Sensors, Wearable tech, and personal eco-systems are all the rage, but the craze goes beyond connected eyewear such as Google Glass and smart timepieces such as Apple's rumored iWatch. Wearable technology is an undeniable trend and brands like Nike, Apple, Samsung and Google are all bringing out products to satisfy consumers growing awareness and demand for new products.
Much has been written about smartwatches in particular due to the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch and the new Apple iWatch - What does this mean the future of wearable technology? Is it all about wrist based devices? Can wearable technology cross over from being an fashion accessory to being a functioning part of our everyday lives? What do you think will happen in the future of this industry?
PSFK Labs in collaboration with iQ by intel created this great report which covers how the latest trends are evolving.
Fashion Forward: From The Runway to Ready-to-wear
Designers are creating apparel, accessories and fitness wear that can do everything from monitor your heart rate to charge your smartphone. For the Fashion Forward scene here are some of the latest players in the space:
- Charge It: Someday you may be able to charge your smartphone with your clothes. Flexible solar panels have inspired designers to come up with clothes and accessories that can power electronics. Start-up Wearable Solar is using the technology to make lightweight wired garments that enable the wearer to charge a smartphone up to 50 percent if worn in the sun for a full hour. And New York-based Voltaic Systems makes a collection of bags that can charge a variety of devices.
- Baubles and Bangles: In the future, our own personal air purifier may defend us from all that nasty air outside. Worn on the wrist, the Hand Tree design sucks up and filters polluted air, and recycles it back into the atmosphere. It was created by Alexandr Kostin, a semifinalist in the Electrolux Design Lab Competition. The purifier gas a refillable carbon filter, a rechargeable battery and an organic light-emitting diode screen.
- Rainbow Winters: Some sharp people want to make our clothing to, well,do more. Amy Winters, the designer of the Rainbow Winters clothing line, makes garments that respond to their environment. For example, the dress is made with holographic leather and reacts to sound. As volume increases, it begins to illuminate and make what Winters describes as "visual music." The bathing suit reacts to light, with the center panel turning into purple dots in the sun.
- Trackable Couture: Things can get lost pretty easily in those massive walk-in closets. In his fall 2013 collection, fashion designer Asher Levine included tracking chips that let items be located by the owner using a customized TrackR app. Levine, who has created looks for Lady GaGa and will.i.am., partnered with Bluetooth solutions company Phone Halo on the chip.
- Adafruit: City bike-sharing programs such as New York's Citi Bike may be great, but the stations may be a bit hard to find without a map. Adafruit, a company that sells DIY electronics and kits, has built a helmet to help make that process more efficient. It has a built-in navigation system that uses lights that flash on the left or right to let the rider know where to turn. The interface is still a bit complicated, though: The user has to manually enter the coordinates of a destination, but it is still safer than trying to use a smartphone while riding.
- Ying Gao: Using eye-tracking technology, fashion designer Ying Gao has created a set of dresses that move when someone is looking at them. When the garment is gazed at for a time, tiny motors move parts of it in patterns. The dresses also glow. covered in photo-luminescent thread or featuring glow-in-the-dark threads that make up the base layer of fabric.
- Sounds That Carry: The merger of technology and high-end accessory design is a definite trend. Handbag designer Rebecca Minkoff has made four clutches that encase speakers for Stellé Audio Couture.
- A Sock With a Message: The start-up Heapsylon has a smart sock, Sensoria, that is paired with an anklet to automatically detect the type and level of activity based on pressure signals coming from the foot of the wearer. Sensors in the sock communicate data to the anklet, which then can relay the information to the user via an app. For example, it can track a runner's regular form and send an alert when he or she is making an injurious movement.
- Close to the Heart: Even more intimate than smart socks, intelligent sports bras can track users' performance. This NuMetrix sports bar, made by Textronics, has a small transmitter that snaps to the garment to tracks a user's heart rate.
- Light It Up: Berlin-based label Moon Berlin, which makes luxury clothing, focuses on using technology to enhance the look of its designs. Soft-circuit LEDs are integrated into the garments, connected to an electrical circuit attached to rubber-like materials that are integrated into fabrics.
The Issues and Questions
While some are creating products to enhance and expand your personal eco-system, others are quite skeptical about the trends because of the following:
- Privacy. One thing is poking finger into a touch screen in a public place, the other is talking to the device. Wouldn't people look like lunatics talking to themselves all the time?
- Practicality. How practical is it? Compared to poking an icon, sending and processing a voice command seems to take a lot more time, even with the best processing speed and the best voice recognition accuracy.
- Data Storage - Who owns this data? How much of it belongs to the person and how much belongs to the brand? Where do you store all of your vitals?
Getting entrenched in the history
As computing moves from our desktops to our phones, we look into the future to see how technology will become increasingly ingrained in our movements and our active lives. Wearables have the possibility to make us more knowledgeable about ourselves and our surroundings, and connect us with each other in an uninterrupted, more intimate way. From DIY wearables to high-tech sensors and smart fabrics, the years ahead will show how integrated technology can impact our lives for the better.
Any thoughts on this trend?
[Sources: PBS, PSFK, CNBC, CNN, Ted Talks]