FUTURE FURSUITING: furry’s most original creations and the rise of tech-enabled smart suits.
by Patch O'Furr
The most original creations of furry fandom.
Here’s a fun feature about the future. But first, let me make a bold claim about fursuiting.
Mascots and costuming have been around forever. But furries are doing something new. They don’t just play with generic icons from myths and media. They add original fursonas and custom craft for everyone. It makes a subculture with personal expression beyond anything else.
Of course, many furs don’t have (or want) fursuits. But the ones who do make a photogenic face of fandom. Other groups do art and writing like this one, but I don’t think anyone else does costuming in such a specialized and devoted way. So there’s nothing wrong with the way the fursuiters stand out. Everything else is imagination – they bring it to life and help to define the tactile name of “furry”. And the quality is developing beyond anything you can buy commercially. Some dedicated makers now have careers by fans, for fans, leading a Furry Economy with an exciting future. Look forward to amazing things.
Looking back at the roots: the first iconic fursuits.
Further Confusion 2015 had a panel about “25 years of furry con history”. The hosts were Furry Founding Fathers, Mark Merlino and Rod O’Riley. They co-directed the first con (ConFurence 0 in 1989.) It had two fursuiters – an unnamed bobcat, and Hilda the Bambioid (Robert Hill). The “first iconic furry costumes” are mentioned at 47:00 in the video.
The oldest fursuit still active could be Walden, by Yippee, who says: “Walden was built before the term “fursuit” even existed!”
@DogpatchPress Walden made a surprise cameo at 25 yrs of furry cons. He's like 23 himself. http://t.co/oVKSQiZK12 pic.twitter.com/95y9IFpGWL— ☾ Yippee Coyote ☽ (@YipCoyote) February 5, 2015
The most expensive fursuits.
$2,000 is a general going price for a full suit. Special features like electronics can raise costs to five figures. Then there’s hard-to-define personal value, like with any professional art. A patron might want to pay a lot to support the artist. High prices can show positive development of a specialized craft. Here’s a report about a $17,500 suit (keep in mind that Hollywood FX suits can add another zero.) It’s an investment not everyone can make – but we can all appreciate the results, and the door is open for anyone to build their own.
The furry dance movement and street fursuiting.
With growing demand and developing craft, live performance is where the rubber meets the road. I like to call fursuiting “the theatrical soul of furry,” so I’m into new movements for it. They could be the bleeding edges for experimental projects.
With the explosion of interest in cons, there comes subcultural mutations like independent dance parties. It crosses with other scenes like dance crews. And my favorite thing is street fursuiting. It kicks down the doors to bring trippy, spontaneous fun to public places like street fairs. Think of their show value – how often do you see that much spectacle just walking around?
Look at this fabulous fever dream:
I’ve heard complaining that fursuit hobbies overshadow others and make art and writing just a sub-section of cosplay, or even fears of queer roots being erased through mainstreaming. I can’t listen to that. Go to a con and look around at how socially-gluing, self-defining, and fabulously expressive the suiting is. I think there’s never been so much furry creativity blasting off to its own space, with more artists and writers than ever along for the ride.
Tech features and Smart Suiting.
There’s a science fiction future for wearable tech. If you like reading or writing about it, here it is in the fur. Think of tiny wearable computers and novel fabric embedded with electronics. Imagine it programmed to interact with users, respond on the fly or adjust to the environment. Furries can be a branch for this (or even a root.) They’re super “suited” for immersive full-body tactile role-play, sci-fi/fantasy based design, and original/custom characters that are fully inhuman.
You won’t go some place to see them… they’ll be among us. An anthro dog’s hackles rise when a cat comes near. A sound enhanced cat purrs when you scritch her belly. A chameleon’s skin blends into the background. Everyone has animated eyes and expressions. Could real hybrids sneak in undercover?
It’s becoming possible with servo motors used in animatronics, and tiny sound and light devices. There’s 3D printing, programmable controllers like Arduino and Rasberry Pi, and developments for mobile applications and the “internet of things”. There’s biofeedback sensors beyond anything you’ve seen yet, envisioned by the Biohacking and Neurohacking movements.
What could you do with this? “OpenBCI is an open source brain-computer interface platform… OpenBCI boards can be used to measure and record electrical activity produced by the brain (EEG), muscles (EMG), and heart (EKG)”…
Read more about the Ultracortex (“an adjustable, 3D-printable EEG wearable frame” headset for boards that give users access to brainwave data.) A furry pictured on this page has started many companies for biofeedback devices, and puts them to use for experimental fursuits.
Custom-fit #EEG headset design!— ultracortex (@ultracortex) October 22, 2015
Introducing @Ultracortex #X1 (by @ThreeForm & @OpenBCI)
w/ @3dsystemscorp scans pic.twitter.com/JRDhDiyRBE
Necomimi robotic ears and tails are well known for fun. Then there’s more exotic experiments like alternative limbs (covered here in 2013, and a 2016 update.) Traditionally, losing a limb has meant losing a part of your identity, covering up and blending in. But what if you can be more than before?
Light and sound effects.
See the amazing LED-enabled suit at 1:00 in the below video from Burning Man.
Sounds were previously covered here: Enough squeaker abuse- let’s upgrade fursuit sound effects!
Scale enhancement by immersive illusion.
A blinking, sound-enhanced, life-sized dinosaur invades a mall. Think of adding more loud stomping effects… and even programming them to scale up in pitch and volume as he approaches a target!
Animatronic body parts and expressions.
Blue Mountainfox Joe has made a lot of suits with animated expressions.
