Would You Pay $300 For A Smart Shirt?

Long-promised wearable technologies are finally beginning to hit the retail market as Ralph Lauren releases a new “smart shirt” this month. Designed to monitor your performance during exercise, the garment will retail for $300 and require an iPhone or iPad to run the associated app. Which begs the question, is it worth it?

Ralph Lauren's PoloTech smart shirt: this new shirt monitors the wearer's vitals and communicates them to a smart phone while maintaining the Polo signature style.Ralph Lauren's PoloTech smart shirt: this new shirt monitors the wearer's vitals and communicates them to a smart phone while maintaining the Polo signature style.

Integrating electronics into wearable items is the obvious next step in our technological revolution. We are already tied to our smart phones and tablets, and Google Glass-type products are further promoting a closer relationship between us and our gadgets. The ubiquity of computers in the developed world and the associated emerging internet-of-things makes the establishment of such technology increasingly realistic and useful. A 2014 study by Forbes reports that 71 % of 16 to 24 year-olds are interested in wearable tech, though others suggest that it may just be a passing fad. Either way, an obvious beginning is to start incorporating sensors and displays directly into our clothing, a prospect that offers significant potential for athletes and average wearers alike.

Early demonstrations of this technology have typically been targeted at professional athletes who have both the desire to constantly monitor the performance of their bodies and the funds to invest in emerging products. Ralph Lauren’s entry into the market, the PoloTech, follows in this same vein, but is marketed to the public at large and manages to maintain the style for which the company is known, “an iconic look that is unmistakably Polo.” The shirt is composed of an unremarkable 70 percent polyester, 21 percent nylon and nine percent spandex, but the magic comes in the incorporation of silver fibers into the fabric. This allows it to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, breathing depth, intensity of movement, energy output, stress levels, steps taken and calories burned. An accompanying unique app is able to take the data output from the shirt and develop real-time adaptive workouts for the wearer. Aside from the obvious benefit to serious athletes, technology of this type might also be a new front on which to fight the war on obesity as greater awareness leads to improved activity levels.

It remains to be seen how the performance of the shirt, which will be released in the US on August 27th, measures up to traditional health monitoring devices. While $300 seems like a steep price, if it is indeed able to function effectively in the myriad of ways promised, it may even offer cost savings over buying multiple alternative devices like heart rate monitors, smart watches, pedometers and so on. Not to mention the potential health benefits that stem from being able to continually record one’s activity output and the related health care cost savings. However, the excited press releases fail to discuss practical matters like the lifetime of the product and its ability to withstand regular washings – a key in any garment designed for active wear. What do you think? Will you be an early adopter? Is smart clothing the way of the future or a passing fad?

Via Phys.org.