New Scientist, in Smart fabrics make for enhanced living, covers the MIT bYOB (buil your own bag) project:

Handbag built from smart fabrics

Imagine a handbag that warns you if you are about to forget your umbrella or wallet, and which you can later turn into a scarf that displays today's pollution levels. Or how about creating a wall hanging that glows if someone tries to use your home's wireless internet connection?

All these bizarre objects could soon be possible thanks to a system of computerised fabric patches developed by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Each patch contains a functional unit of the system - a microprocessor and memory plus either a radio transceiver, a sensor, a microphone, batteries or a display. Put the patches together in different ways and you can create a variety of information-providing or environment-sensing objects, say developers Adrian Cable, Gauri Nanda and Michael Bove at MIT's Media Lab. [New Scientist found via boing-boing]

This reminded me of the winner of the 2002 Viridian Global Civil Society Contest, which was Allen Wong's The Global Civil Society Laptop.

Portable concept computer built in a vacuum sealed bag.

Grommets make it easy to attach a handle, shoulder strap, or mount it on the wall. Attach to a fishing line and drop the whole thing down a well for cooling or archival purposes. Chain it to yourself for a quick security solution. If you ever had to mount a server to an elephant or an iceberg, you know that grommets make the job a whole lot easier. [The Vacuum Packed Computer]

These, and Bruce Sterlings spimes, are ideas that really resonate with me. Working in the embedded field I get to see the massive amount of computational power that can be fit into smaller and smaller spaces each year. I've also seen the power of hooking up many such devices in coordinated ways. On the downside I've also seen the effort required to build such a network, clearly out of the range of most people today, and any effort towards making it easier is welcome. Imagine the day when my kids can slap together a microphone, a battery and a wi-fi transmitter to build a microphone for spying on their sister, or maybe a touch sensor and speaker to build a room guard the start shrieking when that very valuable object is removed from their room. Now that I imagine it, it doesn't seem so hot...