Shut it all down, Google. We know you’ve been working hard with Levi’s to develop a touch-sensitive denim jacket of the future. But you really should have started with the pants.
Because Noti-fly, by studio Chaotic R&D, may be both the most hilarious and useful bit of wearable technology we’ve seen yet. What does it do? The only thing that really matters in the day-to-day world of fashion: It texts you if your fly is down.
To do so, the pants are woven with electronic fabric, and a flexible circuit board. This allows a fabric-based switch to be installed in both the button and the zipper. To turn the pants on, you simply button them up. And if the system notices that your button is closed but your zipper is down, you get a Bluetooth-based notification to close the groin gate.
Yes, Noti-fly is silly. But this conceptual alerting zipper, ever cognizant of your potential for social embarrassment, is also a demonstration of a greater idea of design—invisible (or zero) UI. Noti-fly demands nothing of you, the user. While platforms like Fitbit subtly beg for our attention, alerting us to log into apps, see bar charts of our activity, and share them across social media, Noti-fly pants ask nothing of you. They are just a pair of pants that work like any other, while all of its sensors and radio signals we don’t see are constantly chatting to ensure our lives run smoothly.
In this sense, a zany zipper-sensing technology is actually a lot more feasible, and scalable, than you'd think. As our world becomes smarter, it would do well to remember the old adage: It’s always better to listen more than you speak.