Times Article 036
Technology Tides of Fashion
back to the High-Tech Times. One of the main reasons I love Hawaii is our
adoption of Alohaware. I fondly remember the “tie-burning” party I had
when we moved out here a decade ago. But time, technology, and the fashion
industry hold still for no man (or woman), and our clothes may soon reflect
a few interesting changes.
to the Wall Street Journal, Philips NV and fashion manufacturer Levi Strauss
& Co. are developing jackets with built-in electronic equipment, promising
consumers that the days of pockets bulging with phones, audio equipment,
and wires have come to an end. Called ICD+, the water-resistant outdoor
jackets feature built-in MP3 players, headsets, mobile-phone handsets,
and small remote controls. Making a call is as easy as flipping up the
collar, and MP3's can be accessed by reaching in a pocket, while buttons
on the sleeve adjust volume controls.
electronics jackets will be launched commercially in September, and will
be available at some 40 boutiques across Europe, mainly in fashion centers
like Paris, London, and Milan. Browse over to the Philips Web-site at http://www.research.philips.com/pressmedia/pictures/wearelec.html
still in its infancy, wearable electronics are getting increased attention
from clothing and electronics makers. What started with portable transistor
radios may soon develop into fabrics that conduct electricity and can connect
audio-video equipment and pocket computers. Several conceptual products
have already been developed at tech labs around the globe, including a
T-shirt featuring in-ear speakers and solar cells to provide energy, and
a solar-energy recharge jacket serving as battery to a microphone and a
video camera. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab
spin-off Charmed Technology has even launched high-profile fashion shows
featuring futuristic-looking clothing showing all sorts of built-in wireless
technology on catwalks around the globe.
wearables aren't just geeky fantasies, they are serious business, and there
are several commercial projects already up and running. Nike has started
a tech lab aiming to integrate digital equipment like MP3 players into
sports clothes; telecom equipment-maker Motorola and watch-maker Swatch
each has developed a wristwatch equipped with a phone; and telecom manufacturer
Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson will launch this autumn a clip-on wireless headset
for mobile phones.
everyone is as enthusiastic about wearable electronics as Philips and Levi
Strauss. Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB has turned down
at least one request from a Swedish university to develop wearables. The
company thinks such garments would, for now, be too expensive for its consumers,
while there are also questions about safety. But Philips and others aren't
scared off. So how do wearables work? Philips’ and Levi Strauss’
ICD+ jackets are equipped with a personal area network, or PAN: an electronic
circuit woven into the jacket that serves as the backbone for various devices.
Just like local area networks that connect computers to each other at offices,
PAN allows the transport of data, power, and control signals within the
garment. Several devices can be clipped on to a PAN, and they can be centrally
controlled by a remote control with a small display that alerts users to
every incoming phone call, e-mail, or the title of a song playing on an
and Levi Strauss began working on the project 18 months ago with a team
of fashion designers, technicians, and interactive media specialists with
the goal to create a fashion-conscious outdoors jacket with integrated
electronic equipment. The target market is young people who are outdoors
a lot and carry a lot of equipment around just for their jobs - movie producers
and roadies, for example - as well as teenagers and early adapters who
want tomorrow's trendy thing today.
current ICD+ line had to be designed in such a way that the user wouldn't
feel the weight of the electronics or more than four feet of wires. The
total weight of the equipment is five ounces (the phone and battery are
three ounces, the MP3 audio player weighs just 1.5 ounces), and the phone
can be operated simply by speaking commands directly into the collar. If
you want to read electronic short messages directed to your mobile phone,
say "Read short messages." If you want your calendar on a display, say
the garment - minus the hardware, which can be clipped on and off at will
- has to be able to survive cycles in a washer and dryer. ICD+ features
four different jackets with PANs, named the Producer Jacket, the Beetle
Jacket, Gilet, and the Mooring Jacket. They range in color from blue and
black to green and sand.
Telecom is working with the military forces of several countries to develop
clothes which can change their thickness and therefore thermal properties
according to the outside temperature. Another design splashes medicines
onto a wound when a soldier is hit by a bullet. They are also seeing the
use of optical fiber woven into the clothes. When a soldier is injured,
the fibers are broken and information about the wound location can be relayed
to field medics, who can use the information to prioritize casualties.
Other sensors could be used to monitor blood loss, pulse, etc., and these
data can also be relayed.
of micro?capsules can also be built into clothing and allow camouflage
to adapt dynamically to the surroundings, changing the colors and patterns
of the clothes. Such effects can be achieved in a variety of ways, by flattening
or stretching capsules to change their color characteristics, or by using
electrical charge or physical pressure. And today’s high-tech camouflage
technology will eventually become street fashion, with kaleidoscopic clothing.
a T?shirt which has a video display panel where the logo is now. Instead
of static prints, you could walk around showing video clips, perhaps from
a TV tuner on your belt, or you could be showing accompanying video?clips
while dancing to music at a night club. Smaller panels could be built into
sleeves or legs. You could have a wristwatch in your shirt sleeve. Communications
between the various devices could use fibers built into clothes, with their
data coverage increased to as much as 35 feet using the new Bluetooth technologies.
Another technique uses the body itself to transmit signals at surprisingly
high data rates, megabits per second.
guess that Hilo Hattie and Reyn Spooner will have to figure out a way to
integrate hibiscus patterns with solar-energy panels - real photosynthesis?!
you next month.