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Tech gimmicks, or fashion of the future?

MCT/ AFR | Feb. 28, 2013
A wristwatch that reads out your text messages, a jacket that heats up when you're cold, and glasses that display directions as you walk down the street

But tech companies have goals that stretch beyond fitness, with the goal of equipping clothing with mini computers and sensors.

The tech-fashion hybrid that has the most attention so far is Google Glass, web-connected eyeglasses that the company has been previewing to big buzz in recent months. The futuristic glasses are still in the early stages of development under the company's secretive Google X lab.

Wearers can record what they're seeing in real life and broadcast it over a Google+ Hangout, perform a quick Google search, and send a hands-free voice message with the glasses. They can view data such as directions and weather on a tiny screen connected to the device, and tell the glasses to take a photo.

"It has been transformative for my lifestyle," Google co-founder Sergey Brin said of Project Glass last year. "That's our job at Google X, to push the edges of technology to where the future might be."

The Mountain View, Calif., company has also filed for a laser projection patent, leading to speculation that Glass wearers will be able to project a virtual touchpad onto their limbs and other surfaces.

Google has taken pre-orders for an early pilot version of the eyeglasses called Glass Explorer Edition from developers who paid $US1,500. Last week, the company announced that it would hold a contest for early adopters who want to try out a pair; winners will be offered the chance to buy a Glass Explorer. 

Apple iWatch Concept. Photo: ADR

Apple could be preparing to take on Google in the wearables space. Last year, the company filed a patent for a "peripheral treatment for head-mounted displays." The device - which people speculate could be a helmet, pair of glasses or a visor - immerses the user with two displays and techniques for filling the peripheral vision with the image being shown, according to reports.

More likely for Apple, at least in the near term, is an iOS smartwatch. In recent weeks the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant set the rumour mill churning with reports that it has a team of 100 developers working to build a curved glass watch. Analysts have speculated that the device could be used to make calls and texts, get directions and search the internet, and would be compatible with the iPhone.

Munster said he expected Apple to release such a product within three years and predicted that Samsung and other rivals were also looking into the technology.

"You can probably assume that all the major phone companies are thinking about wearable technology," he said. "They have to, or they're going to be irrelevant in the next decade."


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