Textiles are getting smarter, as companies weave tiny sensors into
fabric to gather and distribute information about the human wearing it.
Philips, the Dutch multinational, has developed a line of underwear,
bras and accessories containing tiny electronic devices that monitor
heart rates, body temperature, insulin levels and other parameters.
When some measure goes awry — think heart attacks or strokes — your
boxer shorts call an ambulance.
Philips expects the product to be widely available in Europe by the end of 2006.
Germany’s Infineon Technologies offers something called a
thermogenerator, which measures the difference between body temperature
and the temperature of the garment. Too cold or too warm? Your shirt
will be able to fix it.
Then there’s the "joy dress," which has been prototyped by Alexandra
Fede, an Italian designer. It massages women as they wear it, again via
tiny sensors and a programmable microchip in the fabric.
The ideas are coming fast and furious. Orvis has a hit with its Buzz
Off line of clothes, which emit insect-repellant scents (from $18 for
socks to $170 for a jacket). Fly fishers like them, but so would people
in malaria-ridden neighborhoods.
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