Smart fibres, fabrics, and clothing
So long tennis racket; goodbye cricket bat. Last year, a team of Australian researchers announced they had created an "air guitar" that actually makes music. CSIRO's "wearable instrument shirt" consists of a shirt with a sensors embedded in it, which pick up the movements made when a wearer picks chords and strums his or her imaginary instrument. Custom software translates the movements into a signal which is wirelessly relayed to a computer for audio generation (no leads to cramp the player's style.) It may not be exactly what the music world needs right now and it takes the fun out of playing your tennis racket with your teeth, but it does point the way to just how strange the world of technical textiles have become.
Textiles have actually been at the forefront of technological development for a while: weaving was the first industry to be fully mechanised and was the catalyst to the Industrial Revolution. The invention of nylon in 1937 led to the synthetic revolution of the 1950s and 60s. But today, the new fibres and textiles being created through advances in electronics, chemistry and, more recently, nanotechnology are taking textiles into realms way beyond their conventional applications of protection and fashion.