John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This high-tech garment detects the stares of rude people and instantly deploys shields.
Nobody likes being gawked at. Unfortunately, if you're noticeable in any tiny way in the city – you have better-or-worse-than-average looks, say, or you got wasted the other night and woke up with a hilarious facial tattoo – you're likely to interest a few rubberneckers who don't know it's impolite to stare.
This coat is designed to find them and neutralize their beady eyes. The "Covert Collar" is an "automated protective device" that springs into action when "something threatening or invasive presents itself," according to its creator, Claire Mitchell at New York University's ITP program. Look for it this fall on the racks of Agoraphobe Outfitters.
How's it work? The coat has a little camera stitched into its breast that scans the environment for what Mitchell calls "unwanted attention." When it locates a persistent starer, it activates a sort of turtleneck that flies over your face like an expanding accordion. Left with nothing but a black cloth to look at, the ogler turns away, and the triumphant Covert Collar owner walks off and smacks into a wall.
Well, that would be an assumption based on the fact that the collar extends all the way up to cover the entire head. Perhaps there's diaphanous fabric that the wearer can peer thought? Whatever: The painfully shy can tolerate a bruised forehead in the interest of preserving one's crucial privacy. Pair the Covert Collar up with the fog-emitting "Cloud Cloak" and this mirrored stealth cap, and you have the ultimate outfit for signaling people look away by sticking out like a sore thumb.