Rafe Needleman: At an auto show a few years ago, I saw an exhibit that featured a custom-painted Mustang on a rotating turntable. As the light played across it, the car changed color in front of my eyes, from green to purple and back again. I was transfixed.
Nowadays you see flip-flop paint schemes more frequently, and even clothing that shifts color as the light changes. But people will soon be able to change the color of garments electronically.
In 2001 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency jump-started a project to accelerate the development of electronic textiles. It’s looking for, among other things, military uniforms that can adapt to different environments, providing on-the-fly camouflage for soldiers. One of the beneficiaries of the DARPA project is International Fashion Machines, which was founded by Maggie Orth to do fundamental research in this field.