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Technology has made an indelible mark on the fashion industry in 2016 – whether on the catwalks of Paris haute couture fashion week, which marveled at Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed collection, or with the innovative designs of wearable tech startups that have taken the internet by storm. Here are 15 creations from the past 12 months that will change how we dress to impress, or just get by, in the years to come.
The joys of an electric blanket have long been confirmed on cold days and nights spent holed up at home. In the past few years, a number of heated wearables have come on the market but have received only a lukewarm reception due to their overt lack of style. Ravean’s collection of electric heated hoodies and jackets is the answer to this problem: pieces that have all the comfort of a blanket but blend perfectly into any winter wardrobe.
The UGG boot fad may have already had its day but die-hard fans continue to wear them all year round, regardless of the weather and how much they act as wearable sponges. A new pair of waterproof sheepskin boots designed by EMU Australia will solve this harrowing foot-drenching issue. The technology is said to withstand total immersion, so you can even maintain your SoCal look during light flooding without jeopardizing your socks or digits.
The LUMO Bermondsey backpack, as the name suggests, was designed in London and uses a combination of 100% British waxed cotton canvas and Italian Misouri leather. This, and the fact that it ages beautifully, make it a rather handsome bag in a market already crowded with good-looking models. What sets it apart is the inbuilt LED technology. Intended for night-time cyclists, this bag will keep you safe and looking good.
Who hasn’t gone to the library and wandered off without their backpack? Sorry, not the library, the pub. The Venture Backpack wants to free you from that nagging concern, the one that keeps you fumbling to make sure all your possessions are still in your care and not riding solo on a bus somewhere. It is the bag equivalent of the Find My iPhone app and the savior of the forgetful, careless, or drunken among us.
Bags that light up or tell you where they are in the world are meant to appeal to our practical side – those that light up when you sing to them are not. This doesn’t mean they haven’t a place in our closet! The 50-carat sound-activated clutch from KOTUR at $995 is perhaps the very definition of indulgence but, if you want to be the center of attention at the club, we say go for it.
There is no shortage of high-tech bracelets and fitness trackers out there measuring heart rate and step count, but Zenta can do something quite different: it tells you how you’re feeling. And, like with exercise, it can be helpful to our overall mental well-being to have a picture of our shifting moods, in order to develop a strategy to improve them and reduce stress.
The popularity of Chuck Taylor’s Converse among musicians is set to rocket. The Converse All Wah comes equipped with a guitar wah-wah pedal, allowing players to twist the sound of their instrument without having to precisely place their foot on a bulky, unstable external pedal. The shoe uses Bluetooth technology to connect to a traditional wah-wah box and can be used in a standard musical setup, connected to an amp, or through a digital device like a Mac or iPhone.
Anyone who lives in a city with an underground system knows how easy it can be to lose one’s travel card or pass. In London, 22-year-old art student Lucie Davis has developed a wearable solution to this age-old urban problem: intelligent press-on nails. They use exactly the same radio frequency identification chip as the Oyster card but are literally at hand whenever you need them.
Another piece of wearable technology that aims to save lives is the smart ring from Nimb. This item of jewelry has a panic button that can be used to alert the emergency services if you feel like you are in danger. It also has an audio recording function to provide an impartial account of your experience.
DuoSkin tattoos were developed by researchers at MIT’s Media Lab and enable wearers to control their phones and other mobile devices remotely. The attractive circuits are made with harmless gold leaf materials and applied with water, like a temporary tattoo. This fusion of connectivity, wearability, and fashion is a big step forward for wearable tech.
We all know how the world reacted to the launch of the Google Glass (for those of you who don’t, the answer is poorly). Nonetheless, VSP Global and the University of Southern California have joined forces to create tech-enabled eyewear that doubles as a fitness tracker. The Level frames are still in the prototype phase but early reviews seem favorable.
You’d be mad for thinking that wearable tech is just for humans. Far from it, the market for pets is booming. Products like the Whistle Activity Monitor are enabling owners to spy on what their pets are up to during the day and with this information devise better strategies for improving their physical and mental well-being. For example, it can offer insight into what rooms to close off (besides those containing your valuable shoe collection) and in what spaces to provide helpfully distracting activities.
Innovations in solar power are coming thick and fast, from covers that can charge cellphones to waterproof textiles that can transform our wardrobes into miniature power plants. New smart fibers can be tailored and woven just like cotton, and the energy they absorb while we’re on the go could one day be used to power all of our portable devices. Imagine a world in which we never again have to carry around a bulky battery pack or scramble around on the floor in Starbucks looking for a socket…
One of the few survivors of the great wave of technological innovations in the past couple of decades has been the analog watch. As even more elaborate smart watches hit the market, people remain happy to pay thousands for traditional timepieces with a fraction of the functionality. The Chronos device has cottoned on to this inconsistency and looks set to exploit it in a big way. It effectively transforms a regular watch into a smart one, by clipping onto the rear of the watch face and providing a suite of functions via Bluetooth, like activity tracking, call and message notifications, and music player controls.
Rovables could very well be the future of the already futuristic wearable tech industry. Whereas all of the products listed above are stationary, these tiny wearable robots can move effortlessly over your body. One day, they might be able to group together on your wrist to form a screen, spread to the vital regions of your body to take medical readings or give you a nudge on the elbow when you receive an alert.