If you’ve secretly been perfecting your table drumming skills, now is the time to show off. Thanks to this unique musical tablecloth developed by Swedish company ‘Smart Textiles’, you can entertain your dinner guests with your musical prowess. The one-of-a-kind fabric has a drum kit and piano keys printed on it, which actually produce musical sounds when pressed!
Li Guo and Mats Johansson, the brains behind the company, explained that making a musical tablecloth is all about using sensors. While Mats is passionate about music, Li has a doctorate in textile sensors and is studying ways to integrate them into garments. So they put their heads together to combine Li’s research and Mat’s ideas, and came up with the innovative tablecloth.
“We wanted to combine sound and textiles and visualise the possibilities of textile sensors in a fun way,” Mats said. “Since I’m interested in music, we decided to create a musical tablecloth.”
Photo: Anna Sigge
“The special thing is, of course, that it is all from textile technologies,” he explained. “We have the woven cloth but on that we added prints for the piano, we added other laminated textile structures for the drums. And these are also from knitted fabrics. And then sewing as connectors or taping, so it is all technologies that we are familiar with in textiles now used for an entertaining purpose in this case.”
“You can see that we have several different pins here, so they are actually functioning as sensors,” Li added. “So when you press one you actually switch it on. And the technology behind this is sense capacitive coupling. So actually it senses any of the conductors and you know that human beings are conductors so when we put our finger on it, it actually switches on.”
Photo: video caption
According the Mats, the challenge they faced while developing the tablecloth was to successfully integrate soft fabrics with hard electronic components. “The problem today is very much where you get this change from the actual fabric to some kind of electronics, from soft flexible things to the rigid hardware and of course the electricity, the batteries.” The duo are working on ways to make these components more flexible and light.
So the musical tablecloth, while brilliant, is still a work in progress. And Li sees great potential for sensor technology in various other applications. “Sensors can be of different kinds,” he said. “Now we have touch sensors here. We work also with stretchable sensors and textile electronics that can get signals from heartbeats for example from the human body. So that can be very helpful with home-based health monitoring.”
As for their own project, Li believes it will play a major role in the future of textile development, especially in the area of wearable tech. Soon, he believes, there will be clothes that track, gather and transmit data, much better than current wearable devices currently do. “Applying conductive sensors to clothing is the future of portable technology,” he said. “Everyone has a watch, but you might not wear it every day. However, you always wear clothes.”