Interface is a word which indicates an interactive surface mostly a screen in between a human and a machine, usually a computer. It is a medium, an in between. You can interact with a machine using an interface, but what you do is interacting with the interface.
Interface design is used for websites, to make the use easy. The information is divided over different pages but should be found fast. The links on the screen are the “buttons” you can push with your mouse.
Interface as a word consist of inter and face. The face is clearly the face of a human being: there you get information about emotion and it is this face which smiles or gets angry and from this face are coming words, that is meaning.
For e-textile the interface is the textile itself, or the electronics embedded where you can interact. The double layer of textile and electronics is “the machine”. The machine is more than only the electronics, because the textile can be reactive too, eg light up, change color, change shape. The interactivity can consist of buttons, sensors and screens, LED’s, but also wireless connections to other e-textiles (modularic friends) or computers (Solar rim dress).
The coming example is more electronics than textile, but it displays nicely the main point of this text. A 4 line display is wrapped in textile to soften the electronic shape. On the screen all is done to get a more lively expression on this rather dull display. But the display overpowers all efforts imposing its rectangular look and feel.
Most of the electronics, like this LCD screens are “hard” that is rectangular, also the LED matrix is rectangular and the lines of LED’s which I made by hand, soldering wires from one LED to the other where either rectangular or geometric, that is a circle:
Geometrical use of LED’s, a circle in http://www.instructables.com/id/Sun-dress/ A display of 64 led’s shows sun activity on a dress.
The idea for a scarf which i am making is to have an alcohol sensor, and display the level of alcohol in the neighborhood. (Usually that is the person who is wearing it.). The first approach was expanding on an earlier e-scarf.
I already made an “e-scarf” to indicate pollution, see :https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/259963
But the idea for this scarf which should help in recycling was to have the electronics as small as possible, what was done using a small LED-bar – which is rectangular, one dimensional.
For a bigger effect in the following alcohol sensor scarf I used a LED strip i made myself ( http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-a-flexible-ring-of-LEDs/ )in a second knitting of the same (pink) scarf:
I have made the same LED bar effect only bigger, but because it is longer, with over 40 led’s, i have coded a double display in this LED strip: one with an indication of the absolute value and one which indicates the change. By using invert, these two values cn be followed in one led strip. This is double use of one single dimension.
These DIY led strips are flexible (although fragile, the DIY soldering is not really bend proof), but the machine made led strips which you can buy everywhere nowadays are much more robust and flexible.
For the knitting of this alcohol sensor scarf I used the image of a wine glass as motive and inserted such an industrially made programmable LED – strip:
(This scarf was knitted in positive and negative.)
I started orderly making the led strip follow the shape. But the led strip twisted while inserting and the effect was totally different from the “rectangular” display of the former scarf. This can only be seen in a movie:
Even with a simple running theme programmed faster and slower and in different colors the whole perception of the effect is changed. The effect is like cars driving on motorways at night, or a fly speeding through your room, trying to escape. This feeling is present even on this surface which is lying on a table and is still rectangular. If a person is wearing the scarf this effect will be on a curved plane, where parts are hidden.
This is, in my opinion an example of what will happen everywhere in the future: not only the rectangular surfaces, but all 3D – that is curved surfaces, like the body, will became interfaces.This could be called: interbody instead of interface. Interface is still referring to this small screen, the “face” where everything is globally clear.
But not only clothing, but also walls, chairs, tables will participate in the tendency of becoming interfaces. The notion of the interface as computerscreen will disappear, embedded electronics will make everything react.
This could be called interspace.
The only problem is our brain. We are pretty good at one dimensional information, like text. This one dimension is often time. Time allows the brain to process information bit by bit. The brain is also not bad in 2D situations, like pictures. Half of the brain is processing visual information, which comes in between 2D and 3D, because the brain also uses the movement of both the eyes and the head.
Besides that: surfaces, even if there are curved, like waves on the ocean, can be made rectangular locally. Compare the strategy of the mathematician who deals with a complex 3D manifold: the manifold is defined as being locally rectangular, thus allowing for “normal” vectors, vector functions and vector fields in small area’s. If the manifold is nice you can even connect these rectangular surfaces and you can easily arrive at our experienced (flat) space.
In e-textiles which are 3D using dimensions of tactility of materials, shape/color, movement reactions you end up in a far more complex “space”, which is far from rectangular.
So the development of an e-textile interbody or even interspace is developing an environment which is fundamentally different from everything before which was reduced to local rectangular geometry, because we go the other way, not back towards a locally rectangular surface, but in the direction of complexity.
The question is where to go for meaning, setting up references for this “other” interactivity paradise which is developed at the moment. It is a direction which is always avoided. Where every logic – because this is rectangular – fails.