Just when you thought you couldn’t kick the winter chill, a self-heating jacket arrives on the scene. This morning, Ministry of Supply launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Mercury, an outerwear garment that looks like any other windbreaker but actually uses machine learning to regulate temperature.
The company claims the jacket can know its wearer’s preferences and combine this information with temperature and motion data to provide the right amount of heat across environments. While other heated jackets such as Emel + Aris have been commercially available for more than a year, this is the first consumer wearable for delivering heat we’ve seen that understands user preference and adapts using artificial intelligence.
Ministry of Supply has made a name for itself by marketing advanced textiles in their product line that wick moisture away from the body and are wrinkle-resistant. With the introduction of Mercury, the company signals they’re taking the next logical step by moving from high-performance textiles towards smart fabrics. While high-performance fabrics offer additional features such as four-way stretch and water resistance, smart fabrics are connected garments that have been digitally enhanced to deliver additional benefits like music control or biometric monitoring.
Ministry of Supply isn’t the only company heating things up. Earlier this year, Ralph Lauren introduced a heat-conducting ink jacket for Team USA for the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. In an interview, David Lauren hinted the company may be on its way to rolling out a consumer version of the parka. Some experts predict the global smart fabrics’ market will grow to $130 billion by 2025.
As the hype around wearables dies down, it seems companies are turning away from gimmicks and towards useful applications of wearable technology. For those who live in colder climates, temperature is an obvious challenge that can be addressed with embedded technology, especially given the industry’s movement away from fur. Last year, both Michael Kors and Gucci announced they’re phasing out using fur and opting for synthetic fibres and alternative materials instead.
As winters grow colder and more frigid due to the warming Arctic, temperature-regulating jackets may be just what we need to keep our cool.