Electronic textiles, or Smart textiles are fabrics that enable digital components such as a battery and a light (including small computers), and electronics to be embedded in them. Clothes made from smart textiles provide added value to the wearer.
With so many nations vying to develop smart clothes, Japan is forging ahead in the race. Some of the products emerging in Japan's fast-growing market for smart clothing are a virtual-reality jacket that replicates the sense of touch, a belt that predicts when a pregnant mother will go into labor, and a vest that monitors the health of your pet, reports Nikkei Asian Review.
A smart jacket, developed by Teijin, 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 technology can be used not only in gaming but also for physical therapy, where the jacket could collect data on the user while stimulating motor function, according to Teijin.
Nisshinbo Textile, a subsidiary of Nisshinbo Holdings, is working on a smart belt for pregnant mothers. The belt has a small microphone, which can monitor the baby’s heartbeat and predict a few days in advance when the mother is likely to go into labor. This belt will encourage the user to seek medical care if any abnormalities are detected. The company plans to sell the belt as regular apparel rather than a medical equipment.
Toyobo, one of Japan's top makers of fibers and textiles, has developed a stretchable conductive film for smart clothing. Dubbed Cocomi, the smart fabric can be used for humans and animals alike. Toyobo has already used the smart fabric to develop a product that can measure the heartbeat of racehorses. 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.