Wearable Tech World Feature Article
August 25, 2014

Fashion Goes for Form & Function with New Wearable Tech

Wearable tech needs to have two different facets simultaneously working for it, much as the name suggests. Items seeking to be a success in wearable tech must be both technologically useful—the “tech” part in question, but the items must also be wearable. Of course, by “wearable”, a host of different issues of aesthetics, fit and comfort are raised, and a new movement is kicking up around the proper execution of wearable tech by the luxury fashion industry looking to add more of a technological punch to its lineup.

When Intel's new devices group's VP of business development and strategy, Ayse Ildeniz, took the stage at a January event to describe how the fashion industry should “...be in the driver's seat” when it came to wearable tech, the fashion industry indeed took note and got to thinking. Such a concept has actually come to life, meanwhile, with Ralph Lauren's plans to unveil Polo Tech at the start of the U.S. Open tennis event.

Polo Tech is Ralph Lauren's new compression shirt, a system developed with feedback from players and ball boys alike, and boasts a set of sensors knitted into the fabric that track many of the common points that fitness trackers attempt to track, from heart rate to respiration, routing said information to a “black box” contained within the shirt that can also handle things like movement and direction. The company will reportedly start selling Polo Tech this spring.

But Ralph Lauren wasn't alone in the development of fashionable tech. HP called in Michael Bastian, along with the online retailer Gilt, to put together a new breed of smartwatch that can actually work as well with Android devices as it can with iOS, and offer up notifications for a variety of functions from texts to calls to email. The device, in turn, may be on sale as early as this fall. Fitbit has even been seen working with Tory Burch, bringing in accessories for the Flex line like patterned silicone wristbands or brass pendants and bracelets.

This kind of thing likely should have been expected. While the technology side of wearable tech has been steadily on the rise, with new sensors and new ways to deploy same, along with new uses for the various items involved, the “wearable” side of wearable tech has been somewhat muted. While indeed, it's easy to interpret “wearable” as “it's possible to wear this”, we forget there are parts of wearable not so readily considered. Parts like “doesn't make me look stupid,” or “has an attractive look” or even just “fits comfortably”. For wearable tech to really take off, such considerations need to be made and properly executed in order to create the kinds of products that people not only want to wear, but also want to use.

Wearable tech has a great potential to reshape a lot of technologies as such are known today, but a proper wearable tech release must remember the need for those more aesthetic decisions that go into such purchases. Wearable tech must be both attractive and functional to really succeed, and now that function seems to be well in hand, it's good to see companies considering the attractive part as well.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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