Clothing usually revolves around either extreme utility or fashion and the recent introduction of smart textiles hopes to help improve both of those areas. According to Forbes, a smart textile is a kind of fabric that incorporates new technology to add value for the wearer. This value could come in the form of electronic connectivity or even the ability to change colors or transform. Creatively, there are many avenues that smart textiles could take in the coming years but much of the recent work has gone into three categories: connectivity, aesthetics and performance enhancement.
In an increasingly connected world, companies like Google are always looking for new ways for people to interact with their products. According to USA Today, Google has teamed up with a clothing manufacturer to create a jacket capable of sending commands to a smartphone using only gestures and movements. Aimed at bicycle commuters, the idea is that clothing should make it easier for people to get the information they need as quickly and safely as possible. Although the product is just one of the first steps in this arena, it shows the kind of thing that can be possible by weaving electronics into clothing.
Aesthetically, smart textiles open up a vast world of possibilities for designers interested in putting their models and customers into something truly unique. It is possible, for instance, to use a particular type of fabric that gathers energy from movement vibrations and heat to light up in dazzling colors for nighttime events. For further integration with the beauty industry, smart materials could one day be used to apply moisturizer or perfume as a response to certain activities like dry air or sweating.
Performance-wise, industries such as athletics and even the military are extremely interested in what could be accomplished through using smart textiles in their gear. For a long-distance runner, for instance, a body suit could be used to reduce wind resistance, control muscle vibration, and even regulate body temperature which could lead to faster times and a safer environment for the body.
Speaking of safety, other garments could be created to protect against some of the more extreme environmental dangers like radiation or changes in pressure. Far from simply being able to control a music player with a jacket, smart textiles will one day have the capability to impact the lives of consumers dramatically.