Soft Power

Wendy Ng and Eric Boyd

This finery for ambassadors is designed to deploy additional “soft power” when the pressure of the moment requires it.


In the natural world, persuasion comes in many forms, like an animal changing shape or colour. Project Soft Power draws inspiration from this fascinating defence mechanism in the animal kingdom and explores the possibility of enhancing human expression by incorporating mechanical and electronic Batesian mimicry that can be activated either by bio-feedback or manual control. Mimicking the magnificent mantis shrimp and the invigorating frilled lizard in action, this set of finery, Stomatopod and Kingii, aim to persuade (because sometimes your suit needs to get serious too!).

Technical Information

The garments are controlled by a custom circuit board installed in the back of the jackets. A user-interface radio board is installed in the gloves under a laser-cut dome. Galvanic Skin Response sensors in the glove trigger the radio board to send a message to the main board, which activates the deployment. During deployment, the LEDs in the sleeve change from white to red. In the male garment Stomatopod, the shoulder LEDs blink outward, while the linear actuators make the laser-cut shoulder pieces extend out about 7cm. In the female, the servo motors lift up the collar about 20cm, while the LEDs change the color of the fiber optics from red to blue. During retraction, the opposite changes occur, to return to the garments to their normal positions and colours.

Technical Specs

  • Custom circuit boards: motor board (x4) and glove board (x2)
  • Strips of WS2812 RGB LEDs in the arms (~300 LEDs total)
  • Pleather fabric is laser cut with ‘braid’ pattern
  • TLC5940 controlled LEDs in the male shoulder spikes and female collar fiber optics, as well as the fiber optics in the sashes (64 LEDs total)
  • Mechanized shoulder elements in the male (to extend the shoulders) use Firgelli linear actuators L12-P-100-50 (2)
  • Shoulder elements are laser etched & cut and heat-bent
  • Mechanized collar elements in the female use regular hobby servos (2)
  • 433 MHz radios (from seeed) allow the gloves to communicate with the suits (4 radios total)
  • Gloves contain a GSR circuit which is from previous sensebridge technology
  • Sterling silver electrodes in the gloves
  • Male sash has 2mm side-glow fiber optics; female collar has 0.25mm end-glow; female sash has 1mm end-glow.
  • 2000mAh LiPo batteries (2) for the microcontroller and LEDs
  • 3s 11.1V 700mAh LiPo battery for the linear actuators
  • 2s 7.2V 700mAh LiPo battery for the servo motors
  • 350mAh LiPo batteries (2) in the gloves
  • 800mAh LiPo batteries (2) in the sashes
  • LiPo charging circuits on all boards (6 total); 2s and 3s batteries must charge using an external balance charger

Inspiration of the garment designs was taken from our trip to India where we learned about the mesmerizing history and the fascinating costumes of the Mughal Empire. The garments both use a beautiful “quilted” knit fabric with ‘french braid’ patterns; this pattern is repeated in the laser-cut pleather sleeves and the laser-etched shoulder pieces. The lining of the jackets contain numerous pockets and zippers to make storing and accessing the electronics easier. Both jackets fasten using magnetic snaps, for a futuristic feel.

The Team

Eric Boyd
Eric Boyd is the founder of Sensebridge, a wearables and electronic jewelry company.  He is currently based in Toronto Canada, where he is President of, a technology community space and an organizer for the Quantified Self Toronto meetup, and DIYbio.TO.  He is also a Founder and Director of Festival Programming at Maker Festival, an annual event celebrating the DIY spirit in Toronto.

“I had a wonderful time engineering these jackets. We proposed a very ambitious project using two technologies I’d not had previous experience with (motorizing garments and radio communication) and I learned a lot making both of those happen! It was also great to hang out at Archeloft for two days finishing the project, we learned a lot there about working with fibre optics!”  – Eric

Wendy Ng
Civil engineer by day and fashion designer by night, Wendy Ng founded her fashion brand Dystropolis and been designing futuristic experimental garment designs ever since. Inevitably, her brand’s unique style of aesthetics and idealism has led her to the fascinating world of fashion tech where she resides and collaborates. Her designs have been showcased at fashion shows and published in national and international publication for the past seven years since graduating from Ryerson University’s School of Fashion and University of Toronto’s Engineering and Applied Science.

IG + Twitter: @dystropolis

“To be honest, I am a little jealous, in a good way, of the fashion tech scene, i.e. ARCHLoft, in Calgary; so fortunate to have met some most amazing people all over the world, and now determined to build a strong relationship between this and the budding Toronto scene. MakeFashion is a one of the kind passion project where passion, along with innovation, professionalism and dedication, rules. I can totally resonate with this and feel proud.

Collaborating in this rather ambitious project “Soft Power” was challenging – amble communication and patience is the key. Integration of tech and garments has pushed me to learn more about tech design in order to come up with a good garment design that is efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing – I am a total believer of Form and Function.” – Wendy

On The Runway

Soft Power | Designers: Dystropolis by Eric Boyd and Wendy Ng | Models: Matt Blais and Jen Allen | Hair: Natasha with Jason Mellor | Makeup: Jade Brunes | Photography: Ernesto Augustus

Soft Power | Designers: Dystropolis by Eric Boyd and Wendy Ng | Models: Matt Blais and Jen Allen | Hair: Natasha with Jason Mellor | Makeup: Jade Brunes | Photography: Jeff McDonald Photo

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