No matter how you look at it, technology aims to connect us as human beings. It adds new layers to our personal relationships by extending the reach and power of how we communicate with each other. It drives crucial advancements in science and industry that make life easier, better. It streamlines the logistics of life to free up more time to spend with our loved ones.
Yes, in its purist form, technology is all about working in tandem with humanity to make the world a better place. So what does the future look like? Inspired by Disney’s new futuristic flick, Tomorrowland, we take a look at one of the most rapidly growing areas of innovation – wearable technology.
‘Wearables’ – as they’re affectionately called by those in the know – are all the rage. Beyond the recently released smart timepieces like the Apple Watch and hyper-connected eyewear like Google Glass or the virtual reality gaming sensation Oculus Rift, designers are blending the latest advancements in technology with more humanistic and behavioural elements to create apparel, accessories and fitness fashion that are changing the way we understand ourselves, and each other, and are enabling more connectivity than ever before. From monitoring your heart-rate, to selecting your music playlists based on your mood and creating interactive garments that behave as art, all the way to the virtual reality end of the spectrum – technology has never before allowed for such intimate interaction with humans while also connecting us on a global scale.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most exciting emerging trends in wearable technology.
Technology As A Mirror To Your Body & Soul
Fit bands and heart monitors are nothing new. These days, there’s a gadget or device to track every pulsating, stepping, vibrating, active part of your body. Advancements in fabrication and sensor technology are joining forces to create increasingly more accurate monitoring capabilities to track your body’s performance like never before. And, not only will these innovations up the ante on the information available to you, they’ll also be seamlessly integrated into your garments. Sports bras with built-in micro-monitors that automatically sync with your at-home devices and smart high-performance fabrics will all form an intrinsic part of giving you an intimate and unobtrusive picture of how your body is tracking. Of course, the mind-body connection is also a huge emerging area for innovation and we love the idea of a smart ear phones that can detect your emotions through tiny sensors and then wham – they’ll auto-select the best song or playlist to suit your mood.
Rebecca Minkoff’s speaker purse.
And hey, while we’re connecting to our minds and bodies, we may as well be connecting to and protecting the environment right? Wearable solar-powered technology is a thing. No more running out of battery on your smart phone! Start-up companies like Wearable Solar are making lightweight wired garments that enable the wearer to charge a smartphone up to 50 per cent if worn in the sun for a full hour. And of course, the luxury tech-accessories business is booming with designers jumping on the bandwagon bringing their fashion savvy to accessories that can power up any number of devices. Designer Rebecca Minkoff is one leading the way here with a range of clutches that actually encase speakers so you can take your tunes with you – in style! While the merger of technology and high-end accessory design is a growing trend – the ‘green’ and sustainable path is a more popular one. Like Tomorrowland shouts at us loud and clear, we have the power to alter the course of our future, and create a more sustainable planet for generations to come. Who knows, we may even wear our own air-purifiers in the future like the Hand Tree device – worn on the wrist – it sucks up and filters polluted air, and recycles it back into the atmosphere. It was created by Alexandr Kostin, a semifinalist in the Electrolux Design Lab Competition. For Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer, Vish Nandlall, the future is all about the amazing growth rates of recognition in artificial intelligence systems and wearables. He says, “I really think that we’re going to be entering into a post smart phone era with many different types of wearables that people are going to be taking in, mostly into their workplace as well as into their social places. Companies like OMsignal have already developed technology called Hexoskin that embeds electrodes into the fabric and records movement. This is particularly useful for athletes and people with injuries to track their recovery. The wearable shirts can send information around your calories burned, steps taken, heart rate, etc to your smartphone.”
Alexandr Kostin’s Hand Tree device.
Technology As Art
The art world has always been intrinsically linked to technology – as innovations in techniques and materials emerge, artists are able to reimagine the ways in which they create and communicate with their audiences. Wearable technologies are opening up new worlds for designers in that the clothes we wear can be both smart, and artful beyond their fixed state. Today, designers are experimenting with garments that are responsive to their environment. Whether the materials are light-responsive, sound-responsive or temperature-responsive – technologies are emerging that allow us to express ourselves artistically through our clothing, and interactively to our environment. One fabulous example of this is designer, Ying Gao who created a range of dresses that use eye-tracking technology to monitor when someone is looking at them. If the garment is gazed upon for a long time, tiny motors move parts of it to create a fluid, moving effect. The dresses are also covered in photo-luminescent threads that flex, glow and move in response to eye contact.
If lighting up the night with your outfit is your bag, then you’ll love a move into incorporating soft-circuit LED lighting into garment fabric. You can be your own walking light-show!
Ying Gao’s Eye-Tracking dresses.
Technology As Transportation
For centuries humans have used storytelling, mythology, books, photographs, film and music as a means of transporting themselves to other worlds. The concept of alternate universes, time travel and virtual realities have all been widely explored throughout history and Tomorrowland – in true Disney super-imaginative style – explores the possibility of an exciting utopian future where discovery, invention, technology and optimism operate in harmony to create a promising future for humanity. Lead character Casey (Britt Robertson) discovers a lapel pin that has the power to transport her to the futuristic world of Tomorrowland. While technology still has a little way to go to“beam me up Scotty” and teletransport humans between differing dimensions of time and space; advancements in virtual reality (VR) imaging and 3D holographics are taking Facetime and Skype to a whole new level of immersive connected experience between people separated by distance. Here’s Vish Nandlall on the future of VR;
“The things I like about virtual worlds are in the context of how they can improve education and long distance collaboration. All of a sudden we have the ability to create safe and cost effective training environments for the military, or enable virtual field trips for school students that give the same, if not better, experience of seeing something at scale in real life or in a museum. Something else I’ve seen is an opportunity to use VR to encourage pro-social behaviours. Using VR, we could give people an immersive feeling of being Superman and rescuing a child, for example, which could help give more empathy to preserve and protect the safety of others. The same would apply to putting yourself in the position of others who may be less fortunate than you and use that experience to build empathy for them.”
The lapel pin from Tomorrowland that transports Casey to another world…
These days FaceTiming or Skyping loved ones on the run with your smartphone is a standard state of affairs. Perhaps, like Casey’s lapel pin, the future holds tiny wearable devices that allow for us to be transported, in 3D if not reality, into the company of our family and friends. Looking at the explosion of smart phones and other personal devices, there’s no doubt that technology we can wear is the most attractive kind of all. To be able to carry the possibilities of a human connection with us – in our pockets, on our wrists, in our clothes – wherever we go. So what does the future look like? It looks like devices that are smaller and more intimate than ever before and devices that are driven by a desire to connect humanity on a deeper level. It looks a little like Tomorrowland – an alternative reality that we have the power to create with a little helping hand from technology.
About the movie
From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure “Tomorrowland,” starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney.
Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.”
What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.
Catch the movie Tomorrowland in a cinema across Australia from May 28.
What are your predictions for the future of wearable technology? Use your imagination below and tell us what you dream of for the future…