Feathers on the shoulders of this jacket by fashion designer Birce Ozkan react when the wearer faces north. Ozkan, who teaches fashion and technology classes at Parsons School of Design, is often inspired by nature and biomimicry when it comes to designing her experimental garments. For her Augmented Jacket, she looked at the way birds navigate during migration season, detecting vibrations from earth’s magnetic field.

The skill of orientation and navigation is not biologically present for human beings. Unlike other animals, humans do not have innate sense of direction and location. Birds, for instance, have built-in biological compasses to tell them, which way to fly during migration based on detecting variations in the earth’s magnetic field. This gives them a freedom that humans lack. Instead, humans become more dependant on their mobile phones to find their bearings. This dependency limits the awareness of their surroundings and denies them of some experiences.

The Augmented Jacket was created to propose an alternative for this dilemma. This wearable features technology that imitates birds’ navigational systems. The jacket gives the user a similar additional layer of sensing that allows to identify which direction is heading. Black rooster feathers on the skirt gently raise as the wearer walks in a northern direction.

The jacket has embedded electronics that include a microcontroller, servo motors and an electronic compass that measures earth’s magnetic field; this last component is adjusted to detect north. If the wearer walks towards the correct cardinal direction, an array of feathers connected to the 2-servo motors rise, else the feathers go down and stop moving. The piece serves as a metaphor, which highlights a method of appropriation where the human nature is enhanced through the process of bio-mimicry.

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all images and video courtesy of Birce Ozkan