June 13, 2019
Graduate student's research leads Microsoft onto the fashion runways of New York City
Last month, Teddy Seyed found himself immersed in the heart of New York City and its fashion world.
Design thinking, computer science, and entrepreneurial innovation led grad student Teddy Seyed to an unexpected place for a computer scientist: the heart of the New York City fashion world.
While it may seem unexpected for a computer scientist to play a key role in an event in a global fashion capital, Seyed, an Entrepreneurial PhD candidate in Computer Science, developed a pioneering technology that made its debut in an avant-garde fashion-tech production.
- Pictured above: While it may seem unexpected for a computer scientist to play a key role in an event in a global fashion capital, Seyed, an Entrepreneurial PhD candidate in Computer Science, developed a pioneering technology that made its debut in an avant-garde fashion-tech production. This garment was designed using the platform that utilizes proximity sensors on different locations on the body.
Research combines with fashion for unique PhD experience
Seyed combined much of his prior entrepreneurial and research experiences with different areas of technology to tackle the fashion world.
Over the past year, in back-to-back internships at Microsoft Research (MSR), Seyed developed and led Project Brookdale. Brookdale is a platform that includes both hardware and software, and makes it easier for fashion companies and designers to create and embed different types of technologies into their designs. Building directly upon some of Seyed’s innovative modular concepts in his PhD, such as a smartwatch and smartphone, Brookdale combines plug-and-play modular components with easy to use drag-and-drop programming. With this platform, many of the technical barriers to entry are lowered for designers, empowering them to create different types of wearables with a broad set of sensors, such as motion, environment and others.
Much of the inspiration behind Brookdale came from Seyed’s aspirations to push fashion technology further.
Through Brookdale, Seyed facilitated a collaboration between MSR and the Brooklyn Public Library, which features the innovative BKLYN Fashion Academy program — one of the world's first intensive programs for aspiring fashion entrepreneurs to learn about the business side of the fashion industry as they design collections. Seyed had travelled to New York in October 2018 and participated on a panel discussing wearable tech and sustainability. With this connection, Seyed then decided to bring his wearable tech research and entrepreneurial interests to MSR and the BKLYN Fashion Academy program.
“This work really fit well into my entrepreneurial and scientific aspects of my PhD. I was able to blend science, art, business, and social causes into this project, and as a result, I’ve already seen the meaningful impact my work has had in Brooklyn and beyond. To me, this is what makes a truly great PhD,” says Seyed.
Seyed also wanted to move fashion-tech beyond the conventional forms of expression with lights on runways, which inspired him to incorporate more futuristic technology into the platform, such as MSR’s Smart Tattoos. Using the Smart Tattoos, a shirt could be augmented to measure temperature in the environment and respond accordingly, all without the need for a smartphone.
- Pictured above: Seyed says this work fit well into the entrepreneurial and scientific aspects of his PhD. He was able to blend science, art, business, and social causes into this project."As a result, I’ve already seen the meaningful impact my work has had in Brooklyn and beyond. To me, this is what makes a truly great PhD."
Innovative fashion event brings wearable tech to the runway
BKLYN Fashion Academy’s end-of-program show took place on May 3 at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library, bringing together the creativity of the fashion designers and the MSR researchers in a first-of-its-kind fashion event.
In preparation for the show, Seyed led Brookdale through months of an embedded design process, frequently interviewing designers, co-ordinating the development of new hardware and sensors that incorporated the processes of fashion designers, and oversaw its manufacturing in China.
The BKLYN Fashion Academy and its designers created and exhibited on the runway, with new types of wearables and garments that incorporated smart tattoos, rotating motors, projected images, motion sensors and custom LED lighting. Learn more in the video below.
“I’ve done a lot of work in fashion tech over the past few years, but it’s felt kind of stagnant as of late, despite the fact that technology is moving at a very fast pace,” says Seyed. “I wanted to help build something that could push the envelope of how we enable fashion designers to both think about technology, as well as incorporate it into their design processes. I feel this is critical because it’s this group of people that will be designing the clothes of the future, and they need tools that support them.”
Seyed will be completing his PhD in summer 2019, and is supervised by Dr. Frank Maurer, PhD, and Dr. Tony Tang, PhD.
“Teddy is the most entrepreneurial student that worked in my group over the last 20 years," says Dr. Maurer, professor of computer science and associate dean of innovation and strategic partnerships in the Faculty of Science. "His drive to create-easy-to-use technology for fashion has substantial commercial potential. It also builds bridges for groups that usually are not directly associated with tech development. He worked with kids, with Indigenous groups, with designers, amongst others. Essentially, his work empowers people to utilize technology for their own goals.”