In the 1960s my father spent long, cold New England winter days directing traffic. It was the cold feet that got to him. Always something of a gadget junkie, he bought a pair of battery-powered socks that would keep his feet warm.
This was state-of-the-art stuff for wearable technology in the 1960s. But 50 years later, manufacturers are still wrestling to improve the breed.
Today we've got tablets, phones, music players, laptops, GPS devices and digital cameras that we keep with us day and night. Not only do these devices require power, they add weight and take up space.
Each new generation of device weighs less and takes up less space, but stick a phone or a camera or a tablet in your pocket and you know it's there.
Too often, so does everyone else. There has always been the challenge of delivering electronic functionality AND style.
Technology enabled clothing
These days the form versus function dichotomy has expanded into new dimensions. People want their communications and entertainment devices close at hand, but also want their hands free. s.
A pocket isn't a high-tech device, but if it's designed right it distributes the weight of its contents, and also hides those contents. "Technology Enabled Clothing."
Sportswear has always been a natural for such packrat design, but manufacturers are coming up with hidden pockets in more stylish clothes. Dressed for sports or dressed to kill, people still want their electronic devices.
Some models have as many as 37 pockets. SeV promotes them as something like wearable daypacks for air travel; they'll carry all the key items you'd take in a carry-on. Simply put your loaded coat on the x-ray conveyor and retrieve it on the other side with everything intact.
At the more fashion-conscious end of the spectrum, Levi's Red Wire DLX collection of women's jeans features an iPod docking station, retractable headphones and a removable joystick.
The future promises more exotic approaches that will expand the wearable technology envelope. The biggest payoff in so-called intelligent clothing will come when wearers can generate at least some of the power for the devices they're carrying, minimizing or eliminating recharge anxiety.
The power sources might include built-in solar panels, or shoes that generate power when the wearer walks, producing energy that can be used to charge devices.
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