See some amazing high-end TV animatronic acting from one hot fox (and here’s a little bit of behind-the-scenes detail.)
Electronic animated eyes.
From a german maker, this fursuit head has animated eyes. (It’s a fixed loop not controlled by the user). It uses small OLED screens and a microcontroller from Adafruit, which CAN be programmed for manual control.
Adafruit visits Further Confusion in San Jose, CA.
Phil B writes about speaking to furries on the company blog (PDF’s of his panel notes are included:)
“I had the outstanding opportunity to talk about electronics in costuming… I gave two 90-minute talks, one on introductory first-time electronics for costume-makers, and a second focusing specifically on lighting effects.
What really sets this group apart is the emphasis on world-building and personal characters. Also, there’s more costume electronics…and more Adafruit electronics especially…at this one convention than I’ve seen in an entire year’s worth of anime, comics and steampunk events. From custom fursuit-sized jumbo NeoPixel goggles to dragons with animated OLED eyes, these are power-users of cosplay technology!”
Personal climate control – Cooling system solutions.
Wristify is a prototype thermoelectric bracelet to control body temperature. It was developed by four MIT students at EMBR labs.
EZwolf (builder of animatronic wolf head above) is a major fandom entrepeneur. Aside from his well-known videography, he’s creator of EZ Cooldown vests, which sell to the general public for many practical uses besides costumes.
Is your dog as cool as this dog? Have a look at our Dry Cooling Vest for Dogs and beat the heat! #dogsoftwitter https://t.co/KK39ktaAFi pic.twitter.com/is4D6wsiT1— EZcooldown (@EZcooldown) September 22, 2016
Now build electronics into these dog vests so you can remote-control call them. Combine the cooling vest with the LED-animated “Disco Dog” vest. (There’s LED collars like this too.) Then make them fursuit-sized!
Big spectacle with theatrical tech experiments.
These aren’t suits, but there are rideable robotic animals that can take over the street. Here’s a robotic giraffe built by a furry who was invited to the White House Maker Faire and met President Obama (previously covered here.)
Check out this gigantic dragon by theatrical artists La Machine, who comes to life on an epic scale while spitting steam at watchers.
These are a sample of tech that could make great fursuits of the future. (Sorry to skunks for leaving out scent innovations.) What else do you know?
As far as future fursuits go, don’t forget about the crazy stuff coming from Kaiborg Studios!
I’ve actually gotten something from Kaiborg, a Sans (undertale) mask they made a while back. It’s amazing quality, and they have such cool electronics.
Hey, great article! I’m honored to get a mention from that burningman video you linked. I have a few more on YouTube “mblade Akita” I got a great video explaining how my suit works.
Thanks… awesome stuff. I put the vids out on twitter.
Google Adafruit Animatronic Eyes.
These had been put into a few fursuits and really add realism. I am constantly working towards making suits more realistic and interactive.
Yay! I appear in a DPP article!
I’m glad you included that Mardi Gras photo. It brought back many happy memories. And for those curious, yes my suit has a SPH but it is always kept clean!
WELL THEN… if we’re ever at the same con, I might have to investigate 😉
Hi. Marcwolf here.
I was the original creator of the animatronic eyes. Just google Adafruit Animatronic Eyes.
Really glad that others are having fun with them them
That’s amazing! I saw them used but didn’t know a furry invented them. Check your email for a guest post request.
[…] The Dogpatch Press recently posted an article on the Tech of Fursuiting, which in my honest opinion makes talk of adding LEDs seem dated like pagers. Like OpenBCI is an open source brain-computer interface platform. I fully admit I had no idea what that was until I read the article, which has to be seen. He also goes into the quality of the fursuits, which I have to admit have been getting better and better. It truly amazing to me the quality of work out there. I could give dozens of examples but that is left best to YouTube where they are the easiest to be found. Meanwhile the article can be found here […]
EMG or EEG may sound interesting but consider.
Most EEG projects are done when the subject is concentrating on one thing or task. Being able to run/walk as well as tell a tail to wag is a lot more difficult. Plus any movement interferes with the EEG signal.
EMG is more practical however due to sweat etc it will be difficult to keep the electrodes dry and not short together…
[…] The video above shows just one of the projects featured in Patch O’Fur’s detailed and interesting article about the future of fursuiting and tech-enabled smart suits. Check out the full piece on Dogpatch Press. […]
Another way to control things invisibly is with the mouth.
Here is my prototype mouth interface. The uP is a DFRobot Beetle, and the buttons are soft press units from Panasonic.
That seems like a super cool project… it looks like it’s meant to be sealed so you keep it in your mouth at all times and work it with your tongue… is it wireless? has it been tested to figure out how dexterously you can use it that way?
Yes – it will be sealed with a layer of platinum silicone to waterproof it.
It’s not wireless… Yet – that is the next stage.Been looking a suitable micro-modules.
Currently Simblee or ESP32 will be used. Both have the necessary number of inputs for the switches.
Use – very easy. The concept has been used for disabled people. The tongue is very sensitive, versatile, and dexterous. We are very spatially aware of where our tongue is in out mouth – just try touching every tooth in your mouth to see.
Current version in the pic requires 4 wires to run.. however a silicone pouch could be used in the cheek to hold the batteries and wifi.
I recently learned about the Adafruit Electronic eyes. I am in the process of making a partial suit for a Ren Faire. However I had to get the 3d following eyes.
I recently saw these and was sad to see that they have to be made manually. I can’t do circuitry and was a bit disappointed when I couldn’t buy a set to install.
I’m extremely new to the scene though. One day I’d love to get something like those eyes.