This year for New York Fashion Week, Cirque du Soleil will be unveiling some high tech wonders. They wanted to play with the idea of “The Future of Live Entertainment” and to that end, brought in designer Anouk Wipprecht, known for her tech infused digitally fabricated wearable wonders.
This creation is meant to be an interactive experience where people can interact with the performers, and in return get custom drinks or fragrances. From the press release:
The experience begins when the participant first engages with the design. The participant interacts with the model and design through a tablet on their arm that takes them through a series of questions using the SAP Qualtrics Experience Management (XM) platform. Feedback from the interaction is analyzed and feeds the exact experiential and operational data it needs to pick one of many expertly crafted beverages or fragrances for each guest.
After the questions are answered, the design starts to work. All fashionably hidden, through conveyor belts, pumps and capsules secured by 3D-printed harnesses and accessories, the beverage design blends different alcohols, fruit juices and flavors to craft the perfect drink. While the fragrance design combines different scents creating a personalized fragrance with a custom label delivering a world-class product and brand experience for users.
The designs not only make the beverages and fragrances quickly, but they are specifically catered to you. The designs know exactly what you need – a lavender-infused drink for when you are stressed, ginger-infused for more energy, or even the perfect fragrance you did not even know existed.
We were curious about the process behind creating such wonderous things, so we asked Anouk for a bit more insight. Not only did she answer our questions, she gave us a glimpse behind the curtain, at the making of these creations.
What was your inspiration on this piece? What was the collaboration like?
As always I’m trying to create ‘fashiontech marvels’ by which I mean: designs that are interactive, electronic, robotic and in a weird way coming to life on the body. In particular with Cirque Du Soleil and Nextasy – the innovation group within Cirque – and SAP we have been brainstorming ideas around ‘ The Future of Live Entertainment’ in which these robotic dresses and suits really come up to you and start a visual conversation, as they brew perfume or mix cocktails based on who you are: through SAP Qualtrics software we were able to create some surveys to investigate what you might like to drink or smell like. Then it gives you a little mixed present in the form of an elixir or fills a small perfume bottle with a scent that the system thinks belongs to you.
What was the most difficult part? Any struggles?
I have been on a few projects with Cirque Du Soleil over the last years, and in particular with Frank Helpin, who is the Senior Innovation Director at Cirque; from nightclub LIGHT in Las Vegas ‘turned on by Cirque’ (2013) – to HEART Ibiza, in where Cirque created food + entertainment experiences (2015), and now for New York Fashion Week 2019 on behalf of SAP. And I think the most difficult part of working with Cirque Du Soleil is that possibilities are endless, and there is so much to explore in the realms of combining Fashion with Technology, that we are not done with this yet. We tackle timelines, technological difficulties, while stacking motor boards and soldering systems, and researching several topics in between, while creating stories about technology and our surroundings. Since we have a common understanding of placing objects on the body and it’s effects: this works very symbiotically.
One thing that we introduced in this project was actually that we created two designs for men too, which I never had done before, as I am specialized in woman’s wear and dress design from a couture / tailoring point. This is where Cirque Atelier really came in and helped me create two male suits with a perfect fit, which came out pretty spectacular!
What technologies, equipment and services did you use for this project?
Per usual, I combined hardware with 3D printing and electronics. Two of my favorite tools that I used daily are from Dremel: the 3D45 3D printer and my cordless Dremel Micro. I placed a lot of overnight orders for electronics and parts from Adafruit, Digikey and McMaster-Carr, and some of the final pieces have been 3D printed in SLS at Shapeways out of PA-11 (which is a great new style for semi flexible designs – a biocompatible nylon material that is durable and flexible). We used in this project Raspberry Pi combined with motor HAT’s and DC, Stepper and Servo motors. Motor Madness! To say at least. So many motors we connected, it spins my mind.
To display the Qualtrics Software we used the Adafruit 3.5 inch touchscreen for the rPi which came in handy as a wearable interface and input device to the system. I used a conveyor belt (NEMA 11) in the front of the design that became the ‘Fragrance Dress’ with a front that Niccolo Casas helped me develop out of an old project that we remixed. And a remixed frontpiece that I created from the Cocktail Dress that now serves ‘Elixirs’ as a diamond shape style. All four designs each run eight 5V peristaltic pumps (minimum) and work well on small white round Anker 5V power-banks of 2A. Pretty nifty.
We worked out some of the laser-cut parts at Atelier Numérique: Cirque Du Soleil’s in-house TechHub or ‘FabLab’ within the company, a playground full of machines and techies. Spray painting of the pieces we did in-house in the spray booth and casting department of Cirque, Philippe White (props maker at Cirque) let me work with new cool materials from epoxies to new kinds of car fillers they use to obtain a good coverage on 3d printed parts before they spray paint them. They basically have every Smooth On product you can think of. It’s insane. So jealous.
How did you enjoy working with Cirque? Was it different than working with any other groups?
It was so amazing working at Cirque Du Soleil HQ for a couple of weeks. Not only working in a big building with badass machines and equipment, – but also the core of the company: these people really mix the fun with the inspiration, the work with the pleasure. It’s such a joy to collaborate with a company that sees every project so joyful and playful. From the talent to the accounting department: everybody works hard, but with a big smile on their face. The building just breathes creativity.