Wearable displays have been used to make a high-tech game of tag, and some have been made into tattoos. One tinkerer in Arizona decided to make one that could be worn as a jacket and show his favorite characters from The Simpsons.
David Forbes, an electrical engineer by trade, wanted to build something really cool to wear at the Burning Man festival. So he re-purposed a relatively simple flexible circuit board covered with LEDs. He made the first with 30 rows of four LEDs each and then contracted a manufacturer to build 175 more of them. He attached them to an old coat and was able to build a display with a 160 x 120 resolution, which he notes on his blog is exactly half that of an iPod.
Part of the set-up is the same kind of chip used to scale down the images for security cameras, and another is the same type of chip used to control the big LED signs used for advertisements. Adding a small set of circuits that convert the video output of the iPod to the smaller resolution, he was able to put together his wearable display.
The only down side seems to be getting through airports. Forbes also noted that he wasn’t able to create a pair of pants, as the curves over the thighs proved complicated. But he has designed vests.
If you want a coat like this it will be expensive, largely due to the cost of the LEDs. For $39,995 Forbes will make you one that is a full wrap-around display; a front-only will set you back $24,995. Wait time is about four months.
Besides creating a walking billboard one idea is to attach a camera that transmits a picture of the scene on one side of the wearer, creating a kind of optical camouflage. On the other hand, it could be great dance club wear — this might be a big seller among trance music and Daft Punk fans.