Article Lead Image

Photo by Ying Gao

These mood-sensing interactive dresses shut down if they see you smile

These two high concept dresses move like microbes, at least until they see you smile.


John-Michael Bond


Posted on Jun 15, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 2:46 pm CDT

Taken to its extreme, fashion is a form of fine art, where function takes a backseat to the visual goals of the creators. In the case of designer Ying Gao’s pieces “Can’t” and “Won’t,” fashion is equal parts art and technological marvel. These two dresses are based upon the aesthetic and motion of microbial life, there’s just a catch. While these dresses will drift and sway with an angelic grace, they’ll only do it when your facial expression is completely neutral.

Utilizing robotic actuators and a facial recognition sensor, the two dresses shut down the moment an onlooker shows even a hint of emotion. Gao’s motivation for creating the pieces was to address the concept of “false neutrality.”

The “Can’t” and “Won’t” dresses push the notion of a false neutrality a bit further by asking the on-looker, who is usually highly solicited, reactive and emotional, to maintain a stoic attitude and posture. It is only on this condition that the garment’s “life” is prolonged, having already been set in motion by the visitor’s presence; it demands a level of humility clearly out of synch with today’s over-the-top expressiveness.

You can see the dresses in motion below in this video of the project. Sadly it will be a long time before dresses like this hit the market for your next cotillion or prom. Hopefully, this meshing of tech and high fashion inspires a world of “living” dresses. If you’re curious you can find more of Ying Gao’s artwork on his website.


Share this article
*First Published: Jun 15, 2016, 3:13 pm CDT