The new technology can remind you that your glass is half empty

A jean pair reminds you that in your back pocket you forgot your low battery Airpods. Or a panel tells you that before you left your house you did not pick up your credit card. These are among the futuristic applications for a modern technology built-in smart textiles by engineers in Microsoft.

The objective of the Dubbed Capacitivo project is the creation, thanks to a recognition technique called capacitive sensing, of textiles that can recognize objects with which they come in contact. Electrodes monitor and quantify changes in electrical charges as the touch to a given object is made is the approach already known in the electrical engineering industry.

Combining capacitive sensing with AI, Microsoft’s researchers have been able to create fabrics that can recognize non-metallic objects like foods and liquids, and typical household items such as books, bowls, or candles. The results, so far, have been convincing, with Capacitive making accurate identifications 94.5% of the time in tests involving 20 different objects.

Although the machine had trouble differentiating between different forms of liquid — beer from milk was never effective — Capacitivo was nevertheless able to establish whether a container was full or empty, and even whether the soil was dry or wet for a small tabletop plant.

Using the technology, a smart tablecloth could, therefore, remind a user to water their plants. Many other applications could be imagined for Capacitive. “The desired action can be triggered,” the researchers said. “For example, a smoothie recipe can be suggested to a user based on what fruit or vegetable the user has inside a basket, detected through its cloth lining.”