Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 22, 2013

Digital Dresses, Google Glasses and 'Magic Mirrors' - Wearable Technology Has Officially Arrived

Fashion is unquestionably one of the most influential concepts to exist in history. Take the world’s most highly anticipated dates, such as the 2011 Royal Wedding, where Kate Middleton’s Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen royal wedding dress stunned. Even yesterday’s Presidential Inauguration boasted fashions fit to make the media swoon, where the First Lady wore Thom Browne and her daughters sporting Kate Spade and J. Crew. Fashion is highly praised for its emphasis on the innovative and its ability to surpass all limitations. Now, it seems we’ve finally crossed the futuristic threshold of clothing: Wearable technology.

Don’t believe me? Consider the fact that 14 million wearable tech device were produced in 2011 alone, which the public ate right up. Let’s also not forget that by 2016, the global market is predicted to reach a whopping $6 billion, according to shopping and style intelligence source, Racked.

There are already plenty of examples out there, such as Nike’s Fuel band, which allows runners to track their workouts via an app. There’s also the cookoo watch, the world’s first real watch that connects users to their smartphones at all times without needing to be recharged. There are many accessory examples out there today, but we’re finally getting to the meat and potatoes of this revelation with dresses, technological fabrics and more.

Clothing companies everywhere are neck deep in the race to stay fresh and current. One such company is Uniqlo, a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer that has been sweeping the U.S. with its East Coast-based stores since opening its flagship doors in 2006 in NYC’s SoHo. I personally am a huge fan of this clothing brand – it’s affordable and yet pushes the limits of realistic and revolutionary.

Originally a division of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., the company is aiming to reach its goal of $10 billion in sales in North America by 2020. With its creative outlook and positive mentality, this should be no problem, as Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai explains, "In general, the apparel industry isn't about continual process improvement or making the perfect piece of denim, it's about chasing trends. At Uniqlo we're thinking ahead. We're thinking about how to create new, innovative products.”

Uniqlo is becoming increasingly well-known and loved for its unique heat tech fabrics, a self-described “Heat-activating base layer [to] keep you warm and set your style free.” The company notes on its site, “After years of working with world-class textile manufacturer Toray and creating over ten thousand samples, we came up with a totally new material to fight the cold.”

This layer of technology is as thin as .5mm and produces heat from moisture evaporating from the wearer’s body, which air pockets then store in the fibers to keep the skin warm without needing additional layers, the site continues. The store even has a “magic mirror” that allows customers to virtually try on any color of the same piece of clothing.

Also consider Google’s fascinating wearable computing glasses, which could very well replace the smartphone altogether. The glasses, which are currently in the making, look to be a very serious project that could include “a virtual keyboard that can be projected onto a surface and components of the keyboard detect finger movements and translate the movements into keystrokes on the device,” according to the patent application.

TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently blogged on the product, where he said, “As you might expect – Google has figured out how to ‘read’ the ‘pressing’ of a virtual button via discontinuity in a photograph of the keyboard.” Very impressive, indeed.

Even celebrities are hot to jump onto the scene, such as model, costume designer and actress Dita Von Teese, who integrated QR codes into her new dress line that link to her Twitter page. Discussing her thought process on the development, Racked reports her crediting “the power of social media.” She said, “It was very important to me to align with a company that understand [this]…because I’ve been very successful in using Twitter and Facebook personally to reach my fans to tell them about my performances and various projects. Every update [is] made by me personally, and I think people respond to the authenticity of that.”

It seems that the era of technology you can wear has only just begun.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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