Intel’s Spider Dress lashes out when words are not enough

I am terrified of spiders. Believe me, I wish I wasn’t, but there is something about their lithe, delicate legs that sends me shivering. I know they can’t hurt me — at least, most of them can’t — but they still have this menacing nature that makes me want to run the other way. One tiny bend of a talon-like leg, and I am done.

Dutch “fashiontech” designer Anouk Wipprecht understands the innate power of spider legs. In a recent collaboration with tech company Intel Edison, Wipprecht designed a piece of smart wearable technology called the Spider Dress. Made entirely with a 3-D printer, the dress uses “wireless biometric signals” to detect the wearer’s breath pattern, and from there infers the wearer’s emotional state. Intel IQ’s managing editor, Ken Kaplan, explains that the dress’ system can “differentiate between 12 states of behavior” thanks to the microsensors.

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In other words, if the person’s breath quickens, the legs react as if the person is afraid, and lash out instantly. The legs are also programmed to do this if someone approaches the wearer too quickly. Wipprecht describes this use of technology to Intel IQ’s managing editor, Ken Kaplan, as such: “Spider Dress acts as the interface between the body and the external world. It uses technology and the garment as a medium of interaction.”

As much as this dress captivates me, even seduces me, the fact that our society might need such a contraption is devastating. We live in a world where our words are often never enough; we have to prove that these are our feelings and desires. If a woman does not want sexual attention, she can’t just say “no;” she has to verify her conviction until there is absolutely no doubt that she might mean otherwise. The problem is, with the prevalence of rape culture, our society puts more faith in that doubt than a woman’s word.

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Wipprecht knew what she was doing when she designed this dress. She uses the terrifying elegance of the design to mesmerize us, and then she uses the strength of her work to call attention to the words that we so easily dismiss. Anouk explains: “Fashion and tech are merging at the moment, beyond blinking dresses or cute skirts. I’m showing how fashion can be thought provoking, something that pushes people to think and share their feelings.”

The true power of the Spider Dress, however, is not what it pushes the wearer to do, but what it pushes us as a society to reflect upon. If we respect robotic arms more than a woman’s words, then we have some serious problems.


Image: Courtesy Jason Perry


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