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This T-Shirt Changes Color When You Get Dehydrated

To find out if you need to drink more during your workout, all you have to do is look at your sweat stains.

If you have trouble remembering to drink enough water, your clothing might soon remind you. A prototype of a new textile spray detects dehydration in your sweat and then changes color.

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If you’re healthy, your clothes will look blue, but the coating turns yellow, then brown, if the levels of acids in your sweat is too high, whether from dehydration or a bad diet. The spray can be squirted on before you work out, and then washes out in the wash.

While wearables like smartwatches are also starting to monitor sweat and dehydration, the designer behind the new spray wanted to give people a different way to interact with their quantified selves.

“In a time where so much information is coming at us via screens, data, online profile, I think it’s easy to get out of touch with our senses,” says Paulien Routs, the Dutch designer and researcher who created the spray, called Soak, along with the design firm Droog.

“The strength of all our senses but our eyes has been decreasing,” she says. “In the synthesis of science and design, digital society and human behavior, technology and fashion there’s many ways to find to interact with our senses in new ways. I think people crave this new kind of tactile and sensorial depth, to experience our surroundings in more intense and intriguing ways, being challenged to explore.”

Of course, color-changing clothes are a visual signal, too, but on a different scale, plastered all over your body. Watching your t-shirt change color is harder to ignore than stats on a smartwatch, and a way to artificially heighten changes in the body–like a slight change in skin color–that we might normally miss.

“I wanted to create interaction between a wearer and his body that gives insight into the status of their health in a way that’s an extend of the body’s natural signals,” she says. “This means avoiding getting feedback in numbers or graphics but emphasizing the bio-information that we fail to notice.”

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At the moment, Soak is just a prototype. “I am open-minded about further development but currently just exploring to which industries and audiences it appeals and connects with,” says Routs. “Meanwhile, I am continuing my research in innovating fashion, and how we can embody technology in new ways.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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