On Trend: The Convergence of Tech and Fashion

The flirtation between tech and fashion has long been on our radar, and with the introduction of the Apple Watch earlier this week, the convergence of wearable tech and designer fashion has officially become a full-blown affair.

The trend started because both industries need each other. For tech companies, collaborating with the fashion industry helps to push out the new products with that extra sheen. This is especially true for the wearables, frequently dubbed “ugly” and “un-wearable” for their often bulky and unpolished designs. And the tech industry is realizing that making their wearables “fashionable” is a pre-requisite for mass adoption. For instance, Fitbit gave its fitness tracker a makeover by teaming up with Tory Burch, while Samsung is collaborating with Swarovski to offer bedazzled straps for its new Gear S.

On the other hand, many fashion brands are embracing technology in order to stay ahead. For the younger generations, technology is quickly replacing fashion, as many members of Gen Y and Z cite the newest handset as a higher purchase priority than the fashion fad of the season. In order to keep fashion “in fashion”, the industry is more than happy to incorporate the newest tech into the new looks. The “smart” accessories are being prominently featured on the runways of New York Fashion Week. And earlier last month, Ralph Lauren has also embraced new technology and developed its first item of smart sportswear.

Now with Apple unveiling their first wearable product, this trend is going stronger than ever. The Cupertino company geared up for its Apple Watch reveal by first poaching several executives from luxury fashion brands, and inviting key fashion influencers to the launch event. And it worked, receiving mostly positive reactions from the fashion world for its polished design, multitude of styles, and plenty of customization options. In the foreseeable future, this trend will most certainly continue, as such integration helps normalizing the otherwise “geeky” new tech products, especially the wearables, in a way that is mutually beneficial for both industries.

Maker Faire returns to NYC this weekend

The “greatest show (and tell) on Earth” returns to NYC for a 4th consecutive year. The event spans two days and is hosted at the NY Hall of Science in Queens, NY. Five different zones cover the grounds located at the northwest corner of Flushing Meadows Park. Empowered by the maker movement each zone contains everything from performances to hands-on skill learning such as soldering a circuit or building a robot. Hackers, tinkerers and thinkers come together to share and learn. Sure you have your really deep-dive nerdy DIY electronic kit section but you also have drone flying, an entire 3D printing village and a giant life-size Rube Goldberg mouse trap. You might not think watching a giant mouse trap sequence would be fun but when you add a band (they had one last year) and all the DIY craftiness of old car parts, bathtubs, etc. it’s super fun. (Think OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” video).

More the lecture type? All the DIY craft a bit too much and you’d rather hear some people tell you about making things? There’s something for you too. The speaker lineup for Saturday and Sunday includes the founder and CEO of littlebits (absolutely fabulous snap together electronics learning kits for kids of all ages); the CTO of NASA (you’ve heard of them); founder of Arduino and Raspberry PI (DIY electronics kits that rock), Bre Pettis (do I need to tell you who he is? CEO of MakerBot), and many other tech and making evangelists.

“Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.” says Maker Media

Maker Faire is brought to you by Maker Media.  Maker Media publishes MAKE magazine, produces Maker Faire, and offers DIY electronics, tools, kits, and books through its online and pop-up Maker Shed stores.

Disney is the presenting sponsor with a collection of other levels of sponsors including Microsoft, Ford and Chobani.

The website has all the details: http://makerfaire.com/
Program & Schedule: PDF download directly

Follow @nysci and @makerfaire

There is also an app for iOS and Android.

A Drone’s Eye View – The Only Way To Explain Burning Man To A Virgin

It’s around about this time of year that a lot of people ask what Burning Man is like: Who are the main acts? What do you do all day? What do you bring? Did you shower?

Um… the thing is, it’s extremely difficult to provide answers… which is in itself possibly the most infuriating response you can give. And this is because every person’s experience of Burning Man is so subjective, to the point that almost everything documented about Burning Man will always feel wrong or desperately lacking in the view of most other “Burners.”

With the advent of camera-armed mobile devices, there are certainly plenty of ways for individuals to record their specific experiences. But this also poses a conflict for Burners, who are constantly torn between the need to capture the moment vs. trying to be in it and simply enjoy it. The technical term for this (which results in something suitably painful-sounding) is digiphrenia– the “schizophrenic cacophony of divided attention and temporal disconnection.”

At the Lab, we talk often about how mobile is simply a bridging technology to a more convenient future where we will wear our tech, diminishing the need to capture the moment “in some crude or clumsy way,” as put in a post-Burn downer Techcrunch piece entitled: “The Mediated Life is not worth living.” 

But while wearing our tech might allow us to truly enjoy the present moment, and “help us stay human and stay more connected to our physical world,” the perspective remains purely subjective.

