Functional Futuristic Fashions

High-Tech Threads: Can Your Clothes Do This?

 April 11, 2012 by
Reblogged from mashable
Today’s clothing isn’t just about fashion — it’s about function. We’re not talking about Scottevest’s Inspector Gadget-esque trenchcoat to store your iPhone, iPad, iPod and even a few changes of clothes. Sure, that’s handy, but the jacket itself isn’t high-tech (though it is well designed). Mashable has explored that ways in which tech companies and fashion brands have coming together to prototype new kinds of apparel, and we spoke with independent designers who’ve concepted mind-blowing gear that essentially transforms your body into a generator. This clothing doesn’t just hang on your body — it does something. From saving your life to charging your gadgets, this wave of innovative fashion makes city living safer and a bit more convenient. After all, there’s no need to stop in a Apple store to charge your phone if your shirt can do it on the go, right?

What innovative apparel would you like to see in the future? Let us know in the comments below.

Gadget-Fueling Getups

When you go for a run, you’re not just burning energy, you’re creating it, too. And the production of kinetic energy is exactly what fuels the mp3 player that’s embedded into designer Rafael Rozenkranz’s high-tech jogging suit (see below). “The project was conceived because I jog almost everyday, and I like to listen to music doing so — but there were always problems,” says Rozenkranz, adding that he was annoying by the device’s placement on the body and battery issues. The use of kinetic energy isn’t new — but the fact that it can keep your tunes bumping is, and it promises a future of cool gadget integrations in fashion.

Hitting the beach instead of the running path? You can stay charged with a solar-powered bikini, developed by Andrew Schneider, a New York designer. It’s a regular bikini that’s retrofitted with 1″-thick photovoltaic film strips, whose generated power funnels into in a 5-volt regulator and then a female USB connection, so it can charge a device. The male version, the iDrink, is coming soon — and with more surface area than a bikini, it’ll generate more energy.

Back in 2010, British mobile carrier Orange partnered with GotWind to develop rain boots that charge your phone at the oft-muddy Glastonbury Music Festival. In 2011, Orange upped its game with a sound-charging tee. Orange has no plans to bring any of these items to market — the pieces are “very much billed as prototypes” and only one or two produced, says Alex Wilkinson, a spokesperson for the company. The samples are used primarily to highlight the kinds of technology that could be used in a mobile charging solution, and are “meant to generate debate and discussion, rather than be consumer-ready products,” he added. And since the Glastonbury festival is taking this year off, we won’t be seeing a new prototype for this year’s event — we’re already looking forward to 2013.

Innovative Functionality

Sure, we’ve all got devices running low on battery, but high-tech fashion need not focus on keeping your things juiced — clothing can do other functions, too. For example, a new collection at the Japanese apparel outlet Uniqlo features cotton tees, linen pants and hoodies that filter UV rays, essentially acting as sunscreen. (Uniqlo previously focused on the super-thin HeatTech fabric, its proprietary technology that generates heat from perspiration to keep you warm.)

Another useful apparel feature? Night lights. British design student Nick Reddall developed a jogging jacket that generates electricity during a run. That current is used to fuel lights on the back and sleeves of the jacket, which help keep night runners safe. “Maybe people go running in the evening,” Reddall said at a London art show. “This can therefore keep them safe when they’re exercising.” While this technology isn’t necessary — why not just slap on some reflective strips? — the science has cool applications that we look forward to.

Lifesaving Tech

Leave it to the Scandinavians to come up with an “airbag” that looks like a fashionable scarf, right until it’s deployed.

Hövding is a collar for bicyclists that’s worn around the neck and contains a folded-up airbag that deploys in .01 seconds. Sensors embedded in the collar track the cyclist’s movements and will trigger deployment when an irregular motion is picked up, such as a swerve or a bump. The airbag is shaped like a hood, thus protecting the bicyclist’s head and neck, and is inflated by a gas inflator — one of the smallest on the market — in the collar. Once it inflates (and it does fully inflate before impact), the airbag provides shock absorption and a steady air pressure, then slowly starts to deflate.

Like on a plane, there’s even a black box that records a bicyclist’s patterns in the ten seconds before an accident — Hövding uses this data to improve upon the design. The company also extracts data from staged accidents, whether with crash test dummies or stunt cyclists, and adds this information to the database so that the Hövding’s “brain” is more attuned to abnormal motions.

Of course, when the collar is not deployed, it’s just a fashionable-looking scarf, and you can change the removable shell to match your outfit (new designs are added frequently). Because of its subtle safety features, the Hövding is often referred to as an “invisible helmet.”

