Science fiction tends to get some general things right, but the specifics vary in important ways. Captain Kirk’s communicator didn’t have text messaging (“OMG, Uhura, another Red Shirt bites it. ROFLMAO. Jim.”), nor did Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone have a 3 megapixel camera in it’s toe (insert your own joke here). In The Matrix, the notion is that we’d be wired into a neural net of some sort, and need ports installed in our brainstems to facilitate data transfers.
Well, actual designers are coming up with less invasive ways for humans and computers to interface, and many of theme involve so-called “smart clothes.” In a summary of “10 Smart Clothes You’ll Be Wearing Soon,” ReadWriteWeb discusses some of the ideas kicking around. Some are available now, some are still on the drawing board, and some will be approaching the REI or Kohl’s near you.
For instance, the EPOC Neuroheadset is currently available for $299. The company claims it can can translate neurological signals and muscle movements in the head into emotional responses to facilitate artistic expression, market research, exploration of virtual worlds, and lifestyles for persons with disabilities. It’s an interesting premise.
On the more whimsical side are “motion-sensing pants.” Why exactly we might want or need motion-sensing pants eludes even their developers. In our increasingly sedentary society, they might be combined with an electrical shock if not activated every 15 minutes or so.
Smart running shoes have been around for a while now, with Nike+ leading the way through iPod integrations and biometric tracking. These shoes can even social network for you after an activity.
Other interesting items on the list:
- Heart-sensing bra
- Networked jacket
- Biosensor underwear (the waistband monitors blood pressure and heart rate remotely)
Earlier this week, I wrote a little about human-integrated interface designs,” like the Wii, the iPad, and other gestural, voice-recognition, body-recognition, and face-recognition systems, obviating the need for mice and styli. These items take it to the next step, and complete the computer’s journey, which has been labeled by some as the inexorable move to the body.
From a design standpoint, the constraints of clothing provide interesting boundaries and virtues, and the human form itself suggests limitations and possibilities. It all seems to point to specialized, miniaturized, functional, and personal technology, a convergence with information technology in general. Perhaps this is a frontier worth watching — through your data-enabled 4G eyeglasses.