The latest of these garments comes out of Ohio State, which developed a way to turn shirts into omnidirectional antennas to boost radio reception.
The researchers incorporated etched brass wires into plastic film to create flexible antennae. Then they stitched four of them into the shoulders, chest and back of a vest. A computer controller — clipped to the belt — senses body movement and activates the appropriate antenna to get the best signal.
The result is a communications system that sends and receives signals in all directions, even through walls and inside buildings, without a need for any external antenna.
“In a way, we’re doing what’s already been done on a cell phone,” says John Volakis, a professor and director of the ElectroScience Laboratory at Ohio State. “You don’t see cell phones with external antennas anymore, because the antenna is part of the body of the phone.”
Lab tests revealed the antenna had significantly greater signal strength compared to a conventional military “whip” antenna, and enables a range of communications four times larger. Plus the system worked in all directions, even as researchers tested it inside the hallways of the ElectroScience Lab, where doors and windows would normally interfere.
Volakis and his team see the device being useful to military, law enforcement and emergency personnel. Yet maybe a consumer jacket could help eliminate cell phone dead spots. And keep you warm. And stylish.