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The future of wearable tech will be invisible

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Obsession
Life as Laboratory

The enduring contradiction of wearable technology is how utterly unwearable most of it looks. Fashion collaborations have failed to deliver; fitness trackers and connected clothing make most sense at the gym; and Google glass still looks clunky. (This, I can’t even.) Apple is building bridges to the fashion community, via both headhunting and inclusion at events—but it remains to be seen how many self-respecting aesthetes will strap a small computer to their wrists.

The New York Times reports on one strategy that may actually get people to wear so-called wearable technology: Make it invisible.

MC10's Biostamp, a seamless sensing sticker worn on an athlete's skin, is on disaplay at the Harvard Innovation Lab in Boston's Allston section, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. The Biostamp can measure a variety of physiological functions: data from the brain, muscles, heart, body temperature, and hydration levels__all with the goal of providing athletes with information that helps improve their training and performance. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
MC10’s Biostamp. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

MC10, a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that has developed solar cell technology for the US Army and makes stretchable microchips, is testing tiny attachable computers that adhere and conform to the wearer’s skin like a Band-Aid. Picture a fingernail-sized sticker that contains a wireless antenna, sensors, and a battery. MC10’s CEO told the Times that unlike today’s fitness monitors, “ours are always on you.”

It’s a powerful idea, and one that’s perhaps creepy to some—not unlike the Bill Gates-backed contraceptive microchip. Those devices are being developed to implant under one’s skin. It’s such not a big leap, from adhesive computers to computers that go under your skin.

In the meantime, Anke Loh, the chairwoman of the fashion department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is working to make the devices resemble body art. Sounds like they could be next year’s Flash Tattoos at Burning Man.

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