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In Boston’s museum of science, the second annual seamless fashion show was held. A show where technology and art, meet clothing. The purpose of this show was twofold, showing the work of designers, and the display of technological clothing. “A lot of people think wearable technology is only things like watches” says Liu – a participant(Toupin,26). “Fashion and style should fit naturally into our life and wearable technology comes in allowing connection and interaction with our environment more better”(Toupin,26). Many of the projects in this show have a message or hidden agenda. The artists want to make a statement about the world outside. For example Liu created a messenger bag that would display images that describe the person who owns the bag. She says this would communicate a true characteristic of that person since people judge others just by the way they look. The messenger bag “shows a picture from your favourite CD or your blog. There is a device in the bag that connects to an image sharing database allowing transmission of files to other people with the same bag within a certain distance”(26). This type of wearable technology allows huge communication and simple connections with others surrounding us, and especially today, “people are hungry for connections” – Lisa Monrose(Toupin, 26).
So what is the future of technology embedded in fashionable wearables? Predictions of the near future according to industry analysts are that clothing may provide a benefit to our health with the prediction of garments delivering vitamin supplements to the skin, that help maintain the moisture and temperature of the human body(Abernathy 1999) One can predict things like cellphones in clothing, food holders in clothing, memory glasses,and maybe even internet access within the clothing we wear. Senior vice president of Xybernaut Corporation which created a wearable computer with the company’s name on it, says that “even though these gadgets may be omnipresent as the future arrives, there will be a huge constant issue for power for tech wearables”(Abernathy 1999). There are a few concerns and negative aspects of mixing technology in with a wearable. What is the point? Well ABC news, Washington post and other institutes had a say in this topic:
Donna Abernathy: Privacy becomes an issue with technology when technologies monitor, trade alter and hold hostage of out personal data.
Haidee Allerton: The same way smoking is banned in places, the same way cell phones in public will be banned.
We’ll all be using these things, technology becomes everything everywhere
Aims for wearable computing came about around the mid and late 1990’s. Barfield and Caudell claim the development of wearable computing is as a result of “the need and desire for people to access data and information while being mobile”(Beloff 47-53). “Wearable technologies today are compared to cyborgs. In 1960 two scientists Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline thought about how “an interaction between a machine and a person could make a person feel as if the machines were a part of them”(Heibeck 2006). Cyborgs was coined as a concept extending human functionality to achieve things”(Beloff 47-53). Something like driving your own car makes you cyborg. As you drive your car, the car becomes an extension of your body allowing you to drive – something you cannot do without a car. What about if you never got out of the car? How would having the car connected to you change your day to day life? With the developing of smart clothing, scientists look at what life might be like if the human-machine interaction lasted more than the normal periods. We wear clothes on our bodies nearly 24/7. We could practically become cyborgs. Scientist and professor Alex Pentland, says “we need smart clothing to be smarter. Humans have problems learning things they need to learn as it is. Smart clothing can help you get information just when you might need it”(Heibeck 2006). He predicts things like memory glasses, health monitors built into clothes, and a sixth sense type thing where one can know where all their friends are and how their doing. For ex. “A smart clothing can sense your mood and communicate how you feel to others. A signal would then show up on your friends mood ring”(Heibeck 2006) – can we say emotional instant messaging? So what about people cheating and using this technology to their easy advantage? Alex says “calculators are already like cheating. When something becomes common everywhere, it becomes a part of everywhere”(Heibeck 2006). Alex says privacy is a huge advantage of smart clothes. He says he would rather info on his body than on a computer people can log onto. The only negativity he sees in these wearables is making these clothes washable since “water and technology don’t quite get along”(Heibeck 2006). Research is saying wearable technology is present and will definitely have a future.
