There are many imperfect aspects of riding public transportation, no matter which city you live in. Too much touching is undoubtably one of them. At times, the amount and inappropriateness of physical contact with strangers raises the offense from an annoyance to an issue of sexual harassment or gender-based marginalization. Such was the case for one young female artist named Kathleen McDermott.
The bold artist, who is currently finishing up her MFA in Hong Kong, created what's called a "Personal Space Dress," a technologically-enhanced garment that prevents potential squishers, squeezers and neck-breathers from getting too close. The motorized dress has proximity sensors built in, and when they detect someone invading the wearer's personal space, they trigger a plastic scaffolding around the dress' hem to expand.
The dress is the second in a series of projects called Urban Armor, which aim to help women own their space in public arenas that often attempt to deny this right. As McDermott explains in the project statement: "The series arose partly out of my concern over the persistence of ideologies asserted at women in public space through advertising, architecture and socially normative behavior. I began to look for ways women could take more ownership over their personal space in public."
McDermott was interested in employing wearable technology to achieve her means, noticing most previous efforts in this particular field were geared toward wealthy young professionals. "Taking a photo of your sky diving experience while wearing Google Glass is awesome, but it’s really a small minority of the population that will have this experience," she explained to Fast Company. "I wanted to explore how wearable technology could impact your physical world, and help the wearers, specifically women, exercise more control over their surroundings."
Eventually, McDermott hopes to craft a library of devices, complete with the instructions and code that would allow individuals from around the world to download Urban Armor for themselves. Other Urban Armor projects include a scarf with a built-in pollution sensor and a hat that detects CCTV and turns on infrared blockers.
Although McDermott's high tech formalwear doesn't solve the problems women face on a daily basis regarding sexual harassment, the creative endeavor is an innovative way to raise awareness. See images of the dress below and click here to get involved and help move McDermott's project forward.