GIS Jacket with Flexible Display
Due out late next year is O'Neill Europe's jacket with some kind of integral, flexible display in the sleeve and audio in the hood. Using embedded GIS, they would provide navigation, weather, and friend-location information as well as spoken directions down a mountain.
Here, I will focus on two approaches to systems integration quoting this article.
1) "Aleks Ristic, VP Marketing of MyGuide is convinced that GPS will play an important role in future wearable technology. 'The partnership with O’Neill allows us to leverage our GPS know-how into new market segments. We with co-development of the NavJacket, we are expanding our product range from car navigation into outdoor usage, where navigation is just one application of our technology.'
2) "Using your mobile phone connected to the GPS unit, 3D views of the resorts as well as points of interest throughout the resort will also be available." Which mobile phones do they mean, and how do they propose to connect them? Does this mean that the phone display will be required for such views? GPS does not provide graphics, so the wireless services available at a resort may certainly differ from those available at more remote locations where personal, real-time navigation might be more appreciated.
Does the engineering provide for the possibility to route your music to the sonic hood without hacking the jacket? This brings me to compare multi-use hand-held gadgets like graphics-capable mobile phones and apparel such as Burton's iPod jacket that is also designed for winter sports. If the O'Neill Jacket is being marketed with capabilities that can be added by a third-party mobile phone, why not just extend the multi-use capability of phones? This includes extending the controls, audio, and some kind of visual output; even if it's just LEDs driven by the phone's IR or BT transceiver. Rather, the choice was made to integrate some technology into the jacket in a proprietary sort of way.
While it makes sense to collaborate, proposed expandability via mobile phone acknowledges their power, modularity; not to mention their ubiquity. Although, since GIS is not a standard feature on mobile phones, this collaboration tries to assure GIS as the primary feature of the jacket. It would seem that expandability is tertiary to other navigation features. Again, depending on the systems integration, using the audio capability of the hood to play music would be an afterthought, if not impossible without some cutting, splicing, and sewing.
The flexible display seems cool, and I'd love to see it in action. There is still a difference between wearable technology and wearable computing. Since this design brings up the expandability that comes from incorporating a cellphone into the systems architecture, it supports the cellphone as a platform for mobile computing. My work includes hacking multi-function, expandable mobile devices to be more wearable, even if it means adding to the hand-held form-factor to reduce the reliance on the hands.
I've read many critiques that both wearable computers and wearable technologies have niche markets. I feel this effect is perpetuated by architectures with proprietary embedded technologies, and designs with only a few possible use scenarios.
[link via engadget]