The only thing that could adequately communicate Burning Man to someone who has never been (aka a “virgin”) is some sort of omniscient being that can capture it in its totality.

And I am not referring to the alleged UFO sightings from last year – (I do like to preserve some of my British cynicism) – but rather other flying objects – UAVs or drones – which were observed flying over the Playa this year.

In my experience, the drone’s-eye-view provides an unparalleled 10,000 foot view on what Burning Man is, in its entirety and as true to scale as possible.

Now I am going to shut up, and let all you “virgins” take in this awesome video and judge for yourselves.

Image credit: Clay Greenbush

On the Brains and Brawn of Google Glass

Google Glass in da Lab!

As Computerworld cited this week, Google Glass will not be available to consumers until 2014. This was something we forecast in the Lab’s 2013 Outlook as one of the life-changing technologies which would remain on the horizon for the time being.

The article cites consumer comfort levels with Glass as a reason for the ‘delayed’ launch, but as we said at the start of the year, perhaps bigger hurdles (by no means not the only ones) might be cost and battery power.

Back in December, Glass engineer Babak Parviz said “[Battery power is] a valid concern. We have done a lot of work in this area, and it is still a work in progress. Our hope is that the battery life would be sufficient for the whole day. That’s our target. So you would put the device on in the morning and you’d go about your daily routine. By the time you got back home, the device would still be functioning.”

Having tested Glass at the Lab, we’d be lucky if the battery lasted 2 hours, so there is a long way to go in that respect.

At the Lab, we imagine a future where consumers will be wearing their tech… The smartphone has changed many-a-consumer’s lives practically overnight. But because of its cumbersome form factor (it’s all relative…), we believe it represents a bridging technology to a world where tech will retreat into the background – as Pranav Mistry elegantly puts it in his 2009 Ted Talk, to “help us to stay human and stay more connected to our physical world.”

The smartphone will, however, continue to have a major role in this future – not as the interface that consumers interact with, but as the ‘brains and brawn’ behind our peripheral interfaces. A great example of this is Kickstarter darling, the Pebble Watch, which uses Bluetooth to harness the functionality and processing power of a smartphone to display its notifications.

Looking into our crystal ball, we imagine that within two iterations, Glass will also be powered by the smartphone. This makes sense since the phone is both a powerful, and a subsidized product. This will start to help solve two of Glass’s biggest issues: battery life and expensive guts.

Haptix Makes Any Surface A Touch Screen

On the heels of the launch of Leap Motion, touch screen and gesture controls have officially entered the digital fray. A new sensor called Haptix is the latest contender in the field, and it claims to be a multitouch control system for your television or computer that enables any surface to act as the controller. Unlike Leap, though, Haptix doesn’t rely on infrared technology, which means that it can be employed in all lighting conditions and even on reflective surfaces. The ultimate goal of Haptix is to kill the mouse, so to speak, and allow users to scroll, swipe, zoom, and select items through the converted surface. In addition, Haptix wants to provide tactile feedback to allow users to view their fingers on screen. Before it reaches mass adoption, though, it first needs to meet its $100,000 goal on Kickstarter – lofty goals for lofty ideas. 

Confessions of an aging technojunkie

Confessions of an aging technophile (iStock)Ok, I admit it. I love new technology. I love getting new devices, figuring out how they work, learning what they can do for me. But increasingly, I find integrating new technology into my life harder and harder.

I need a new PC for my home office, but I keep putting it off because it will be such a pain to reinstall software, update drivers, connect to my network. I want to switch to a new carrier for my portable phone, but the idea of actually going to the carrier store to switch service irritates me. And my multi that drives my home theater recently died – the thought of buying and reprogramming a new one seems ridiculously complicated, even though I have done it before.

In short, the lure of new technology and the realities of life integration seem increasingly more difficult the older I get. And it seems I am not alone. Continue reading “Confessions of an aging technojunkie”

In-car technology could change our lives

telemat2009In 2008 I talked about in-car technology as becoming less utilitarian and more about the car as a content platform of tomorrow.  And why not, cars and trucks increasingly share information with other platforms (RFID sensors, tolls, central tracking systems, etc.).  For 2009, I am curious how this in-car technology and the growing digital ecosystem could actually help improve one’s quality of life, beyond just getting to your destination.

We know that cell phones and cars are increasingly being delivered to the end user with GPS capability (in-car GPS, Personal Navigation Devices, or Pedestrian Navigation Devices).  We know that this GPS capability can allow people to see where you are.  We also know that it is possible to cross reference where you are specifically to what is around you.  Whether this technology is actually deployed is unclear.  This ability to locate and cross reference will increase as more and more locations look to formalize their location in the GPS universe.

So what am I getting at here? Continue reading “In-car technology could change our lives”