Researchers in the United Kingdom are developing a new breed of smart garments poised to change the way we interact with our bodies. The recently inaugurated P³i research group at Northumbria University aims to marry design with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (collectively known as STEM) to create “intelligent products, services, and experiences” that serve the needs of our future society. Products in the pipeline include a “smartware” line of fabrics that treat chronic wounds caused by diabetes and leg ulcers, “senseware” textiles that alert medical professionals of impending epileptic seizures, and “bioware” surfaces designed to enhance an aging population’s quality of life.

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While all this may sound like the stuff of science fiction, the university’s investment in cutting-edge technologies,—including a £135,000 “bioplotter” that prints multi-component three-dimensional structures—is proof of its ambition to drive innovation. P³i, which launched in September, describes itself as a “design-led exploration of emerging materials and technologies in, on, and around the human body in the 21st century.”

P³i is a “design-led exploration of emerging materials and technologies in, on, and around the human body in the 21st century.”

Staffed by experts from myriad disciplines, the think tank includes Anne Toomey and Nancy Tilbury, “fashion alchemists” both with extensive experience in design-led innovation. Also on board are Lyndsay Williams, who specializes in biomedical electronics, and Veronika Kapsali, who dabbles in biomimetic textiles.

“Our aim is to be at the forefront of design-led, need-driven, technology-anchored, and solutions-focused innovative products and services with a real purpose,” says Raymond Oliver, chair of P³i and professor of active and interactive materials.

The group recently gave members of the public a peek at its vision at the Future Ways of Living exhibit at the 2012 London Design Festival.

+ P³i Design Studio

+ Northumbria University