How to Create a ‘Random Walk’

Electronic textiles, our core focus at LOOMIA, are a combination of two unlikely industries. Along the same lines, our latest project mixes algorithms and textiles — another unlikely pair — with a data-driven dress created for the Near Future Summit.

by Madison Maxey
Technical Lead at Loomia
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Electronic textiles, our core focus at LOOMIA, are a combination of two unlikely industries.

Along the same lines, our latest project mixes algorithms and textiles — another unlikely pair — with a data-driven dress created for the Near Future Summit.

Zem Jaoquin started the Near Future Summit in 2016 to convene “near futurists” — realistic, optimistic doers — around global issues with creative, cross-disciplinary solutions that can happen now. Autodesk and Near Future approached me about making a garment with this idea in mind and I was thrilled to take on the challenge.

We decided to work on an algorithm in Processing that would create a visual representing the spirit of the conference. I thought that a “Random Walk” was an appropriate concept to visualize. After all, the Near Future Summit is about moments of magic encountered on a “random walk”. The conference creates many serendipitous moments where opportunities intersect with amazing people, culminating in a big moment worth the exploration of “going on the walk”.

“A random walk is a mathematical object, known as a stochastic or random process, that describes a path that consists of a succession of random steps on some mathematical space such as the integers.”

I love Autodesk and all of their tools, and wanted our visualization to be more than just a snaking line. With that in mind, I decided to use a Motif as an additional design element. I used Tinkercad to generate an interesting 2D geometry from a 3D form.

‍Example of 3D Form used to generate 2D geometry

After further exploring, I found a shape that I thought made the most interesting footprint.

With the motif set, the next step was to integrate it into the Random Walk. With the Near Future team, we decided that whenever our algorithm hit a longitude and latitude coordinate from an attendee’s home location, the motif would show up.

After collecting the location data, I got to work with scripting and having it all visualized as circles. When the algorithm ran, the motif popped up as a circle of drawings that was a bit reminiscent of a snowflake shape.

The processing script can create an infinite number of variations, so we started out with some experimental designs.

Ultimately, we liked the black and white color combination best, but also wanted to bring in colors from the summit. We kept iterating, and ended up with a final design we loved:

Finally, time to print the fabric! I worked with Software Studios to print the image onto fabric. Once we got the fabric back, I teamed up with Julianna Bass, an amazing NYC-based designer who I’ve worked with on color-changing dresses in the past, to create the silhouette of a dress and turn our graphic into a wearable creation.

And voila! We had a final product: a beautiful algorithmically-designed dress that Shoshana Berger of IDEO graced the stage with.

‍The design is a “longitudinal explosion” of all of the conference attendees’ serendipitous encounters!

Watch Shoshana explain the dress in her own words at Near Future here.

At LOOMIA, we believe that technology and design can work hand-in-hand, and that technology should never overpower the design of a product. This dress exemplified that core philosophy. We’re grateful to have participated in this fun collaboration that brought everything together from coding, to CAD modeling, to digital printing, to NYC garment design and production!