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This Robotic Dress Fights for Your Personal Space

It expands like a balloon to drive unwanted creepsters away.

Kathleen McDermott

Ladies: Ever have a dude approach on the subway looking like he wants to climb you like a tree? Perhaps you'll be interested in this futuristic dress, then, that automatically wards away creepsters by expanding like a big balloon.

The "Personal Space Dress" is an experimental garment created by Kathleen McDermott, a Hong Kong-based designer who's making a line of "playful wearable electronics which investigate the ways women experience public space." The way it works is that two sensors mounted on the dress detect when a foreign presence draws near. They then activate a plastic armature that slowly pushes out the dress, like opening an umbrella upside down, until anyone standing too close is pushed to a safe distance. When the sensors detect the coast is clear, the dress deflates back to normal size.

The always-engaging Fashioning Tech dubs the invention "fun and silly perhaps but who doesn't love the idea of an animatronic dress." Should you want to build your own, grab a soldering gun and dig into these directions. Fans of such proactive outerwear might also enjoy McDermott's other high-tech gear for women, like a veil that blinds CCTV cameras and a scarf that leaps over the face when it senses pollution.

Top image from Kathleen McDermott's Urban Armor project

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.