Minnesota, USA -May 27, 2011- Sometimes the most interesting of observations come directly from the researchers; Dr. Lucy Dunne, a researcher at the University of Minnesota with background in clothes design, electronic technology, and computer science, thrives in the laboratory as she looks to create smart clothing -examples of her interests in smart clothing include the areas of medical monitoring, sports, gaming, device interface, and aesthetic expression.Even though we marvel at the inventions that come out like a t-shirt that tracks your sleep and evaluates it, we seem to quickly forget about them soon after discovering them. Sometimes typical, creative minds would think of another idea, but not follow through.
Impressively, Dunne actively explored all of her ideas -plus the future ones to come - with one main reason in mind, she mentioned, "Wearable technology and smart clothing are under-explored areas from the standpoint of apparel design. There are many compelling applications and a lot of work to be done in understanding the 'human' element of designing wearable systems -- that's what we focus on, translating theoretical possibilities into the everyday world."
Presently, Dunne focuses her attention on the clothing in which there are small sensors embedded inside; there is more challenge in this than what meets the eye. Dunne explained, "Right now we're doing a lot of work on the challenge of integrating body sensors into everyday clothing -- sensors work well when they're very close to the body, but skin-tight clothing is not a realistic possibility for most people in their everyday lives. Our challenge is exploring the way that comfort-related variables influence sensor performance so that we can find a good compromise."
Since 2001, Dunne dedicated herself to developing wearable technologies; for Dunne's PhD research, she focused on creating a vest that could monitor a person's spinal posture in the seated position. Dunne received attention from the curious-minded people, she enthused, "Sometimes people fixate on the 'novelty' aspect, [and] sometimes they are really interested in the function. I still receive emails from people who are interested in buying my posture monitoring vest, who have found it on the internet or come across an article. Unfortunately it's not commercially available right now!"Just hearing about the developments in technology and apparel that are not in our grasp could send people spiraling to get their hands on it. Unfortunately when it comes to getting enough people to catch on to these non-traditional forms of clothing, it proves to be far more difficult in the U.S. than other places around the world. Dunne added, "The European Union and Asia are more supportive of research in smart clothing than the US is."
However, we cannot conclude that these products would launch in Asia or Europe and receive enough positive attention. Although there may not be the best market for smart clothing right now, our lives in the future could include the dazzling shirts that flash as our mood changes, vests that promote our health and wellness, shoes that adapt to surface changes as we walk, and much more!
Whenever these products launch, we can expect there to be a wide range in price depending on the function or complexity. In the market right now, we see just a glimpse of what we can expect. Dunne revealed, ".. [price]varies widely depending on the product...light-up t-shirts are around $20, but more complex or emerging products have retailed for $600 or more."