Smart clothing is evolving

‘Death Stranding’, a work released last year by Producer Hideo Kojima, is an open-world game that depicts a near-future, devastated world with advanced science and technology. A variety of cutting-edge technologies appear in this game, in which the protagonist, called the legendary delivery man, delivers goods in a world where communication with people is cut off. Among the various vehicles, a battery that charges wirelessly even if you only go nearby, a hologram used as a means of communication, and a variety of vehicles, the equipment called ‘Active Skeleton’ are the most helpful for players’ early play. This is a device that allows the protagonist to carry more luggage or run faster, and it is also a device that allows people to experience the ‘wearable device’ most intuitively.

▲The era of wearing technology, more advanced wearable devices

Smartwatches, the next level of wearable devices

The day when the active skeleton represented in Death Stranding will actually be implemented in real life is not too long. This is because research on wearable devices is being conducted more actively worldwide than ever before, and it is making achievements. Wearable device refers to a computer in a form that can be worn such as glasses, watches, and clothing. Ultimately, it means an electronic device that can be worn easily and without reluctance, like a part of the body, and aims to complement or double human abilities.

▲ The first HMD developed in 1966, wearable devices have a long history

It is said that the research on wearable devices first began in the 1960s. In 1961, MIT developed the first wearable computer to predict roulette wheels, and in 1966 the first head-mounted display (HMD) was developed. In 1977, HP released a wristwatch calculator, and vests for the visually impaired were also developed. The modern concept of wearable devices began to appear in the 1980s when it met military technology. Military uniforms with technologies such as wireless data transmission, image capture, and GPS systems were adopted by the US Department of Defense in 1989, and various types of wearable computers have been actively studied in the market since.

▲ The wearable computer that is leading the current market is the smartwatch

In the era of smartphones, research on wearable devices has accelerated in earnest. Smartwatches and smart bands have become common, and glasses-type devices have also been developed. And finally, in recent years, wearable devices in the form of literally’wearing’ clothing have been tried one after another. As the smartphone and tablet PC device market is saturated, various players, including existing manufacturers and start-ups armed with fresh ideas, have begun to pay attention to clothing-type wearable devices.

‘Wearable device’ developed in various forms

On July 22, the US IT media The Verge reported an article focusing on the fresh ideas of Japanese electronics maker Sony. This is the ‘wearable air conditioner’ that commercializes a product developed through Sony’s in-house startup incubator. This product, called ‘Reon Pocket’, is a palm-sized white plastic cooling device that connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth. When different conductors are bonded together to allow current to flow, an endothermic effect occurs in the junction is called the Peltier effect. This product is a product that cools the body by absorbing and releasing heat using the Peltier effect.

▲ Wearing air conditioner, Leon Pocket released by Sony through crowdfunding

The Leon Pocket, sold with a V-neck undershirt that can put the product body on the back of the shoulder, has a silicone pad that can be attached to the skin, so it can be worn on clothes as well as held in the hand. Users can also set the temperature through the mobile app and adjust the fan speed. Sony explains that using this product can lower the body surface temperature by about 13 degrees. This product is currently sold in Japan at a price of about $150, and about $20 for shirts sold together.

▲ Wearable device jacket made by Google in partnership with Levis

Google has also released wearable device clothing. This is a smart jacket that was released in collaboration with Levi’s, and Google applied its patented gesture recognition interactive textile technology to create clothing that can control a smartphone by tapping or swiping the jacket’s sleeve fabric. I implemented it. A jacket was also released that allows payment by simply touching the sleeve of clothes with a terminal without a wallet, and it is a smart jacket that British fashion brand Lyle & Scott released with a credit card company.

Meet healthcare and enter a new area

Wearable X, an American fashion tech company, has come up with a more interesting product. They released smart yoga pants for people who exercise, and this product has a structure that can read information such as the user’s body shape and posture because it is equipped with five sensors. When the app and smart pants are linked, the sensor analyzes the user’s movement by selecting the posture to take and following the movement, and in case of taking an incorrect movement, the pants are vibrated to notify this.

▲ Wearable X’s smart yoga pants are sold at a price of about $50.

The area where wearable devices in the form of clothing attract particular attention is the medical sector. Siren Care Inc. launched a smart socks last year, and this product has a function that can prevent the occurrence of foot ulcers caused by diabetes by measuring the temperature of the wearer’s feet. Sirencare Inc. has chosen the world’s first micro-sensor to be mounted on fabric to implement smart socks. Through this, an invisible sensor measures the temperature change at six points on the foot, and if a change is detected, it sends a message that the risk of a foot ulcer is high and that a doctor must go to the doctor. These socks can be washed in a washing machine and have the convenience of not requiring a separate charge.

▲ SirenCare’s smart socks for diabetics

A company called Sensoria has launched sportswear that lowers the risk of heart disease. The product they developed is smart clothing with a heart rate detector attached to clothes. This garment has a structure that collects personal exercise information, such as heart rate, and transmits it to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and allows you to check it immediately through a dedicated app. It checks the amount of exercise of the individual and the corresponding health state and suggests the appropriate amount of exercise to the user through the app. In addition, when the heart rate is irregular, a notification message is sent to the smartphone, and when an abnormality is detected, the GPS function built into the monitoring device provides location information to medical staff or family members.

A new era soon to come

Smart clothing close to the active skeleton introduced earlier is being developed in Korea. It is an ultra-light wearable device that supports the wearer’s strength. Last year, the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials announced that Park Cheol-hoon, a senior researcher at the Robot Mechatronics Lab, developed a clothing-type wearable device that is light like cloth, rollable, and exhibits great strength. This product looks like a jumper worn in casual clothes, and it contracts when an electric current is passed and takes a structure that can lift a weight of 10 kg.

▲ The realization of the active skeleton in Death Stranding will be possible soon.

Clothing-type wearable devices that were mainly studied in Korea took the same form as an active skeleton with an exoskeleton. On the other hand, this product can be worn naturally like everyday wear, but it can be used for a long time because it supports power only with electrical and mechanical properties using alloy springs. The weight per pair is only about 1kg, the weight of a general jumper, even if it includes batteries and driving parts. What made this possible was thanks to a flexible actuator made of wire with a diameter of 0.5 mm or less. The weight of the actuator with 20 bundles of these bundles is 20g, but when contracted, it can lift 10kg, which is 500 times the amount. Senior Researcher Park Chul-Hoon explained that there was no problem with durability even if the prototype was tested more than 1 million times.

▲ The day when the Iron Man suit will be actually developed is not far too far.

Until now, wearable devices have evolved around accessories. Watch and band-shaped products dominate the market, but with the advancement of technology, it is expected that more various types of wearable devices will be released and form their own market in the future. The development of smart clothing will soon develop enough to enable the’Iron Man Suit’, which was only seen through movies or only dreamed. The world of more advanced wearable devices and smart clothing is coming to our side.

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