This dress can read your mind and changes shape accordingly

It's like wearing your neurons on your sleeve.

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.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

No, you can't buy this at Target. 

Yanni de Melo

If you'd rather keep what's going on in your brain right there inside your head, Dutch "fashiontech" designer Anouk Wipprecht's latest creation isn't for you. It's a dress that moves and lights up according to your brainwaves. Feeling calm? The garment lights up a slow, soothing purple. Stressed out? The lights flicker, and little motor-driven components jutting out from the futuristic frock like animatronic wings flap more frantically.  

The 3D-printed robotic dress, called the Pangolin dress, requires wearing a custom head-hugging brain computer interface that incorporates 1,204 tiny electroencephalography sensors resembling scales covering a pangolin's skin. 

The cap, which looks like something an android would wear in a sci-fi film, translates the brain's electrical signals to 64 actuators that control little "scales" on the dress that move up and down and light up according to the state of the model. The wearer therefore partners with the dress, which behaves differently depending on whose neurons are guiding it. 


A model gets fitted with the custom brain computer interface. 

Sarah Breinbauer

"As each of the BCI inputs is connected to each one of the actuators, this gives a very individual animation of the dress," says Wipprecht, who sees the Pangolin dress as a novel way to visualize the complexities of the brain. Her past creations have included a robotic dress equipped with proximity sensors so the garment can defend your personal space if others get too close and a Faraday cage dress that takes a million volts of electricity.

The Pangolin dress will walk the runway during the annual Ars Electronica festival for arts, technology and society in Linz, Austria, this week. Because COVID-19 safety precautions limit the number of people who can gather in public, this year's event will take place simultaneously at 120 locations around the world. You can also watch the event online. 

The Institute for Integrated Circuits at Johannes Kepler University Linz and neurotechnology company G.tec developed the BCI, and Wipprecht fashioned the dress from a durable yet lightweight nylon material. With all its sensors and wires, this isn't a dress you toss on for a quick trip to the drugstore, but like Wipprecht's other data-driven wearables, it's an intriguing look at what we might be wearing one day as technology and fashion merge. If the coronavirus pandemic ever ends and we finally get out of our sweatpants, that is...