3 Unusual Ways Smart Tech Meets Fashion
When we talk about wearable tech, what usually comes to mind are things like smartwatches, computerized glasses and health trackers. But there's a lot more going on -- especially at the convergence of tech and fashion.
Entrepreneurs and designers are finding new and sometimes bizarre ways to make the clothes we wear smarter without compromising on style. Some can be truly useful. Others, well, seem more like novelty.
Here, we've collected three unusual examples of products at the convergence of fashion and tech:
1. Clothes that can charge your devices.
What happens when you're out at an event or traveling for business and your smartphone or tablet battery dies? You have to find an outlet to charge it or otherwise deal with being unable to use your device.
That's where Netherlands-based fashion designer Pauline van Dongen comes in. She has teamed up with scientists and other experts to develop clothing -- a prototype dress and coat, specifically -- that have flexible solar panels built into them. The coat has nearly 50 rigid solar cells while the dress has more than 70 flexible solar cells.
If worn in the sun for an hour, each one can store enough energy to charge a typical smartphone by about 50 percent, van Dongen says. The solar cells can be revealed when the wearer is outside in the sun, or they can be folded away and worn invisibly.
It's not as wonky as it sounds. For a closer look, check out this video:
2. A hoodie for social-media junkies.
If you're constantly checking your Facebook feed, you'll want to give this a look.
Ping is a concept design from Seattle's Electricfoxy, a wearables production firm. Developed several years ago, Ping is a sleeveless hoodie that wirelessly connects to your Facebook account. Basically, a wearer can use the garment to connect to the social network through a series of "natural gestures" instead of a typical app.
For instance, a sensor is integrated into the hood that allows wearers to send and receive messages by lifting the hood up or down. Wearers can "customize their messages, assign them to groups of friends and even manage many different types of messages based on where you are, who you're pinging, or what your mood is." If a friend sends a message, the wearer will feel a haptic tap on his or her shoulder.
And what's up with that zig-zagging design on the left and right panels? It's actually Ping's circuitry. "Rather than hide the technology completely, the design of the garment embraces it and explodes aspects of the functionality as the aesthetics of the garment. In this case, function truly does meet fashion," Electricfoxy says on its site.
Seems interesting, but I'm not sure how that would work in real-world applications.
The same idea around natural gestures is behind Zip, another Electricfoxy clothing design that connects wirelessly to the wearer's phone or music player and allows the person to control the volume by simply moving the zipper up or down.
Here's a look at Ping:
3. This dress can pour you a drink.
I bet you never expected a waitress or bartender to wear a dress like this. The DareDroid is a biomechanic cocktail-making dress. Yes, you read that right. But in order to receive the drink you first need to play a game with the wearer.
"Sensors around the neck detect your presence and allows the technological system to dispense non-alcoholic liquid," according to the project's website. "Your willingness to play a touch screen based game of Truth or Dare, combined with your natural charm triggers the decision to give you more than just juice." Read: alcohol.
Created several years ago, the DareDroid comes courtesy of Dutch-based fashion-tech designer and innovator Anouk Wipprecht. More recently, Wipprecht designed a line of dresses called "Intimacy" that is made of opaque, smart e-foils that become transparent when the wearer gets close to another person.
Intimacy, obviously, is NSFW. Instead, here's a look at DareDroid:
OK, this looks a little ridiculous, but, hey, if it breaks the ice and gets people interacting instead of being glued to their smartphones, why not? Right?
Jason Fell is director of native content for Entrepreneur, managing the Entrepreneur Partner Studio, which creates dynamic and compelling content for our partners. He previously served as Entrepreneur.com's managing editor and as the technology editor prior to that.