Hey, here’s a weird question for you: how smart is your underwear? If you’re anything like me, the idea of wearing technology near your parts may make you uncomfortable, to say the least, yet that’s exactly what one Canadian startup invites us to do.
Last week, at a by-invite launch held at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, apparel manufacturer Myant introduced Skiin, a platform for connected clothing. Their first consumer product? Smart underwear.
Positioning itself as “the world’s first smart underwear,” Skiin leverages ECG sensors, robotic knitting, and machine learning to offer boxers that track everything from your heart and breathing rate to hydration levels and body fat.
While we’ve seen cheeky products in past (think Billie Whitehouse’s “Fundawear,” a set of vibrating underpants for couples in long-distance relationships made in collaboration with Durex), Skiin is taking itself seriously with a product that’s not for play but for everyday wear. Because after all, what’s more everyday than underwear?
Until now, one of the main hurdles with wearable technology is continued use (it’s difficult to glean insight into biometrics and well-being when you stop wearing your wrist-tracker ten days in). As such, manufacturers have turned towards textiles as an alternative. While connected clothing may seem like a simple solution to bulky accessories, other challenges arise, including washability and battery life.
In addition to being machine washable, Skiin’s 24-hour battery can be charged wirelessly. Users just need to place the battery in the vicinity of a hub. While for now the battery is a bulky processor that sits on the band of the underwear, the company says they plan to reduce its size over time, and eventually eliminate the need for a separate battery altogether.
Skiin’s vision is to evolve clothing and push it into the digital age, and they hope to create a textile computing platform that can be used by other developers to create unique applications depending on people’s needs. So, for example, a textile for diabetics can be programmed differently than a textile for weightlifting or endurance, with its own customized alerts and triggers.
According to Tony Chahine, Myant’s CEO, the smart underwear will be sold in packs of seven with two swappable electronic pods and one wireless charger. This starter kit will retail for around $300.
While we’re certainly impressed with the idea of high-tech underwear, it’s obvious to us that Skiin has many challenges ahead, most prominently overcoming people’s concerns for safety and security. The company claims their products are safe to use around genitalia, and even state that the fabric includes a shield that protects the wearer from other harmful emissions. Additionally, they promise that biometric information generated from wearing Skiin is anonymized and stored privately, ensuring data stays in the hands of the users.
Even if concerns for safety and security are overcome, there’s still a versatility problem. Judging from their renderings, it looks like Skiin has dudes in mind as their target audience, although they do promise alternative designs for women in the near future.
What do you think about smart underwear? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @Electric_Runway.