Next Things 2015: The world of wearable technology
The fourth edition of the call NEXT THINGS has taken place and the winning project has been `Environment Dress´, designed by María Castellanos and Alberto Valverde. This article aims to answer some questions like, for instance, what idea is behind this initiative or if this project is unique in its kind.
At the beginning of the year the Asturian centre LABoral and the innovation firm Telefónica I+D presented the fourth edition of Next Things, a call addressed to creators whose work is between art and technology.
The call was open since the end of February until mid-April, and it was open only to art and research projects that explored “The collective human behaviour through the new technologies” (1). 39 initiatives from all over the world were presented and the jury eventually chose just one winner: The project Environment Dress, designed by the Asturian María Castellanos and the Madrid-native Alberto Valverde (members of the collective uh513).
Both artist will complete a six-month production grant to produce their idea and they will be supported by the two organising entities. But, what do the really want to do? With Environment Dress Castellanos and Valverde intend to create “a smart dress that collects data from the environment to measure the aggressiveness around us and analyse how it affects the mood and the behaviour of individuals” (2). In order to do this, the dress will be equipped with sensors to collect diverse information (such as noise, temperature, pressure, etc.) and the data will be submitted, via bluetooth or wi-fi connection, to a phone connected to the Internet. This device will analyse all the information and will create responses to this external aggressions (like, for instance, changes of light).
Drawing of Environment Dress.
It is true that the idea is very interesting and quite promising, but Environment Dress is not the first project that combines the fashion industry with technology. The relationship between these two has been developing for a long time and there are many brands that over the last years have created clothes that can adapt to the digital era. To give you an idea of the latest discoveries, we will present below some examples that can compete with the project by Castellanos and Valderde.
First it is essential to mention an accessory that shook the world of fashion: The Google Glass (3). Designed by Thad Starner, these glasses are connected to the Internet, with photo and video camera and they allow using the social networks and other apps at any time.
How to use Google Glass?
Following these glasses, companies such as Samsung, Sony, Apple, HTC or Motorola created the smart wristwatch. With some exceptions, they generally work as a secondary screen connected with a larger and more powerful device, and they display notifications and information for the user.
We should not forget the evolution seen in sportswear. People that practice physical activities can now use the sneakers by Google and Adidas, that feature several functionalities: Reading speed, detecting the type of activity carried out by the user, connecting via bluetooth with the mobile phone, accessing contacts and they are even able to speak using a list of 250 phrases. And, in order to be fashionable, athletes can combine these shoes with the Polo Tech Shirt, a tea-shirt designed by Ralph Lauren that can register the heart rate, breathing, steps and the calories burnt by the user.
Introducing The Polo Tech Shirt
© Ralph Lauren
Outside sports, technology fans can use some of the clothes designed by the team o the brand Cutecircuit or by the Canadian designer Ying Gao. The first company has been able to create “jackets and dresses with LED lights that change colour, a dress that posts tweets and tea-shirts connected to the Internet and change their design following Facebook updates” (4). On the other hand, Gao, presented some years ago Incertitudes, a collection made up by clothes with small threads that moved thanks to a voice sensor (5).
In addition to all these curiosities, we must not forget other amazing elements like a handbag that limits expenditure, launched by the firm Credit Card Finder. This accessory is able to track what the user spends and it might stay locked during the “vulnerable hours” of day. Moreover, if one enters a shopping area considered as dangerous, the handbag will light up with a warning LED light turned on by a GPS chip. The user can even appoint someone to be warned via SMS in case of a consumerist relapse.
To close this list of examples we could mention some options for the romantic and the sensitive. They can send and receive hugs even remotely with the JUG t-shirts. And if they plan on proposing marriage to their partners, they can give them the NFC Ring, a ring that can be used to unlock the mobile phone, transfer information, make payments or even open a door using proximity technology (the one used in credit cards that make payments by putting them close to a reading sensor).
© John McLear
All these clothes and accessories are just examples of a trend that, even though it is new, has been developing for some years now: The wearable technology. But, can this trend succeed among the public?
Alberto Zamora, managing director at Accenture Strategy, says that “The so-called wearables (…) are becoming a reality. According to studies conducted by Accenture Strategy, like the recent Technology Vision 2015, 13% of consumers contemplates buying one during next year. It might seem a low percentage in the short-term, but, according to the forecasts, there will be 200 million wearable devices by 2020” (6).
Lakitsch seems to share this enthusiasm and adds the following: “The demand of real-time data and wearable technology will increase from the 14 millions of units registered one year ago to 171 millions in 2016, according to a study by the consulting firm IMS Research (…). We should ask ourselves whether this trend is just a trend or it is here to stay. And the answer seems to be the latter” (7). We will have to way to see whether this forecast is true, all we can do now is enjoying prototypes like Environment Dress.
(1) “NEXT THINGS 2015 – CONDUCTA” (Web site of LABoral, date). Text available at: http://www.laboralcentrodearte.org/es/r/convocatorias/nextthings15
(2) “Environment Dress, de María Castellanos y Alberto Valverde, gana la convocatoria Next Things 2015” (Web site of LABoral, 18/05/2015). Text available at: http://www.laboralcentrodearte.org/es/recursos/prensa/noticias/fallonextthings2015
(3) More information on this invention in the article “¿Para que necesitamos las Google Glass?” (ABC, May 16, 2013). Text available at http://www.abc.es/tecnologia/informatica-hardware/20130516/abci-necesitamos-google-glass-201305102048.html
(4) Alina Lakitsch, “Fashion revolution: visionarios de la moda, expertos en tecnología” (Glamour, April 4, 2014). Text available at: http://www.glamour.es/work-techno/articulos/ser-un-visionario-de-la-moda-es-saber-de-tecnologia/19583
(5) Alejandra Avendaño Herrera, “Ying Gao, una diseñadora que mezcla la moda y la tecnología” (Youngmarketing.co, September 13, 2013). Text available at: http://www.youngmarketing.co/ying-gao-una-disenadora-que-mezcla-la-moda-y-la-tecnologia/#ixzz3c2Ksj0Ry
(6) Alberto Zamora, “La tecnología también desfila en pasarelas” (Cinco Días, February 5, 2015). Text available at: http://cincodias.com/cincodias/2015/02/05/tecnologia/1423171188_330453.html
(7) Alina Lakitsch, “Fashion revolution: visionarios de la moda, expertos en tecnología”.