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3D-printed dress exposes your body as you reveal data

An NYU graduate student explores what it means to expose ourselves online by creating a dress that translates data sharing into real-life exposure.

When wearing the x.pose dress, you'll want to be careful how much data you're sharing online. Xuedi Chen and Pedro Oliveira

Think "online" and "naked" and a certain class of dubious websites might spring to mind. But graduate student and maker Xuedi Chen has linked real-world nakedness with online exposure in a completely unique way.

Using 3D printing, Chen, along with collaborator Pedro Oliveira, has created a dress that has 20 hand-cut reactive displays built into a black, flexible mesh that change from opaque to transparent as more data about herself is shared online. She calls the dress "x.pose" and created it for New York University's Thesis Week, during which students at the school's Interactive Telecommunications Program unveil creations made during their final project seminars.

To achieve the "now you see it, now you don't" effect of the dress, Chen first created a mobile app using Node.js and PhoneGap to track her data trail over about a month's time. This resulted in a set of information that she translated into the dress' design, which was created using Rhino and output through a 3D printer. She then embedded the changeable panels into the black webbing.

"The panels are made of smart film, or electrochromic film," Chen told Crave. "It's used most commonly for privacy glass. "The film is opaque when off, and running a specific amount of electricity through it 'switches' it to transparent in microseconds."

Data from the app on her phone is transmitted to the dress via Bluetooth, and an Arduino processor handles sending the charge that changes the panels from a milky white to clear -- depending on where Chen is and how much data she's giving away about herself in real time.

"These displays are divided up into patches that represent neighborhoods and change in opacity depending on the wearer's current location," says information on the Behance project page. "If she is in the NYU neighborhood, that area will be the most active, pulsing, revealing her current location, revealing the fact that her data is being collected and at the same time exposing her skin. As her data emissions are collected, the more transparent and exposed she will become."

"By participating in this hyper-connected society while having little to no control of my digital data production, how much of myself do I unknowingly reveal?" Chen asks on her project's webpage. "To what degree does the aggregated metadata collected from me paint an accurate portrait of who I am as a person? What aspects of my individuality are reflected in this portrait? x.pose is my exploration of these questions. Since I have already ceded control of my data, I wanted to go a step further and broadcast it for anyone and everyone to see."

Including you ...