Although Seymour has helped curate many exhibits and develop a variety of ensembles, she said the industry has a long way to go before wearable fashion takes off. Processors need to be seamlessly integrated into a garment and go beyond conductive thread. Charging infrastructure needs to improve, and higher standards for broadband and wireless carriers are needed to handle large data sets that will be provided by a mass of wearables.
"Data is the easier piece to be solved in this puzzle. Data visualization is already a business in many ways, but imagine that going into the next phase. We need different apps, pieces of software that will evolve. I'm not too worried about the software factor, I'm more interested in hardware," Seymour said.
To that end, Seymour and her team at Moondial have founded a startup dedicated to producing "soft hardware" for smart garments.
Seymour said of her work at Moon Lab:
Currently in wearables we have a lot of small components, from a processor to sensors that are all very rigid, are too big... or, because of the necessity of some sort of wireless transfer, are very costly. We're creating soft components so they can be easily integrated. This goes beyond a conductive yarn; it gets literally into the nanoscale of things with components and flexibility, creating very specific tools and components that can be easily attached to garment manufacturing processes.
Major chip companies have yet to develop the secret sauce that would allow for soft, cloth-based smart material. Moon Labs hopes to develop material that is accessible to and intuitive for people who aren't engineers, creating a one-stop shop for high-tech fashion designers.
Researchers at Aalto University experiment with alternative fibers.
(Source: Mikko Raskinen)
As part of these efforts, Seymour is leading research into computational cellulose at Aalto University in Helsinki. A team of researchers developed a dress from birch cellulose fiber as an alternative to cotton, a process which Seymour described as "changing the molecular structure of the fiber itself or making fiber sensing and actuating."
Working with the fashion industry will be integral to the success of more “traditional” wearables such as smartwatches. In an interview with USA Today, Seymour said the two industries have completely different ways of operating, but must collaborate if smartwatches are to become mainstream.
Next page: Understanding wearable psychology