The project started as an industrial design master thesis by Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt in 2005. The Swedish government had just passed a law to make bike helmets compulsory for children up to the age of 15, triggering a debate over whether helmets should be compulsory for adults, too. “To us, who wouldn’t be seen dead in a polystyrene helmet, the thought of being forced to wear one by law was cause for concern,” says Alstin. “We realized that our master thesis was the perfect place to find out whether the traditional bicycle helmet could be improved on.” Market surveys indicated that people wanted a discrete, “invisible” helmet that wouldn’t ruin their hair or cramp their personal style. And so, “Hövding allows people to protect their heads on the road, without sacrificing style — or the hairdo — in the process,” Alstin adds.

A Laptop Bag That Won’t Hurt Your Back

Even though it only clocks in at a few pounds, the weight of a laptop can wear on you. That’s why Alphyn Industries came out with the PADX-1 Ledge Wearcom. It’s a pullover with a kangaroo pouch that stores your iPad or computer when it’s zipped, and serves as a “shelf” when it’s unzipped. The pullover distributes the device’s weight throughout the straps so that you don’t wear carry the weight on one side, which could lead to back pain. Considering it’s a portable workspace (the shelf leaves both hands free), the $285 asking price isn’t too bad.


10 Futuristic Products in Development Now

Robot-controlled military drones and vat meat. The future is in our hands. Now what’s left is to see what’s done with these 10 seemingly-fictional but very real futuristic products.

To promote its new fuel cell vehicle, which has zero exhaust emissions, Mercedes pulled a stunt that showed off an “invisible” car with incredibly low environmental impact.

Although Mercedes says the hydrogen-powered drive system is “ready for series production,” it’s speculated to not be in comercialization until 2014.

Japan is progressing with its ambitious idea of creating a space elevator, which extends an extremely strong cable from a spaceport on the ground up to a space station in geosynchronous orbit, 22,000 miles above the earth.

The 30-passenger elevator car will travel from ground to space station at 125mph, delivering its human cargo to the space station eight days later. The elevator car will contain living quarters and other tourist attractions on board.

The Japanese say they’ll be able to build this technological marvel by 2050, according to DVICE.

Cars already have GPS, lane-departure warning systems and self-parking features, so it was only a matter of time before driverless cars became a real thing.

Google received the patent for self-driving car technology and is already testing it out in Nevada.

Image courtesy of Flickr Viernest.

4. Robotic Assistants

From simple tasks such as opening a door to helping paralyzed patients walk, robots have become far more advanced than ever before.

In fact, a new study predicts that every home will have a robotic assistant to perform common household tasks within the next 10 years.

Image courtesy of

5. Flying Cars

The long-running joke of the future has almost always included a flying car reference — and now it’s really happening. Terrafugia developed the concept, which will be available for pre-sale at the 2012 New York auto show.

Image courtesy of Terrafugia.

In an attempt to protect the environment, Dutch scientists are looking into lab-grown meat production. Scientists say that artificial meat could improve efficiency by at least 35%.

The practice turns stem cells from animals into inch-long strips of muscle tissue, which can then be mashed together to create a patty. PETA hopes to do the same with chicken by the end of June.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Another Pint Please.

To further explore life on the moon, space agencies are already looking into constructing a permanent base. This would mean either establishing a base on the moon or launching a station to orbit it.

Image courtesy of Flickr, wicho.

Over the next five years, IBM hopes to develop a computer that responds via our thoughts. A person wears a headset, which can detect signals from the brain, and sends them to a computer which tells the machine what to do.

The computer then maps signals to diggerent actions, which teaches the machine to adapt specifically your thoughts.

9. Drones

President Obama has already signed legislation permitting the Federal Aviation Administration to allow law enforcement agencies to use remotely controlled drones.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Illetirres.

10. Wireless Electricity

Wired charging could be a thing of the past. Companies are already working to make cellphone charging wireless, and it’s likely other devices will follow suit.

Image courtesy of Flickr, romainguy.

 Everyone jokes about the flying cars and robot maids we’ve seen in movies and television, but it turns out the “future” we’ve dreamed of is well on its way.

The majority of these are just concepts, but all are definitely in effect, one way or another. In fact, you can technically purchase a flying car for the low, low price of $200,000. However, it will be a bit longer until we can purchase them as easily as a Honda Civic.

Every day we advance in technology, space exploration, medicine and more. From mind reading to in vitro meat, here are ten crazy peeks at what is coming for the future.

This May we’ll be exploring the future of digital at our signature conference, Mashable Connect. See below for all the details.