Active Materials are materials that change in concert with movement and activity. The Topological Media Lab has done projects involving active textiles and wearables and is currently working on research concerning active materials in architectural environments.
An exemplary project involving research in active materials and gestural sound is the WYSIWYG project, named from the era of the graphical user interface. The project created a suite of small and large (20′ x 4′) fabric-based instruments, woven with conductive thread on a Jacquard loom, that can be used for improvised play. The custom-designed digital instruments embedded in the cloth sample movement to transform ambient body movement and freehand gestures into new sounds or “voices” associated with a player or transmitted to other players in the vicinity. The research project therefore targets the creation of a series of devices – some made from soft material – that will react in different ways to proximity and contact, to sonic features, and to playful activity.