When you hear the word “wearable”, you might imagine a smart watch, a fitness band or perhaps something that you clip to your clothes. But chances are, you did not imagine those very clothes as being smart gear you can wear.
In 2015, as Wareable puts it, smart clothing took its “first tentative baby steps”. But in 2016, this emerging category is all set to dress you up. And along the way, it might also make standalone fitness trackers redundant — why strap something to your wrist or chest to record your heartbeat, when that smart T-shirt can do a fine job all by itself?
Wareable notes Ralph Lauren was among the first to experiment with this idea, during the US Open in August 2014, when the company handed out biometric shirts — called PoloTech — to the ball boys and girls. These were “infused with conductive silver-coated fibers which act as sensors that then stream this data in real time to a smartphone”. The shirt can track distance, calories burned, heart rate, stress rate and intensity of movement. You can pick one up for $295. Another interesting — and cheaper! — take is the $36 Radiate Thermal Vision Shirt, that boasts it is the “world’s most advanced athletic shirt”. It changes colour ”in response to your body heat, revealing your current level of performance output”.
Or check out the upcoming Lumo Run, currently on pre-order for $99 — these smart shorts and capris incorporate “the personal attention of a running coach with the professional data of a lab — all within the lining of your shorts to help you achieve your best”. The sensors can track cadence, bounce, braking, stride length, ground contact time and even pelvic rotation.
Elsewhere, Athos claims to have launched “the world’s first smart fitness apparel that measures muscle activity and heart rate all in real time”. It does this using “biosignal sensors” woven directly into the fabric — apparently the wearer “won’t even know they are there”. Unfortunately, there is a steep price to pay for this ‘not knowing’ — the full body gear will set you back by $547.
Though Mbody ramps up the sticker shocker even higher — their Bike&Run shorts, which proclaims to be the “first ever wearable product, which enables the measurement and analysis of muscle performance”, will set you back by €820. This kit is targeted at professional cyclists, but the “high-performance triathlon padding ensures that you have all the possibilities to utilize the shorts in any sport or training activity possible”.
Incidentally, even Victoria’s Secret has jumped on the smart clothing bandwagon, with a $75 sports bra that comes with “built in electrodes that hook up to a heart rate monitor”.