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Project Primrose: Presentation by researcher Christine Dierk at the Adobe MAX Conference 2023 in Los Angeles, Image © Adobe
Project Primrose, Images © Christine Dierk / Adobe

In the creative industry, the programmes from Adobe have a broad user base. The same users of Photoshop, Indesign, Premiere & Co. are also the target group of the annual “Adobe MAX” conference, which took place most recently from 10 to 12 October in Los Angeles.

Among the multitude of lectures and presentations, one event caused a particular stir: Christine Dierk, who works as a computer scientist and new media designer in the Adobe labs, presented her „Projekt Primrose“ on her own body – in the form of an interactive dress. Scaly flakes on the front of this dress, which at first appeared to be conventional sequins, turned out during the presentation to be digitally controllable pixels, a textile display to show light-dark patterns. Even more amazing than the change between different static patterns were dynamic and even interactive patterns that reacted to the wearer’s movements like a viscous fluid.

Behind this fascinating show effect are recent advances in smart materials. They no longer enable displays only on flat surfaces, but literally integrated into the fabric of everyday life. Dierk developed her “reflective light diffuser modules for non-emitting flexible display systems” with the help of polymer-based liquid crystals (PDLC), such as those produced by Merck in Darmstadt. Such electroactive materials are used, among other things, in smart glasses that can change their transparency at the touch of a button. The flexible material can be cut into any shape. It does not generate light, but scatters incident light dynamically and therefore consumes hardly any electricity. Part of the Primrose project was also the connection of the display elements to Adobe software in order to be able to seamlessly create content: Of course, also with the help of generative artificial intelligence (AI) integrated into the programmes, the use of which was also widely propagated at the conference.

Does the presented dress now have the “potential to revolutionise the fashion industry”, as Adobe writes? Perhaps, but just as likely, if not more obvious, is the use of such technologies in other areas of design – from classic product design to automotive design to urban design. After all, all kinds of surfaces, whether of furniture, cars or buildings, could be transformed into large displays with low energy consumption, designed adaptively or filled with dynamic content.

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