Two people is playing on the table cloth

2016-02-08 14:30

The world's first musical tablecloth

Smart Textiles has created a floral tablecloth in a retro pattern – which includes both a drum set and piano keys that can actually be played, even though they are only printed on the fabric! The secret is textile sensors.

In this case, being allowed to play at the dinner table is a positive thing – literally! There is a chance to unleash your creativity between the main course and dessert by playing both drums and piano, printed directly on the tablecloth! Smart Textiles researchers Li Guo and Mats Johansson are behind the research.

"We wanted to combine sound and textiles and visualise the possibilities of textile sensors in a fun way. Since I'm interested in music, we decided to make a musical tablecloth", says Mats Johansson.

In the 1980s he was already experimenting with such things as piezoelectric buzzers – small electrical components that were sewn into jeans and that worked as a portable drum kit. To start a concert, it was enough to clap your hands on your thighs. Li Guo holds a doctorate in textile sensors and is studying methods of integrating them into garments. The musical tablecloth arose when Li's research was combined with Mats' ideas. The tablecloth contains conductive thread embroidered with so-called conductive fibre which, when touched, converts the touch to signals.

The technology is far from fully developed, but it is expected to have an infinite number of uses in the future. In fact it will change our whole attitude to textiles and technology. Sensors enable us to switch on music, heating or cooling. Li thinks that adding this kind of functionality to textiles and clothing is the future of textile development in the Western world.

"Applying conductive sensors to clothing is the future of portable technology. Everyone has a watch, but you might not wear it every day. However, you always wear clothes", says Li.

We will see textile sensors in clothing that are able to monitor and send data as part of educational activities in teaching environments or as an aid in care for the elderly. Solutions consisting of sensors in fabric have several advantages: the surfaces are soft and comfortable and absorb sound. Fabric is also easy to transport and store because it takes up very little space".