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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

US company Martian Watches has already beat Apple in the smartwatch race with its voice-command Martian Watch, which it showed off at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Starting at $US249, the Martian Watch connects to Siri or other smartphone voice-recognition services via Bluetooth. Users can listen and respond to text messages, be notified of incoming calls and access other information from their watches.

Hong Kong company Faze in Limited also showed off its smartwatches at CES. The $US150 EZIO watch will alert you when your smartphone receives a call or text; it also protects against loss, warning you if you get too far from your phone. Faze in Limited is working on jewelry versions and also makes a wearable tech jacket that heats up in 15 seconds for use in cold weather.

Tech Clothing

Uniqlo, Tokyo. Photo: Bloomberg

If clothing companies join tech firms in developing wearables, it could be a boon to the retail industry, which is generally cyclical when it comes to trends as opposed to groundbreaking.

Already, brands such as Uniqlo have been dabbling in tech-enhanced clothing, such as the retailer's Heattech tops and leggings made from material that turns moisture evaporating from the body into heat. And last week, the US Postal Service said it would "produce rain, heat and snow apparel and accessories using technology to create 'smart apparel,' also known as wearable electronics."

Although wearables are still a ways from widespread, mass-market adoption, analysts say they could one day replace smartphones altogether. Some have hinted that wearables are the gateway to implantable technology, such as microchips and sensors lodged under the skin.

But with tech worn all over the body, and perhaps one day within the body, some wonder whether the clothes and accessories are truly simplifying life or just making it even more complicated.

"There's always the risk of over-complicating things," Intel's Booth said. "There are a lot of good ideas out there and things that people might want to do with this advanced technology, but if you try to do too many of them at one time, the complexity sinks in."


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