Students Commandeer Katy Perry’s Skirt

When twenty New Media majors traveled with faculty member Mike Scott to Europe last October, they knew they would be getting used to new time zones, languages, and food. They didn’t realize they would be meeting well into the night with a different new media trailblazer each day, from net art pioneer Don Foresta to alumnus Ryan Genz, who showed them an interactive dress he designed for Katy Perry.
The connections made during this whirlwind trip, which whisked students from Prague to Berlin to Paris to London, have rippled through the following months. Some New Media seniors have proposed wearable computing platforms and some even proposed a return engagement this spring to bring some of the creators they encountered to speak in Maine and via teleconference.
My personal favorite part of the trip was learning about CuteCircuit, which designs wearable technology. Ryan and Francesca launched their first design in 2002; called the Hug Shirt, it allows you to send a hug to anyone else in the world by recording the feeling. Recently they designed a miniskirt for Katy Perry for the iTunes Festival. The skirt changed patterns as she sang her hit Roar and the light patterns synchronized with the song. This skirt is easily wearable and the battery is well hidden.
Meanwhile, a more local adventure on our campus in Orono has also begun to spread its ripples. October’s Digital Humanities Week produced a collection of online tutorials that will be freely accessible long after the conference is a dim memory. More about those soon!

-Photos and Story by Katherine Bartos