Smart sportswear
Sports Technology

Smart sportswear

Electronics and sportswear are not a natural combination. The materials vary widely; electronics are hard, strong and brittle, while sportswear is soft, flexible, durable and washable textiles. However, a team of fashion design students from the Taiwan Practition University recently found that when they participated in the 10-day electronic sportswear seminar, combining the two into one could open up a new world of possibilities and innovation.

The initial task of the master’s students is to observe and talk to the participants in the exercise, to understand their daily affairs, how to exercise, what keeps them motivated and to measure their performance. Based on these observations, students came up with ideas about electronic sportswear that can support sports participants. Then, bring these ideas back to the workshop, where fashion designers work with a team of e-graduates from nearby Taiwanese universities to turn their ideas into reality. The two groups of students came from very different fields, forcing them to take their own comfort zone. For example, they have almost no technical vocabulary, engineers use terms such as op amps, power supplies, and microcontrollers, while designers use terms such as cropping, pleats, and pleats; so the beginning of the workshop focused on fashion designers and Engineers communicate and start thinking about how to actually make their ideas come true.

By the second half of the workshop, these ideas began to take shape as prototypes. Some examples include: a jacket that provides feedback on the Olympic target shooting position and arm stability; a basketball jacket that celebrates when the wearer scores a shot; a shoe that measures the rhythm and foot position of the bicycle; and a dancer’s top that feeds back the arm position. Although not yet planned, many of these projects have emerged a common theme: smart sportswear. For this generation, it’s natural to connect their clothes to a smartphone. Using Bluetooth low energy, you can configure many sportswear with a simple app on your phone, for example, setting the pace of a bicycle sock, or setting a sequence of LED light commands to be celebrated when you get 3 points on a basketball shirt. The application can also receive and display data from sportswear via Bluetooth low energy, for example, providing feedback on the correctness of the dance pose or player jump height.

As the seminar was part of the postgraduate master’s program, the students presented their work to the three examiners on the last day. The atmosphere was a bit nervous when the broken wires needed to be repaired in the last few minutes. However, all product prototypes are well managed and submitted excellent presentations.  

With the end of the intense exam, we have time to discuss the broader ideas of sportswear, turning passive apparel into active apparel that provides feedback to the wearer and makes sports or other activities more efficient or fun. As sensors, microprocessors, and wireless communications become smaller, more energy efficient, and more integrated, this change is imperative.

Personally, I hope that when the youth costumes are dropped on the bedroom floor, they will send a message to their owner’s mobile phone to remind them to put the clothes. “Women who complain” may be a new aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT)!

The workshop was supported by u‐blox to deepen understanding of electronic products and their potential value in creating new and innovative future products.

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