Ever since Intel unveiled their tiny Curie module in January of 2015, they’ve become something of a mainstay at fashion shows around the world. After an impressive showing at New York Fashion Week in September of last year, Intel returned with Curie and some now-established fashion partners for the February edition of New York Fashion Week. Considering how many garments Curie was in on the runway, it looks like this altogether different sort of wearable tech is about to take hold.
The most visible showing Intel had was with Chromat, the clothing company they worked with for the September 2015 New York Fashion Week. At that show, the two companies focused more on activity and fitness. This time, it was a light show — using hand wraps as controllers, models were able to light up dresses using electroluminescent material. The dresses glowed in different patterns in neon shades of white, teal, yellow, and pink. The line was inspired by deep sea creatures that can make themselves glow, giving the whole show an underwater feel.
So, are light-up dresses going to come off the runway and into department stores? We don’t know about the mainstream appeal of that, but we know emoji pins and necklaces are things we can get behind. Intel worked with Yazbukey to create the EMOJI collection, which saw a bunch of popular emoji placed on pins and necklaces containing fitness tracking sensors. That functionality is well-established, but the form was something else entirely — the pins look more like fabric badges or patches, and are much, much smaller than your average fitness tracker (and a lot more trendy).
While smartwatches have been made possible by pretty small microcontrollers and sensors that don’t add too much bulk to the wrist, weaving smart technology into garments has been another challenge entirely. But, it’s a lucrative market, and not just for fitness trackers woven into shirts and pants, which would always be preferable to the extra weight of a wrist-worn device — the artistic possibilities are endless. Curie made all that possible, packing Bluetooth connectivity, motion detection, power, and memory into an impossibly small and light chip that can be added almost seamlessly to clothes.