24 October 2005

The New York Times on interactive bed sheets

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Interactive_sheets
This week WestPoint Home presented smart bedding and other interactive furnishings to store buyers at its showroom in New York. One new product will be available next month: a Cinderella-theme coverlet that lights up like Broadway and makes the sound of a fairy godmother’s wand sweeping through the air.

For grown-ups, WestPoint Home displayed a deep blue coverlet that keeps itself busy turning a chandelier on and off. Enabling this to work requires wiring the chandelier to an outlet, but once that’s done options abound: plug in a coffee maker or a television and they will be activated too, allowing countless seconds of additional bed time in the morning.

The company’s poly-fill pillows, meanwhile, can nudge you toward the land of Nod with an embedded speaker that makes the sounds of twittering birds or lapping waves. Other pillows will tune in a radio station, operate a television or hook up with an MP3 player.

If such interactive furnishings sound strange, they are. In the case of the adult coverlet, an invisible touch point causes tiny “conductive particles” in the pattern to send a signal to the outlet, said Andrew Ferber, a co-chairman of T-ink, a New York company with a patent on the technology. “The printing is ‘wires’ going through the comforter, but it’s integrated into the design and it’s invisible and washable,” he explained, all but pleading for a suspension of disbelief.

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