media release

SFU grad students create “laughing dress” to bring strangers together

August 10, 2015

Emily Ip, School of Interactive Arts and Technology,
Sun Min Lee, School of Interactive Arts and Technology,
Wynnie Chung, School of Interactive Arts and Technology,
Allen Tung, University Communications, 778.782.3210,

Ip and Chung speak Cantonese and Mandarin. Lee speaks Korean.


A team of Simon Fraser University graduate students has created a dress that can bring complete strangers together and engage in conversation.

School of Interactive Arts and Technology students Emily Ip, Sun Min Lee and Wynnie Chung are calling it the “Laughing Dress.”

They were inspired to create the dress for the Museum of Vancouver’s Happy City Machine exhibition last year, with the goal of raising feelings of trust and connection between strangers in the city.

The Laughing Dress plays a synthetic laughter and has LED lights that illuminate when another person is close by. The LEDs can also light up from the wearer’s movement.

At the exhibition, Ip says passersby were instantly attracted and intrigued by the laughter and LED lights emitting from the dress, spurring them to interact and establish a connection with the wearer.

“When people saw how their presence affected the dress, they became curious and started asking what’s going on, why the wearer is laughing and if they could touch the dress,” she says. 

People even started smiling laughing themselves. Ip says, based on their research, this happens due to subconscious human mimicry.

“If someone smiles at us, we somehow smile back. It’s a physiological feedback that we mimic as human beings.”

The dress has two interaction modes—proximity and movement. In proximity mode, the LEDs emit sparks at low proximity from another person, linear flares at medium proximity and a progressive glow at high proximity.

In movement mode, using an accelerometer, the pattern and intensity of LED light change according to the movement of wearer. The LEDs are dim when the wearer’s movement is minimal such as when standing still. The LEDs are bright when movement is normal and very bright when movement is intense.

Ip acknowledges it’s unlikely everyone will have a Laughing Dress in their wardrobes, but she says this shows if wearable technologies can be seamlessly incorporated into our everyday lives, they can connect people and help us improve ourselves.

She believes there’s a place for wearable technologies when it comes to health care and human interaction, suggesting a personal assistant such as the fictional character Baymax from Disney’s Big Hero 6 film is a possibility in the future.

“Something that is able to understand you more than a phone and sense whether you are feeling well or not,” Ip says. “I think there is a space for that in the future.”

The Laughing Dress will be showcased at the International Symposium on Electronic Art (August 14–19) on Sunday, August 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Room 4210 at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Their research will be presented the following day, starting at 9:30 a.m., in Studio T.



As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.  SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

<p><a href="/content/sfu/sfunews/comment_guidelines.html?keepThis=true&amp;TB_iframe=true&amp;height=700&amp;width=700" class="thickbox">Comment Guidelines</a><br>