According to The Nikkei Asian Review, a virtual-reality jacket that replicates the sense of touch, a belt that predicts when a pregnant mother will go into labor, and even a vest that monitors the health of your precious pooch: these are just some of the products emerging in Japan's fast-growing market for smart clothing.
Teijin has developed a jacket that can simulate the sense of touch in virtual reality. Its Synesthesia Wear tracks a user's movements, and attached modules vibrate in different ways depending on how the user interacts with the VR space, adding another layer of realism to the experience.
The jacket also does away with the plug-in connections that made Teijin's previous version of the technology difficult to market. It is made from a specially designed fabric that conducts electricity and communications signals, letting users place the battery and haptic modules wherever they choose.
Teijin sees applications for the technology not only in gaming, but also medical areas such as physical therapy, where the jacket could collect data on the user while stimulating motor function.
Nisshinbo Textile, a subsidiary of Nisshinbo Holdings, is working on a smart pregnancy belt that can predict a few days in advance when the wearer is likely to go into labor by monitoring the baby's heartbeat with a small microphone. It will encourage the user to seek medical care if any abnormalities are detected.
The company plans to market the belt as regular apparel rather than medical equipment, selling it through retail stores and online. It looks to keep the price below $100.
Toyobo has developed a stretchable conductive film for smart clothing, branded Cocomi, that can be used for humans and animals alike. A product that can measure the heartbeat of racehorses has hit the market. The company plans to offer similar wearables for pets and farm animals.
"Animals don't communicate with words, so bioinformation will be useful in deducing health and emotions," said a Toyobo manager.
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