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When your shirt becomes hardware
“As our worlds become smarter, and get to know us better and better, it becomes harder and harder to say where the world stops and the person begins,” said the famous Andy Clark.
And indeed, the ultimate act of disappearing interface is when it becomes a person. Andy Clark spent a lot of his time doing research on cognitive hybridization, and concluded that it’s only natural that we are able to mix neural, bodily and tech ploys. Mindware is just as integral part of problem-solving that makes for human intelligence as are the brain cells. In other words, our brain is only part of our mind.
If we got mindware covered, why are we lagging behind with bodyware? Road to our body is currently paved with ugly wristbands, clunky heart-rate monitors and chips that never seem to work. It should be paved with fashionable clothing, instead.
It’s time for fashion brands to wisen up and realize that very soon, they will find themselves in the hardware business. Some of them are getting there. Under Armour recently bought MapMyFitness to capitalize on popularity of biometric measurement. Nike sneakers track how high you jump. Sony designed vibrating wig. Athos equipped their entire sportsgear collection with sensors. Bike riding will become the safest thing around thanks togadgets made for every part of cyclist’s body.
Right now, these developments are significant more for their potential than for their reality, especially if we disregard gimmicks like dress changing its color for no particular reason orwearing a level of sexual arousal literally on one’s sleeve. Garments turned into hardware is going to force retail companies to think and behave like tech companies (and to adapt their value chains accordingly). Consumer targeting will reach a completely new and unseen level (something like, if I know what you do, and how you do it, I will also know which products and services to offer you). And there is definitely be those who will claim that our clothes will become our autobiographers, and idea which can, stripped of its poetic halo, actually be useful in giving a more comprehensive picture of an individual.
Fashion is the future of bodyware. Equally true is that bodyware can be this industry’s next big thing. Instead of owning the product, fashion brands can own the entire interface that is a person. And this person is connected to other people, devices and interfaces. Our experiences, that is at the very core of the fashion brands offering, can be augmented by what we wear enhancing things we love and automating things that bore us. Fashion pieces can be, thanks to technology, more tailored to us who are wearing them. They can fit our individual bodies better. They can solve a problem for a diabetic person by alerting them to take their shot.
If the code for cognitive hybridization has been cracked, we should be able to figure out the fashion-body hybridization, too. Bodyware is just as integral part of presence in the world that makes for human experience as are our bodies. Our bodies are just one part of our physical presence.