recommended reading

Newest High-Tech Prediction From Google Exec Who Foresaw Rise of Mobile and Cloud

Russel A. Daniels/AP

Ray Kurzweil is one of those people whose name is often attended by the vague title “futurist.” An accomplished inventor, who in 2012 became a director of engineering at Google focused on machine learning, he’s well-known for the many predictions he’s made over the years about how technology will shape and transform our lives.

Kurzweil hasn’t always been right, including on the future of clothing, but he has proved surprisingly adept at foreseeing innovations. Mobile computers, aka smartphones, cloud computing and self-driving cars have been among his prognostications. At The New York Times Global Leaders’ Collective conference last week, Kurzweil made another prediction, this time about how we dress. He believes that within a decade, we will widely be 3-D-printing our clothes at home, the Times reports.

“As the variety of materials available to print in 3-D become more extensive and less expensive, both free open-source and proprietary clothing designs will be widely available online in as little as 10 years,” he said. “By 2020, there will be a whole host of product available immediately to buy for pennies on the dollar and to print straight away. It will become the norm for people to have printers in their homes.”

The potential for 3-D-printed clothes is something members of the fashion industry have an eye on. When the Met Costume Institute opened its spring fashion exhibition, “Manus x Machina,” it featured several pieces with 3-D-printed elements. Its curator, Andrew Bolton, told Bloomberg 3-D printing has “revolutionary” potential if it’s able to catch hold with a wide audience.

“It means you can 3-D print your dress to your exact measurements at home,” he said. (Nike’s COO, Eric Sprunk, has similarly envisioned the ability to print sneakers at home.)

Even if that future does come to pass, Kurzweil’s timeline is certainly ambitious. Thus far, 3-D printing has not panned out to be the miracle promised. MakerBot, the company supposed to bring 3-D printing into consumers’ homes, ceased making its own printers this year, as 3-D printing has struggled to find a mass consumer audience.

In fashion, the technology has so far been used mostly for avant-garde experiments of the type featured in “Manus x Machina,” but it’s virtually nonexistent in mass-market clothing. For all its capabilities, 3-D printing at this stage can’t quite replicate cloth. What it does produce tends to look and feel rigid, lacking the softness and drape of traditional woven or knit fabrics, which is why its use in fashion is still mostly relegated to nonpliable items, such as jewelry and footwear.

One of the main challenges to consumers if the technology does ultimately take off would be learning the computer-aided design skills needed to create the products they want. That’s no small feat, and it isn’t hard to imagine consumers still preferring to buy products designed by professionals.

Kurzweil predicts the market would be a mix of free, open-source designs and proprietary ones from brands, which would still guide trends. The big change would be to the way clothes are manufactured, and fashion would see barriers to entry fall as music and media have before.

It would be a massive shift, and hard to imagine taking place inside of a decade. But Kurzweil has never been one to shy away from big ideas.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.