How are emerging technologies impacting the world of fashion?

New technologies are changing just about every aspect of how we live, from streaming replacing live TV (which is in itself a new technology) through to wearables helping to monitor exercise routines. Another aspect that is changing is the clothes we wear.

From adding smart technology to glasses to self-lacing shoes (inspired by Back to the Future Part II), the world of fashion is becoming ever more tech-conscious. New ideas (and revisiting some old ones) are being developed by clothing brands all the time, most of them meant to make your life more convenient.

Smart glasses

MusicLens is a pair of smart sunglasses, which can play music and radio and answer phone calls. The product is launching very soon on Indiegogo, and aims to provide smart glasses that void the need to carry your phone everywhere you go. The glasses use bone conduction technology to avoid the need for earphones, and allow you to be entertained and contactable even without your phone.

The MusicLens allows you to listen to music and radio through your sunglasses. Photo: Supplied by MusicLens

Of course smart glasses in themselves are not a new product, but this new version aims to avoid the over-complication that doomed Google Glass to be a niche product, rather than a mainstream one.  This deliberate limitation in function allows the glasses to remain lightweight (like normal sunglasses) and affordable.

Self-lacing shoes

While Nike originally developed a shoe with “power laces” as a marketing stunt designed to appeal to nostalgia, they are getting closer and closer to making these a commercial reality. The HyperAdapt is designed to be worn by athletes, as the tightness is adjustable and the shoe won’t come undone and fall off.

Additionally this technology could be great for people with disabilities that either prevent or make it difficult for them to tie their own shoes. At the moment the HyperAdapt is probably too expensive to be anything more than a novelty (and possibly be worn by elite athletes) but the price will most likely come down as other companies get in on the act and produce their own versions.

New smart watches

The Apple watch has been relatively successful in terms of smart products – they are nowhere near as ubiquitous as the iPhone, but have also moved beyond being novelty gadgets to now feature as a mainstream wearable. Functionality increases with each new model released, even if the watch is largely useless for anything beyond telling the time without a phone nearby to pair it to.

Apple has also partnered with high-end watchmaker Hermes to try and capture a more upmarket, exclusive audience – as well as quadruple the price. Any differences between the watch with a Hermes band and a regular band are purely cosmetic, and the value is largely based on exclusivity, but given that is also largely true in the watch industry as a whole the partnership should work.

Smart watch
Smart watches are growing in popularity. Photo: Fancycrave1, Pixabay

Interactive jackets

Levi’s and Google have partnered to produce the “Commuter” jacket, which incorporates a Bluetooth relay with touch sensitive fibres to enable users to control their phone (people can set what they want different gestures to do for themselves). The actual interactive part of the jacket is the left cuff, which can be detached for charging and washing the jacket.

You can also turn on Maps to get directions and your ETA, which is good for cyclists, as they can’t safely pull out their phone while riding. There are also features that will tell you the time and “find my phone” – although your phone will need to be close enough to still be paired over Bluetooth. These functions can effectively make your jacket a part of the Internet of Things.

At the moment the jacket seems to largely serve as a way to skip or replay songs and answer the phone without needing to take your phone out of your pocket. Given the phone needs to be close enough to connect to the cuff, it’s hard to see what problem is being solved – although that is also true of Apple watches, and they are still quite successful.

Commuter jacket
You’ll soon be able to control your phone through your jacket sleeve. Photo: StockSnap, Pixabay

These technological advances could end up doing for the fashion world what the smart home did for appliances – essentially, hide a useful gadget or device in everything. With mainstream (and in some cases high end) clothing and accessories brands getting in on the action, it isn’t just left to tech companies to create new devices anymore!

Christian Woods
Christian Woods
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.
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