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'Computerised fabrics' in clothes could charge phones

image captionThe fabric could be used to charge a mobile phone, the researchers say

Clothes that change their colour and shape depending on the wearer's movement are being developed by researchers at a Canadian university.

The project - dubbed Karma Chameleon - involves weaving electronic fabric into clothes in a way that allows the storage of energy from the body.

Uses for the technology include a dress that "changes itself", and a shirt which can charge a phone.

However, it could be decades before the clothes are available to buy.

"We won't see such garments in stores for another 20 or 30 years, but the practical and creative possibilities are exciting," said Prof Joanna Berzowska, of the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

"Our goal is to create garments that can transform in complex and surprising ways - far beyond reversible jackets, or shirts that change colour in response to heat."

Concept designs

Many researchers around the world are looking at smart fabrics in various shapes and forms.

In the military, British soldiers' uniforms could soon use electrically conducting yarn woven directly into the clothing, replacing cumbersome batteries and cabling.

Other innovations include the possibility of clothes which are able to warm the wearer - opening up the chance of wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts in the winter months.

Although the garments designed by Ms Berzowska and team are still years from being made available, prototype designs have been developed to show the concepts in action.

One other suggested use is as a performance device - where the state and shape of the fabric is controlled by someone other than the wearer.

Ms Berzowska's ideas will be presented at a conference dedicated to smart fabric innovation to be held in San Francisco this week.

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