Wearable Technology: Bend it, Wash it, Wear it
At the 2013 Wearable Technology Conference in San Francisco, Google Glass is already old news. That may seem surprising since most people have never tried one on yet. However, to the hundreds of engineers and executives that crowded Fort Mason’s conference center this week, the question on everyone’s mind was: What’s really new?
The answers are exciting: Jackets that talk to each other and let you know if your date is too cold or too hot. Waistbands that notify you of poor posture. Solar powered wetsuits that keep you warm while surfing. Swimming goggles that monitor your workout performance. These and many other technologies are all in the works or being put to production.
That is all going to change in the next decade. Coming soon to a Nordstrom, Kohl’s, or REI near you will be synthetic pants that capture body heat and recharge your cell phones. Ski goggles that monitor how much air time you get when launching a 360 tail-grab while boarding the slopes. And pressure-sensing gloves that monitor your golf swings.
All this transformative wearable technology is made possible because of the massive shrinkage of computer chips and electronics that has taken place in the last two decades. The result is that soon we will all be wearing computers and monitoring devices, capable of assessing hundreds of aspects of our bodily functions and actions.
In my visionary science-fiction novel, The Transhumanist Wager, protagonist Jethro Knights wears a shirt capable of monitoring key vital signs of his body. The shirt also can be traced anywhere in the globe via GPS. I talked with Chih-Cheng Lu, CTO of AiQ Smart Clothing Inc., a Taiwan-based company, and he had a similar type of outfit on display at the conference.
“Our Smart Clothing shirt is very convenient. It can do vital sign monitoring and data mining of the body, and then the information can be transmitted through a phone, the cloud, or the internet.”
It’s not just adults that get to have all the fun. Or have their lives enhanced by technology. What parent hasn’t wished they could know when their child needed diapers to be changed—without checking on it every 2 minutes before a painful rash sets in that ruins the day?
“We have a fix for that,” says Joan K. Vrtis, Ph.D., a Senior Director of California-based Multek. “Diapers with wet-sensors that send signals to their parent’s cell phones are also on the way.”
The coolest thing I saw at the technology conference was a product called WaterBlock made by HzO, a company out of Utah. Through an invisible nanontechnology coating applied over inner electronics, technology devices can be made waterproof. We’ve all worried about dropping our cell phones into the toilet, or spilling our coffee on our tablets. WaterBlock ends that worry. And this type of waterproofing technology is critical for making tech-laden clothing washable—a chief concern of any wearable technology.
My overall take from the conference: Fashion just got a lot cooler now that it’s going to turn us all into walking (and swimming) supercomputers.
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