When I interviewed Parrot founder and CEO Henri Seydoux at TechCrunch Disrupt back in 2016, he surprised everyone when he said he was working on a new kind of T-shirt — nobody knew for sure whether he was joking or not. But the connected T-shirt is real, and it’s called wearTRBL.
While the project started as a Parrot subsidiary, the company was spun off in July 2018. Seydoux is still credited as co-founder and Olivier Levy acts as co-founder and CEO. And, wearTRBL expects to launch its first product in a few months.
The team has been working on a flexible E Ink display that you can seamlessly embed into a T-shirt. Thanks to a mobile app and Bluetooth Low Energy, you can change the image on the display and make a statement.
You can store up to 20 images on the display and the battery should last around four days. That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to wear your T-shirt for four days straight, because that would be incredibly gross. But you can remove the display and put it into another T-shirt, sweatshirt or accessory.
If you’re thinking about this product with the expectations of a consumer electronics enthusiast, you’re going to be disappointed. This is a fashion product, a way to express yourself with your T-shirt and show some of your personality using what you wear.
The original idea behind this T-shirt started after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015. Many people wanted to express themselves by replacing their online profile pictures with drawings. People wanted to write “Je Suis Charlie” on giant banners.
Indeed, wearTRBL wants to create a community and a curated library of pictures. You’ll be able to browse a collection of designs and download it to your T-shirt. You’ll also be able to attract followers and broadcast content to other users.
The startup eventually wants to become a brand of iconic clothing items that are all compatible with the E Ink display. It’s an ambitious bet, but Seydoux wasn’t joking when he said “I’m working on a T-shirt that you’ve never seen before.”