SimpliSafe social distancing sweater sounds siren when others get too close

"The only holiday sweater designed to keep loved ones apart while together."

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented sweaters. Enter the SimpliSafe Social Distancing Sweater, which sounds an alarm when other people get within 6 feet. 

The sweater for the COVID-19 era is a bit of creative PR for SimpliSafe, a purveyor of home security systems. The company did produce a working prototype of the pullover, however. 

"Remind your family that you're happy to see them, but happier 6 feet apart," says a promotional video for the outerwear. The video shows a man in a mask wearing the blue holiday sweater decorated with images of snowflakes -- and locks. When others approach, LED lights flash and the siren screeches. Understated fashion, this is not.   

SimpliSafe says its social distancing sweater is meant to bring a touch of levity to a challenging holiday season when many are forgoing their usual festive gatherings. For those who are celebrating around fellow humans, the sweater features motion sensors to determine when others are getting too close.  

"We use four low-resolution thermal cameras to monitor your entire perimeter," SimpliSafe explains. "The simple algorithm calculates the baseline background temperature and searches for a warm body in the vicinity."  

SimpliSafe gave away a limited number of the social distancing sweaters without the integrated tech, but it's published detailed instructions for those interested in upgrading their jumpers or making their own wired version from scratch. Got a microcontroller, a small speaker, a MicroSD card, LEDs, cable and an inline USB power switch in your box of tinkering toys? Experience with 3D printing, soldering and programming helps too. 

SimpliSafe is careful to include a number of legal disclaimers for the sweater, including the (hopefully) obvious one that no one should consider it foolproof virus protection. 

"The Social Distancing Sweater is intended as a fun holiday conversation piece and not as a serious COVID-19 prevention device. Please follow CDC guidelines as well as state and local laws and orders." 

This isn't the first garment that detects others in the vicinity. In 2018, advertising agency Ogilvy unveiled the Dress For Respect, a conceptual garment for the #MeToo era with sensors that measure where on the body, and when, the wearer is groped. 

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