Björk showcases the comfy future of 3D printed fashion

3D printed clothing that is both form-fitting and comfortable to wear is heading for the mainstream thanks to technology showcased today by the artist Björk.

The 3D-printable material, Nano Enhanced Elastomeric Technology (NEET), has been developed by 3D printing giant Stratasys and will be available commercially later this year.

Today it is been used in a mask developed with the company’s multi-material 3D printing technology, which is designed to perfectly mimic Björk’s musculoskeletal structure using 3D scans of her face. The mask is called Rottlace, a variant on the Icelandic word for skinless.

“Inspired by their biological counterpart and conceived as ‘muscle textiles’, the mask is a bundled, multi-material structure, providing formal and structural integrity, as well as movement to the face and neck,” said mask designer Professor Neri Oxman, from MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group.

Image courtesy of Matt Carasella. Featured image courtesy of Santiago Felipe

The Pangolin 3D printed dress, designed by threeASFOUR. Image courtesy of Matt Carasella. Featured image courtesy of Santiago Felipe

Despite being made of several materials, including NEET, which allows it to stretch, the mask was printed in one sitting, meaning the technology could be used for custom manufacturing on a significant scale.

For Oxman, however, it could also allow high-end clothing and textiles designers to stretch the limits of their creativity.

“Multi-material 3D printing enables the production of elaborate combinations of graded properties, distributed over geometrically complex structures within a single object,” she said. “With Rottlace, we designed the mask as a synthetic ‘whole without parts’.”

Björk performed in the mask at an event streamed in VR at the Tokyo Miraikan Museum, as part of a virtual reality project dubbed BJÖRK DIGITAL, which finishes on 18th July.

She also wore a 3D printed dress that uses the material on 4th June, during a performance in Sydney as part of the project. Named Pangolin, the dress was designed by avant-garde fashion collective threeASFOUR, which has produced several 3D printed garments with Stratasys using the NEET material, and was originally launched earlier this year at New York Fashion week.

Featuring intricate interlocking panels, the garments looks carefully and expensively tailored, but with a fit and feel that makes it comfortable to wear.

If the technology becomes widely available, it could be revolutionary for fashion.

Despite its potential, 3D printed clothing has so far been restricted jewellery and accessories, with the few 3D printed garments available sacrificing looks for functionality.

However Stratasys’ technology could change that, and the company is planning plenty more showcases to further adoption.

“The Rottlace mask was designed for Björk while we are also working with Neri on a larger mask collection for Stratasys, which will debut later this year under the title ‘The New Ancient’,” says Naomi Kaempfer, Stratasys creative director of art, fashion and design.

“It’s an honor to see visionaries such as Björk embrace 3D printing for the expression of her art. This technology not only provides the freedom to produce perfect fitting costumes for the film and music industries, but also the inimitable capacity to materialize a unique fantasy to such a precise level of detail and 3D expression.”

60% of primate species threatened with extinction

A new study has called for urgent action to protect the world’s rapidly dwindling primate populations after figures revealed that 60% of the world’s primate species are threatened with extinction. There are over 500 currently recognised primate species, with the percentage considered at risk having increased by 20% since 1996.

The study draws attention to the incredible impact that humans have placed on primate environments. Agriculture, logging, construction, resource extraction and other human activities have all placed escalating and unsustainable pressure on the animals’ habitats, and are predicted to only worsen over the next 50 years.

Unless immediate action is taken, the scientists predict numerous extinctions.

“In 1996 around 40% of the then recognised primate taxa were threatened. The increase to 60% at present is extremely worrying and indicates that more conservation efforts are needed to halt this increase,” says Serge Wich, professor by special appointment of Conservation of the Great Apes at the University of Amsterdam.

Interestingly, one of the main suggestions for helping the primates is first helping humans. Most primates live in regions characterised by high levels of poverty and inequality, a fact that the study authors believe leads to greater hunting and habitat loss.

They suggest that immediate actions should be taken to improve health and access to education, develop sustainable land-use initiatives, and preserve traditional livelihoods that can contribute to food security and environmental conservation.

While it may be tragic to some, it could be easy to see the loss of these primates as unimportant to humans. However, it is important to note that the non-human primates’ biological relation to humans offers unique insights into human evolution, biology, behaviour and the threat of emerging diseases.

Additionally, these species serve as key components of tropical biodiversity and contribute to forest regeneration and ecosystem health. If they are struck by mass extinction, it is hard to predict the impact it could have on their ecosystems.

“‘If we are unable to reduce the impact of our activities on primates, it is difficult to foresee how we will maintain this fantastic diversity of our closest relatives in the near future,” added Wich. “That will not only be a great loss from a scientific point of view, but will also have a negative influence on the ecosystems that we all rely so much upon. It is therefore important to drastically change from the business as usual scenarios to more sustainable ones.”

The threat posed to delicate ecosystems by human expansion is nothing new, but it is perhaps shocking to have such a blunt figure out there as to the damage being caused.

More than half of these species – species that are far closer to us than we may be comfortable discussing – could die unless current policy is reversed.

The study’s authors have called on authorities across the world to take action and raise awareness of the issues raised.

The article itself is published in the latest edition of the journal Science Advances.

Mark Zuckerberg: VR goal is still 5-10 years away

Mark Zuzkerberg has said that the true goal of virtual reality could still be a decade away, in a testimony during a high-profile court case against his company.

Facebook, as owner of Oculus, is currently in the middle of being sued by ZeniMax Media for allegedly stealing technology for the virtual reality device. If proved guilty, they will be pursued for the amount of $2bn by ZeniMax.  However, perhaps more pertinent to the actual future of virtual reality are comments arising from Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony.

As it currently stands, virtual reality is still a far cry from being integrated into everyday life on a wide scale. Oculus, HTC Vive and Playstation VR are still largely targeting gamers and the idea of entertainment experiences. While they have found varying levels of success, all three platforms are being held back by the youth of the technology and, in the case of Vive and Oculus, the limited by the need for a high performing computer to plug into.

Image and featured image courtesy of Oculus

“I don’t think that good virtual reality is fully there yet,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s going to take five or 10 more years of development before we get to where we all want to go.”

The revelation isn’t a particularly shocking one; even the most ardent believer in virtual reality has to admit that we’re a fair way off the goal. Indeed, we can be seen as being in the first wave of mainstream virtual reality, with the main players in the tech using gaming as a way to introduce the technology to a group that are most likely to be interested from the off.

Zuckerberg has far grander plans than simply expanding the user base however, as seen with projects such as Facebook Social VR. If games are the entry, the idea is to expand virtual reality to become a whole new computing platform used for a bevy of experiences and containing a whole load of tools. The ambition is high, the reality slightly lagging behind.

Mark Zuckerberg with Priscilla Chan in 2016

When asked about the realisation of VR as this new computing platform, Zuckerberg replied: “These things end up being more complex than you think up front. If anything, we may have to invest even more money to get to the goals we had than we had thought up front.”

He then went on to add that the probable investment for Facebook to reach that goal is likely to top the $3bn mark over the next ten years. Considering the social media giant spent $2bn just to acquire Oculus, this represents a truly colossal investment in something that seemed to be initially set to hit a lot sooner. Admittedly the goal is rather grand: providing hundreds of millions of people with a good virtual reality experience transcending gaming alone.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s very important that you know that Mark Zuckerberg did in fact wear a suit to trial. Whether Palmer Luckey, making his first public appearance since his Gamergate/Trump support scandal last year, will manage to ditch the flip flops when he testifies is yet to be seen.