AP/David J. Phillip Wearable computing is all the rage these days, from watches that connect wirelessly with mobile devices to glasses that project data onto the viewer’s specs. We haven’t seen the breakout “iPhone” equivalent device that takes it from fringe to mainstream, but we can all see which way the wind is blowing.
But we admit, we didn’t see this coming: The next big thing in wearable tech may be a brassiere that brings new meaning to the term “support.”
College professors teamed up with Microsoft (MSFT) researchers on a study that used a high-tech bra containing physiological sensors that gathered data about the emotional state of its wearer.
Now, this story would have been a lot cooler if the wearable tech was being put to use for loftier goals. A smartbra could potentially help diagnose potential lumps to detect breast cancer early, for example. It could track the weather and heat up as atmospheric temperatures dip. It could have a feature that looks up the Facebook relationship status of the aggressive date fumbling with the clasp.
Unfortunately, the researchers were only interested in detecting high stress levels that could result in emotional overeating. The study, however, was successful. The paper concludes by showing positive results for emotion detection. And, it was able to intervene — through an app — when high stress and other emotional factors were likely to lead a wearer to eat.
That’s fine, but now we’d like to see the technology improved and put to better use.
Tech’s Cup Runneth Over
The smartbra in its present form would never work. For one thing, study participants had to recharge them every three to four hours. If you think the current crop of smartwatches on the market aren’t worth the bother because they have to be recharged every day or two, imagine having to refuel a brassiere.
However, if Nike (NKE), Fitbit, and Jawbone Up can use accelerometers to transform a modest bracelet into a decent health and exercise gauge, just imagine what could be done with a bra — or even thermal underwear that hugs more of the body.
War of the Wearables
The wearable computing revolution started modestly. Kickstarter-funded Pebble promised to market a $150 wristwatch device that could interact with smartphones to provide notifications, updates, and engage with apps.
Sony (SNE) and Samsung then threw some Asian tech muscle into the platform with pricier devices that do even more.
The revolution isn’t ending at the wrist. Google (GOOG) introduced Google Glass, which allows wearers to do everything from recording what they’re seeing to calling up streaming videos, GPS navigation, or Web surfing in general.
Why couldn’t a Web-tethered bra be next? Sure, Microsoft researchers aren’t gong to storm the Victoria’s Secret boardroom up with plans for beating the rest of the industry to market with a smartbra for the masses. We’ll probably see jewelry, shoes, and perhaps even shirts that incorporate some form of wireless tech before we see a commercially available Bluetooth brassiere.
However, a lot of the innovations that we take for granted today started from modest initial implementations. Now that we know the technology can work, it’s only a matter of making it more effective, which will mean far more than just extending what is now a pretty restrictive battery life.
But the wearable revolution is on the move — in more ways than one.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google and Nike. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Microsoft and Nike.