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BRIA in the Department of Informatics

Working in collaboration with Dr Matthew Howard, Lecturer in Informatics (Robotics), The Brooke Roberts Innovation Agency (BRIA) were resident in the Department of Informatics from 2017–18 on a project exploring digital knitwear design and the development of experimental ‘wearable’ textiles.

BRIA X King’s – Experimental smart textiles

Experimental smart textiles was a collaborative project focused on combining the project team’s expertise in digital knitwear design and sensor-embedded yarns with the ongoing ‘wearables’ research of Dr Matthew Howard and his team at King’s. The project involved experimenting with various materials and knitting techniques to create a variety of textiles using industrial knitting machines. The ‘wearables’ sensed, actuated and captured human behavioural data through embedded sensors in the materials.

Film by Gemma Riggs

One of the greatest challenges in the ‘wearables’ sector today is how to achieve both aesthetics and functionality in textiles. During the project, BRIA have collaborated with roboticists at King’s in order for their creative process to be informed by informatics research. In turn, BRIA’s artistic practice brings new ideas and approaches to experimental textile design.

The project team work with multiple materials and knitting structures, using electrical testing equipment in the Department of Informatics to analyse the experimental fabrics' properties.

BrookeRobots-model1-420Image courtesy of Emma Gibney 

As part of the project, BRIA and Matthew delivered knitting workshops for students in the Wheatstone Lab, Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences, a shared working, making and learning facility at King's, which allowed them the opportunity to integrate knitting techniques and textile construction into their materials research and practice.

The smart textiles created during the project were presented at the V&A Museum during the Digital Design Weekend 2017 as well as at the E-Stitches workshop programme, also at the V&A Museum.

The outcomes of the project were showcased in the King's Artists – New Thinking, New Making exhibition in the Arcade at Bush House, 23 October – 15 December 2018.

Project team

Brooke Roberts-Islam of BRIA is a digital knitwear designer and consultant, who also has over a decade of experience as a diagnostic radiographer within the NHS. She is co-director of the Brooke Roberts Innovation Agency (BRIA) who create materials-tech collaborations, products and installations with brands from both the fashion and technology sectors.

She is passionate about combining science, technology and fashion in her own work and has also achieved this through collaborations with the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, amongst others, and has spoken about experimental textiles at events, including the Wired Next Generation conference and the launch of London Technology Week in 2016.  

Further to this, Brooke has recently started developing ‘smart textiles’ and ‘wearables’ through her own agency, Brooke Roberts Ltd, for a number of fashion labels and businesses, directly combining her knowledge of the latest developments in the fashion-technology sector with her cross-discipline approach to developing new materials. 

In addition to her design and materials development work, Brooke is a fashion-technology blogger for the Huffington Post UK and her own blog, Techstyler, lending opinion and sharing interviews from the crossroads of fashion-technology, from a fashion designer’s perspective. In 2013, Brooke was voted onto The Hospital Club’s 100 list of the most influential and innovative creatives in the UK, as well as being voted onto KPMG's Shift 100 list for retail technology entrepreneurs in 2017.

More information about Brooke and her work can be found on her website.

Dr Matthew Howard is a Lecturer in Informatics (Robotics) in the Department of Informatics at King's, and a member of the  Centre for Robotics Research (CoRe) where he leads the  Robot Learning Lab.

Prior to this, he was a JSPS postdoctoral research fellow at the  Y. Nakamura Lab, in the Department of Mechano-Informatics, at the University of Tokyo, and a member of the  Statistical Machine Learning and Motor Control group in the Institute for Perception, Action and Behaviour in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. At Edinburgh, he was involved in the European  STIFF Project investigating various aspects of human and robotic impedance control.

Matthew completed his PhD in 2009 under the supervision of Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, where he worked in collaboration with the  Honda Research Institute Europe in Offenbach, Germany. His primary research interests are machine learning for control, especially as applied to robotics. This includes learning kinematics and dynamics, approximate optimal control and reinforcement learning.

More information about Matthew’s work can be found on his website.

Additional partners for the project were Stoll GB Ltd, Kniterate, and the V&A Museum.

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