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6 Times Textiles and Technology Teamed Up to Change Apparel in 2015

Move over, Fitbit. If apparel brands get their way, health-conscious consumers will soon be ditching their fitness trackers in favor of something a little more form-fitting that does more than just count steps. Even the Obama administration is getting in on the game.

Cool Running: Nike Unwraps Thermoregulation Textile Technology
Nike’s AeroReact, revealed in October, is a wearable technology that can sense performance in real time and respond to changes in temperature the same way a body would. Developed using insights from athletes all over the world, the lightweight fabric’s bi-component yarn support the wearer’s existing thermoregulation capabilities by sensing moisture vapor and opening their structure to maximize breathability.

Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison to Develop Solar Textiles
Last summer, the University of Wisconsin-Madison welcomed Marianne Fairbanks as assistant professor to its School of Human Ecology to work with Trisha Andrew (an assistant professor in chemistry who works in energy research) on developing consumer-friendly solar textiles. “If we could literally weave together a solar cell: mind blowing. We’re really integrating each step of the process, on the textile side, on the device side,” Andrew said.

Obama Administration to Open Wearable Tech Innovation Hub in Silicon Valley
Research consortium FlexTech Alliance will lead a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute, the Obama administration announced in August. Based in San Jose, California, and financed by more than $171 million, the center will focus on making hybrid flexible electronics and use high-performance packaging and printing techniques to integrate silicon circuits and sensors on one stretchable or wearable platform.

“Flexible hybrid electronics have the power to unleash wearable devices to improve medical health monitoring and personal fitness; soft robotics to care for the elderly or assist wounded soldiers; and lightweight sensors embedded into the very trellises and fibers of roads, bridges and other structures across the globe,” a White House statement said.

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VTT Develops Smart Fabric that Can Control Body Temperature
Consumers can control everything from their home security systems to their bank accounts from their smartphones and soon they can add activewear to that ever-growing list. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in November revealed it had developed a smart fabric featuring tiny channel structures that function like little veins through which hot or cold liquid can be pumped at the wearer’s demand. Next VTT intends to create a mobile app that wearers can use to regulate their body temperature.

Intel and Chromat Debut Smart Clothing Collection at New York Fashion Week
Brooklyn, New York-based designer Chromat teamed up with Intel to send a shape-shifting dress and bra down its Spring/Summer 2016 runway during September’s Made Fashion Week. Incorporating the tech company’s Curie Module, the garments can change in response to the wearer’s body temperature, adrenaline or stress levels.

“The two garments powered by Intel technology illustrate the potential of future integrations of fashion and technology by bringing innovative concepts and aspirations to life,” Intel said in a blog post at the time. “As we continue our exploration with wearable tech and incorporating technology into clothing, we at Intel look forward to empowering and inspiring the fashion industry by elevating the utility of clothing and accessories with intelligent capabilities.”

Google and Levi’s Partner to Turn Textiles into Touchscreens
Internet giant Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group in May unveiled Project Jacquard, its attempt to turn textiles into touchscreens. Its first partner to bring the endeavor to market: Levi’s.

Using standard industrial looms to create conductive yarns that combine thin, metallic alloys with natural or synthetic fibers, touch-sensitive areas or sensor grids can be woven anywhere on a fabric so that clothing or furniture can be tapped and swiped like touchscreen surfaces to connect the user to online services, apps and other smartphone features.

“Jacquard is a blank canvas for the fashion industry. Designers can use it as they would any fabric, adding new layers of functionality to their designs, without having to learn about electronics,” Google said in a note on the project’s website. “Developers will be able to connect existing apps and services to Jacquard-enabled clothes and create new features specifically for the platform.”