While this may seem as fanciful now as it did then, 2015 does looks set to be the year of so-called ‘wearable technology’, clothing and accessories that could transform not only our wardrobes, but our health, too.
Until now, wearable technology has largely taken the form of wristband trackers — such as the Fitbit (launched in 2008), 2011’s Jawbone and the much-hyped Apple Watch, due to go on sale on April 24.
But now, manufacturers are developing everyday items of clothing and shoes that can monitor our vital signs, and even treat serious conditions.
The latest innovations include a bra that could deliver life-saving breast cancer medication and socks that warn if you’re at risk of injury.
Even big brands are moving into the market — this year, the U.S. designer Ralph Lauren will launch a sports top that monitors heart rate, muscle movement and calories burnt.
‘So far, wearable technology in the context of well-being has been mainly about monitoring personal data,’ says Caroline Till, course leader in Material Futures at Central St Martins, University of the Arts London. ‘The question now is what do you do with the data once you have it? Is the information of value?’
So in theory, ‘wearables’, as they’re known, will not only take your blood pressure reading, they’ll tell you if it’s dangerously high.
‘The holy grail of wearable technology is something that’s integrated seamlessly into something you wear or use already, so you don’t notice it’s there,’ says Caroline Till.
This is now closer to being a reality because circuitry can be made small and light enough to be embedded in clothing.
Another material technology, known as micro-encapsulation, allows tiny ‘nano’ particles of a substance — for instance, a drug — to be embedded into a material so it is gradually absorbed through the skin when worn.