There are plenty of Bluetooth enabled jackets out there, and many of them are even helpful to the people who wear them. However, most are designed for lighting up or for alerts, unlike the Flame 5, which is meant to be used for communication and communication enhancement. The jacket literally heats up in various places according to settings, and can start to warm at a single word. So, for example, the jacket could be set to heat up at the words ‘I Love you’. While having almost no practical use for most adults, it could be used for kids with autism to help give stimulus rewards for good behavior for those that don’t like to be touched.
The Flame 5
The Flame 5 jacket was designed by the Ambient Group and Fraunhofer IPSI, both of whom are well known for creating wearable tech textiles and garments. The Flame 5 was a direct collaboration between researcher Richard Etter, Fashion designer Nina Marquet, and two research assistants Eugene Berlin and Vitaliy Rapp. The jacket was created as a configurable heat communication device that works using a mobile phone control. In fact, the device can be configured by any phone with Bluetooth that has been set up with the jacket, meaning that anyone who buys the Flame 5 can use it with their existing smartphone.
The jacket features heat panels across the chest, belly, arms, and back that can be used to warm the jacket and send a heat signal to the wearer. Heat relaxes the body, sometimes eases pain, and creates a sense of comfort, making it the perfect sense with which to communicate. In the jacket, the person who controls the app controls where the heat comes from, when, and why. Heated panels can be set to activate at specific words or sentences or from the app.
How Does it Work
The Flame 5 incorporates lightweight heating elements through the fabric that connect to a circuit board on the back. The circuit board is powered by a small battery pack and connects to a Bluetooth module that operates and controls the heating elements in the jacket. The entire system can be easily pulled out of the jacket (with the waterproof heating elements as an exception) so that it can be washed in a conventional washing machine.
The heating elements are designed to create gentle and nearly imperceptible heat to stimulate and add to sensory emotions like love, happiness, and safety. They were also designed to be as lightweight as possible so that wearing the Flame 5 feels just like wearing a standard jacket.
So far the Flame 5 has been worn on the catwalk at the Siggraph wearable fashion show, has been covered in a variety of magazines, and even worn by a couple of hot models. It looks cool, does cool things, but for the most part, is completely impractical to the majority of people. However, as first pointed out, it could be a miracle in the field of autism, especially for schools like the Princeton Child Development Institute that works with autistic children and adults to develop life skills. Heat communication could be used to offer better stimulus to help kids learn faster.
What do you think? Is the Flame 5 cool or a waste of space?