"My T-shirt tells me things," Nick Bilton writes in an article for T Magazine. No, this isn't a piece about a madman who hallucinates that his t-shirt tells him to kill people. The article is about OMsignal, a company that creates wearable technology the likes of which put Google Glass to shame.
So, what does Nick Bilton's t-shirt tell him?
My heart rate, for instance: 62 beats a minute. And my breathing: 17 breaths a minute. Unless I drink too many cappuccinos or a deadline looms. Then my T-shirt tells me my that heart rate has jumped to the high 80s, my breathing to 22. My T-shirt is connected to me and also to the Internet. So along with an iPhone app, it can remind me to take a breath, relax, chill.
We really are living in the future now, aren't we? OMsignal's apparel is made out of biometric materials (aka smart textiles) that include sensors and allow for the clothing to hook up to the Internet and gather information.
Smart clothing stands out from other forms of technology because we've already been wearing clothing our entire lives. There is no adjustment period, no learning how to incorporate a new device into our daily routine. Unlike clunky "wearble tech" like Google Glass, OMsignal represents "technology woven into life." Here's how it works, courtesy of GizMag:
Created from a stretchable, machine washable fabric, the shirt is designed to compress the user's torso in order to encourage blood flow both during exercise, and after, to expedite recovery. With the use of a small waterproof black box, data collected by the smart shirt is relayed in real time via Bluetooth to the OMsignal companion app on the user's smart phone. The black box, designed to clip to the exterior of the shirt, has an integrated battery and can operate for 30 hours of intensive workout time, or 3 to 4 days of continuous wear without recharging.
OMsignal products allow you to monitor your wellness, to track progress at the gym, and to keep track of stress levels. The eventual medical implications could be tremendous, but so far the line is pretty limited. You can pre-order a small selection of t-shirts and sleeveless tanks which start at $80. You also need to purchase a module to power the shirt's smart properties, which will run you an additional $120. Not the cost of your average pack of Hanes t-shirts, I'll grant you.
“The leap that you have to make from a prototype or small-lot sizes of these wearables to an affordable mass-market product is pretty significant,” Jonathan Gaw, research manager for IDC Research, told Bilton. “The price is going to have to come way down before it becomes a product for most consumers.”
We're a long way from having closets full of smart clothes, and, honestly, until Chanel makes a line of intelligent tweed jackets I won't be running out to stock up. Still, OMsignal and other smart clothing purveyors have potential. As Bilton points out, smart clothes can be helpful beyond fitness — they could help blind people navigate streets and monitor the progress of certain medical conditions.
OMsignal products are not yet available for women, however, so I guess we'll just have to stick with that dress that becomes see-through when you're turned on. And people claim that sexism doesn't exist...