Haptic clothing: When our technologies become truly wearable

By: Thomas Frey Friday September 29, 2017 0 comments Tags: Thomas Frey

By Thomas Frey

Senior Futurist

The DaVinci Institute

The fashion industry is only now waking up to the potential of haptic clothing that offers wearers a form of kinesthetic interaction between their bodies and their clothes.

The amount of communication that can happen through our sense of touch has long been overlooked because we didn’t have the micro technologies for both producing and testing the subtle tactile feedback loops needed to make it feel natural.Thomas_Frey_blog_photoUSE_1

However, with the emergence of nano-sized sensors, tactile stimulators, flex-gripper fabrics and ultrasonic arousal pads we are now on the cusp of producing fully interactive clothing.

Over the past couple years we’ve seen an explosion of startups focused on smart haptic clothing:

  • At CES in January, Spinalli Design unveiled their version of smart jeans for the purpose of guiding you as you walk. For every left turn the left pant leg will buzz, and every right turn will yield a buzz on the right. Users will be comforted to know, wherever they go they’ll have a little GPS in their pants.
  • Spinalli also produces smart bikinis that tell wearers when they’re getting too much sun, as well as radiation-blocking underwear for men, lined with silver fibers to create electromagnetic shielding that protects the wearer’s testicles.
  • MadeWithGlove produces stylish gloves with biosensors woven into the material that is able to detect skin temperature and provide heat when needed.
  • WOW is a startup that produces high-tech gloves that can translate sign language into text or speech.
  • The Sensoree mood sweater comes with LED lights that change color like a mood ring. The designer envisions the sweater to be a great tool for people with sensory processing disorders ranging from ADHD to autism.
  • Wearable Experiments is an Australian company that uses haptics to help yoga aficionados know when to improve their form. Their Nadi X yoga tights have several sensors and vibration pads embedded in them at the hips, knees and ankles.

If you ask the average person on the street if they want haptic clothing, 99% will say no. But that’s like asking someone if they would prefer nylon over rayon. They know very little about it.

Eventually the technology becomes invisible and somehow it just feels better. With a little A.I. the clothing learns who you are, understands your pressure points, and simply learns how to be an extension of your own body. All other clothing will seem foreign.

Wearers won’t want to know how it works, just that it does.

Over time haptic clothing will become the memory behind muscle memory, the speed behind speed walking, and the snuggle behind snuggling in.

It will anticipate your needs and complement your desires. It will enhance your performance, promote your strengths, and give you super powers.

If you ask how many apps will end up in the app store for haptic clothing, it will in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. If you ask what the killer app will be for haptic clothing, it will fall into the category of “wants,” not “needs.”

With enough uses, haptic clothing will know you better than you know yourself. It will tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to get there.

It will allow you to enter the body of someone else, and feel what its like to be that person on a moment by moment basis.

It will become your lie detector, your bullshit detector, and your truth filter.

It will tell you when you’ve reached your limit, when to say no, and even say “no” for you when you’re no longer able to.

It will be your conscience, your mentor, your tutor, and your mom. It will act like an encyclopedia when you’re lacking knowledge, your thesaurus when you’re lacking words, and your smoke detector when something smells funny.

Haptic clothing will take you to places you’ve never been, be your guide on every adventure and offer you new forms of protection you never thought possible.

If Dr. Seuss were alive today, his next book would be about the “Fraptic Loathings of Haptic Clothing.”

Personally, I can’t wait.

Thomas Frey

About the Author: Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is a senior futurist and founder of The DaVinci Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Westminster. He is a well-known speaker on a variety of unique and thought-provoking topics and editor of The Futurist Magazine and blogger for FuturistSpeaker.com.