Think Facebook is a monkey on your back? Wait til you see the Ping hoodie. Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Darmour

C'mon, admit it: You are a Facebook fanatic. You spend more time checking your account for messages, comments and updates than your boss should ever know. And, your ex-boyfriends? Well, stalking is such a strong word. Let's just say you know what they've been up to.

But toting around a laptop, iPad or smart phone to log on could soon be seen as so last technological season. If inventor/artist/software designer Jennifer Darmour has anything to say about it, you'll be able to connect to Facebook simply by wearing one very cute hoodie.

The Ping, a social networking garment, "allows you to stay connected to your friends and groups of friends simply by performing natural gestures that are built into the mechanics of the garments we wear," according to Darmour's website, electricfoxy.com. "Lift up a hood, tie a bow, zip, button and simply move, bend and swing to ping your friends naturally and automatically. No phone, no laptop, no hardware. Simply go about your day, look good and stay connected."

Stalkers, er, social and friendly folks that we are, we had to find out more about this Ping, especially since, from the looks of it, we'd be happy to wear the sleeveless style without all its high tech features. Here's what Darmour has to say.

StyleList:
What lead you to create the hoodie?
Jennifer Darmour: I come from a family of makers, designers and inventors. In fact, my great grandfather, Theophilus Van Kannel, invented the revolving door among hundreds of other products and innovations, so naturally I lean toward inventing and design. My professional background is in user experience, interaction and software design. In the software industry, there is a trend toward developing "Natural User Interfaces" that allow you to interact with technology in very natural ways. A good example of this is the iPhone that is incredibly easy to use and feels natural to interact with.

In the gaming industry, there is a push toward spatial gestures that you can perform using body movements. For example, the Nintendo Wii and the Playstation Move allow you to interact and navigate by moving your hand and even your entire body around. You can think of those devices essentially as a computer mouse that you hold and move around in the air. With this trend popping up, I've been intrigued by the idea of spatial gesturing and have been exploring ways to make interacting with the software that we use more subtle, natural and mobile.

SL: And where does fashion play in?
JD: Outside of my profession, I have a personal passion around fashion. Fashion is a way for people to express themselves in many different ways and in the context of their culture. And if you look around at how people wear and interact with their clothes, there's already built-in mechanics. People already perform a variety of gestures adjusting, zipping, lifting,
shifting, opening, buttoning and even fidgeting with the garments they wear. This gives fertile ground to merge the mechanics of the clothes we wear with technology and the trend of gesture-based interaction.

As a result, Ping is an example of how we can use our clothing to interact with our technology. You can think about our clothes as another "device" that can replace the computer mouse. With Ping, rather than having to hold a device in your hand, you can perform the gestures that you would naturally do anyway based on our clothing mechanics. I wanted to turn
these movements and gestures into interfaces that allow us to connect with our friends and family and allow us to express ourselves in new and unique ways. And of course, if technology is going to be part of our clothing, then the solution must have appeal. Not only should it function well, it should look good and make people feel beautiful.

SL: Are you personally a big Facebook fan?
JD: Yes. I use Facebook all the time. It's a great way to connect to people and stay connected. And it's flexible, which makes it easy to use on many different devices such as a laptop, a cell phone and even our clothes.

SL : What are your plans for manufacturing it?

JD: Ping is a concept prototype at this stage. When it comes to technology products, getting the interaction and features right is imperative. The experience should be easy and work right "out of the box." And there are some challenges that wearable technologies need to overcome within manufacturing processes. It will take some time to get a new product like
this market-ready. As for pricing, this is something that we are currently working on and trying to get a good sense about since there has been a significant amount of interest to purchase the garment.

SL: Can you wash it?
JD:
Yes, the components are washable with the exception of the battery. In the current design, there is a very small rechargeable coin cell battery that would need to be removed before washing. I'm exploring ways that it can be 100 percent washable.

SL: Are there plans for more tech/fashion garments?
JD:
Absolutely. I love fashion and I love technology, so naturally it makes sense for me to want to merge the two. There are so many possibilities for these types of products and services, especially in the health and wellness, sports and medical industries and even in the consumer space. I was just at the Smart Fabrics conference in Miami talking about the trends
and innovations happening with wearable technology. We will see some interesting innovations in this space in the near future and I plan to be part of it.

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