During the 1960’s the earlier developments emerged in the field of wearable technology and virtual and augmented reality. The first head mounted display was done around this time by Ivan Sutherland created the first wearable see through head mounted display. This along with many other examples are considered predecessors in the wearable technology field. With ubiquitous computing, it has been argued that technology has become invisible because of its success – WeiseWeiser & Brown 1996; (Clark 2003). “The general acceptance of technology allowing everyday use of it, causes this invisibility”(Beloff 47-53). This type of transparency of technologies and the focus of technology’s functionality leaves out how these devices actually impact the world. For example, the clock, it structured and organized the lives of people. “Even though we have so many technologies today, many of them are deeply embedded into society”(Beloff 47-53).
Clearly there are points of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to integrating fashionable wearables and technology. But wearable technology within our clothing and fashion can be life altering. The relationship between fashion and technology is a large gap between visual vs. Functional. “Within our environment, many practises and actions occur simultaneously. With technology enabled in this space, its potential is high. This opens doors to constructing other perspectives to technology and everyday life”(Beloff 47-53) . There is so much potential for fashionable wearables if we integrate technology within it. Something as important and global as saving peoples lives can be heightened in the realm of what we wear. People with Parkinson’s disease could decrease the risk of injuries in their lives with the use of something they wear everyday- clothes, wearables! The use of sensors in clothing can monitor adults who live alone. “Signal sensors that can record movement, evaluating over time, can allow sick elderly people to engage in their usual daily routines with no interruptions, while facilitating medication dosages improving the life in patients with this disease”(Patel 200). Something like this would be worn more for the purpose of its function rather than the purpose of looking great in a fashion sense. In this case, functionality overrules fashion.
Marcy Koontz says electronic garments are making their way into the spotlight of media and now into our closets. “People want and need the access to information and communication on the go”(USA Today 2001). Koontz notes that the development of these technologies are already there. “Smart clothes used to mean something like a jacket with tons of pockets or water resistant coats. 21st century smart clothes are now in the world of integrated technology”(USA Today 2001).
“Smart clothing was designed with technology as its focus and not fashion”(USA Today 2001). But if we can integrate technology into clothing and make it work, then our next step can be making it look good. If we can make wearable technology a fashion of its own we can create a whole new culture, and a whole new style. The smart clothing discussed throughout this paper were “usually meant for office geeks or performance athletes:(USA Today 2001). Technology and fashion haven;t become completely hybrid yet because functionality is still a key issue today. In places like The fashion institute of technology in NY, Ari Vega says “fashion designers now recognize high tech clothing”(USA Today 2001). Scott Jordan, CEO and founder of ScotteVest, says technology along with a clothing designer, will give you the opportunity to buy the coolest clothes with a benefit, even if you are not the fashionist or the geek:(USA Today 2001). Fashion says its got to look great. Technology says its got to work. We can make both happen.
Technology connects us. The most key thing about the research on the relationship between fashionable wearables and functionality is that functionality must come first in order to make fashionable tech-wearables sell in the business industry. These wearables will then function to connect, to give easy access, to enhance knowledge, to understand data easily, to gain access to sound and imagery instantly, to possibly improve heath, and to basically make life a whole lot easier. Fashion is an extension of the body that can or cannot be visually appealing, visually noticeable, or visually meaningful. It is only an extension of the body that can serve for a few purposes. These purposes aren’t as powerful as technology in the eyes of a new media student. That core relationship between fashion and functionality is heightened when technology takes a role in the fashion industry. “Since technology is considered a useful servant for humanity, we have certain expectations for it”(Beloff 47-53). If technology as a tool is successful it allows the transparency of technology to grow that we no longer see the implication of it in our lives because we are so used to it. “With wearable technology, this is also the case, following ubiquitous computing and aims at smooth integrating of users and the environment. There are wearable technologies that don’t follow traditional guidelines but challenge the aim of technology and make technology visible”(Beloff 47-53). These projects open interpretation of possibilities for the way we look at technology today. With this we can develop a better understanding of the relationships between body, technology, and the environment allowing future potential for wearable technologies (Beloff 47-53)
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