This Self-Poofing Fabric Transforms from T-Shirt to Parka

Otherlab’s self-fluffing fabric changes its insulation in response to temperature
Evan Ackerman

A small team at Otherlab, which does all kinds of weird things, has been using ARPA-E funding to develop what they're calling "thermally adaptive materials." We'll call it self-poofing fabric, for its ability to dynamically change its insulation in response to temperature. The idea is that the fabric will provide a small amount of insulation when it's warm out, and then increase how insulating it is (by trapping more air) in response to colder temperatures. When you see the prototype fabric in action, it looks like magic.

What's most exciting about Otherlab's fabric is that it operates completely passively. There's no power source, no wiring, and no controls—nothing but a combination of common synthetic fibers, each of which has different thermal expansion characteristics.

It might take a minute or so for the fabric to transform itself from completely flat to completely poofed, and then another minute to go back, but that's certainly quick enough to be useful. At minimum poof, the fabric insulates you about as well as a heavy t-shirt. And at maximum poof, it's equivalent to heavy outdoor gear, nearly tripling its insulating ability in response to a temperature drop of 15  °C .

Since the fabric is made of commodity materials and the manufacturing process is just like that used to produce other fabrics, the team at Otherlab (including Brent Ridley, Jean Chang, and Leah Bryson) says it should be able to scale up from fabric samples to actual garments within the next year. 

Video Friday: Robots Rapping, RoboBoat Competition, and Wall-Avoiding Drone

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos
Image: Dylan F. Glas/JST ERATO Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project/ATR via YouTube
Japanese humanoid robot ERICA raps about machine learning.

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

European Robotics Forum – March 22-24, 2017 – Edinburgh, Scotland
NDIA Ground Robotics Conference – March 22-23, 2017 – Springfield, Va., USA
Automate – April 3-3, 2017 – Chicago, Ill., USA
ITU Robot Olympics – April 7-9, 2017 – Istanbul, Turkey
ROS Industrial Consortium – April 07, 2017 – Chicago, Ill., USA
U.S. National Robotics Week – April 8-16, 2017 – USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 18-20, 2017 – NASA KSC, Florida, USA
RoboBusiness Europe – April 20-21, 2017 – Delft, Netherlands
RoboGames 2017 – April 21-23, 2017 – Pleasanton, Calif., USA
ICARSC – April 26-30, 2017 – Coimbra, Portugal
AUVSI Xponential – May 8-11, 2017 – Dallas, Texas, USA
AAMAS 2017 – May 8-12, 2017 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Austech – May 9-12, 2017 – Melbourne, Australia
Innorobo – May 16-18, 2017 – Paris, France

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


The winner of the best video competition at HRI 2017 was this masterpiece from Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro (aka “The Man Who Made a Copy of Himself”) and colleagues Dylan F. Glas, Malcolm Doering,  Phoebe Liu, and  Takayuki Kanda from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto: