With the hype over Apple Watch and Google Glass coming to define the wearables scene as 2014 draws to a close, it’s time to examine the industry’s trajectory and predict which trends are due to explode in the upcoming year (we’ll leave aside the inaugural selfie hat, for now). If beauty really is only skin-deep, it’s time to get up close and personal: commercially viable, truly technological materials are just around the corner. Sophisticated and scientific, here’s our pick of the most exciting developments in a material world.
Washable fabric circuit boards
With the most sure-fire way of identifying designer clothing still being those fatal three words, “Specialist-clean only”, one recent invention by engineers at Hong Kong Polytechnic university might be about to turn the standards of washability inside-out. The fabric circuit board (FCB), made of pre-stretched elastic yarn and polyurethane-coated copper fibre, has electrical wiring knitted in and can be worn, washed, folded and even shot with bullets. Stinky computer shirts, be gone!
Need a helping hand? Awarded third place in Intel’s Make It Wearable competition on Monday, ProGlove is a smart glove more designed for industrial use than your below-freezing morning commute (hello, November). The glove can track the worker’s movements, heart rate, mood and productivity, as well as identify tools as the fingers touch them during the assembly process.
Founded in 1996 by former American football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour is the original game-changer in performance clothing. Trademarked technical fabrics for sports apparel might be fairly ubiquitous now, but UA are still making the news for their latest innovations – they timed last week’s launch of their latest running shoe, with soles made with the brand’s ‘Charged Foam’, just days before the NY marathon. Their Armour39 self-monitoring system combines a small Bluetooth LE-enabled pod in a distinctive chest strap, connected to an app, to track levels of exertion.
Ralph Lauren Polo at the US Open
Polo-branded wearable technology is here. A select few ball boys at this summer’s US Open wore tech “smartshirts” with biometric capabilities. In snug black compressed nylon, the polo shirts were developed by OMsignal and included conductive threads with a small snap-on module to relay health information to Bluetooth-connected iPhones or iPads.
The logical next step up from materials on the skin? Wearable tech that feels like skin. A new gen of start-ups are exploring wearable options that adhere to the skin like temporary tattoos or plasters – including MC10, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., who are currently testing ‘attachable computers’ that include wireless antennae, temperature and heart-rate sensors and a teeny-tiny battery. The infinite possibilities of the technology makes it equally exciting for health professionals as it is for style aficionados who are looking to combine fashion and tech through body art.
Our NY Summit will play host to material girls (and boys) in our panel discussion on Smart Manufacturing Transforming Fashion Today on November 18th: speakers will include; Bradley Quinn, Creative Director, Stylus Fashion; Sabine Seymour, CEO, Moondial; Dr. Amanda Parkes, Chief of Technology & Research, Manufacture NY and Francis Bitonti, Designer.
Reported by Claire Healy