While we haven’t yet reached a Terminator level of dependence on tech, it’s clear that we’re becoming ever-more reliant on any gadget or gizmo that can help make our lives faster, easier and better. In this Retail Radar column, we enter the age of wearable tech – which crosses that bridge between biological and bionic – and look at both upcoming and recently-released products that we believe to be real game-changers.
The designs share a common theme – often small, they’re sophisticated and in-synch with our daily lives, and usually integrate into a network of other devices. And, they’re controlled by gestures, touch or voice technology, with all being tailored to be easy to use.
Pixie Scientific have developed a nappy that can detect whether the wearer has diabetes, amongst other things. It works by scanning the attached QR code after use, which is analysed by the accompanied app. The idea is also being applied to incontinence pants for adults.
2. Contact Lenses
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have developed a ‘zoomable lens’ which it hopes will help those affected by macular degeneration and other sight conditions. The lens has 2.8x magnification capability and at just over 1mm thick, is thin and comfortable enough to wear. As of yet, the design isn’t quite retail-ready, as the switch between normal and zoomed vision can’t be achieved without the help of additional hardware.
3. False Nails
Engineer Katia Vega has been pioneering what she calls ‘beauty technology’. The most impressive example is her wearable nails, a technology that disguises Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) under varnish,glitter and decorations in order to match an action to a task – like unlocking a door scanner with a tap or click, or making a payment – and all within a 2cm distance. She’s even developed the technology into what she calls ‘AquaDJing’ – essentially touching and sweeping the surface of water to create and mix music, with RFID readers placed at the bottom of the container to detect and translate these movements.
Richard Nicoll showcased a simple yet striking slip dress, woven from fibre optic fabric, at London Fashion Week (SS15). Sponsored by Disney and created in part by Studio XO, the ‘fashion laboratory’ behind Lady Gaga’s flying dress stunt, the ‘Tinkerbell’ dress lit up entirely in blue – and was a definite winner among the fashion elite. Wearable clothing has also made waves thanks to San Francisco-based Sensoree’s colour-changing mood sweater, as well as two garments that featured in an episode of BBC’s The Apprentice (although their purpose was confused – while one simply filmed video, the other flashed blue, had a pocket mobile charge point, and heated the wearer through solar-powered shoulder pads).
5. Fitness Devices
Evolving from the humble pedometer, these monitor the body’s activities and functions – from calorie intake, to heart rate, and even sleep patterns – and use gathered data, together with social support, goals and games, to motivate the wearer towards good, or better, health. Fitbit and Jawbone (Silicon Valley’s finest), together with Nike+ FuelBand, are three brands to watch.