman superheroine a modern makeover, outfitting her with yellow-lens glasses and underarm web gliders. They should’ve consulted Wipprecht before updating the look–but maybe Spider-Woman can wear this dress to the spidey ball.
Check out the video above for a teaser. The Spider Dress will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas from January 6 to January 9, 2015, where it is being showcased for Intel.