Boffins at France Telecom have designed a prototype for a flexible screen made of woven optical fibres capable of downloading and displaying graphics such as logos, texts, patterns, scanned images directly onto clothes.

The breakthrough paves the way for intelligent, communicating garments, with clothes acting as a graphical communication interface, displaying visual information in real time, and offering access to services such as the Internet, video, e-commerce, and 3G mobiles.

Wearers could surf the net or watch a video or TV program on their clothes with information stored on a small chip and a tiny controller hidden away under a lapel.

"The display technology comes from optical fibre woven into standard textiles," said André Weill, director of France Telecom's communicating garments project.

"This combination of properties intrinsic to weaving and optics provides a natural solution to the problems of rigidity, volume and weight encountered in current wearable video screens, and anticipates the future embedding of HD textile screens in everyday ware, such as bags, scarves, clothes and furnishings."