Wearable tech might get where it wants to go through the science of touch
I am a bad yogi. My inability to downward dog stems from a couple of separate factors: a lifelong disdain of stretching combined with weekly soccer games and squash matches played on slowly aging limbs and ligaments. If I'm being honest, there's also a certain intimidation or fear factor in my expected failure. As someone who defines himself at least in part by mostly succeeding in various athletic endeavors, the idea of struggling through a beginner yoga class brings the opposite of tranquility.
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What I need is a teacher (and not the type of teacher who told me during one of the few classes I've taken that my hamstrings were tight because I was squeezed in the birth canal).
What I need is a pair of Nadi X tights.
The pants, developed by Australian company Wearable Experiments, appear to be a typical sleek, skin-tight outfit, like something you'd see in every yoga studio in the world. But they have one key difference: tiny electronic motors are woven between the nylon layers near the hip, knee, and ankle. These actuators sense the angle of the wearer's body and, by communicating with a downloadable app, vibrate when the person is out of alignment while performing a specific pose. If my leg in Warrior 2 isn't parallel to the ground, I'll feel a vibration on my knee and hip until my positioning is correct. The app allows users to input their ability level (low!), ensuring they can improve slowly and decreasing the risk of injury. Billie Whitehouse, the co-founder and CEO Wearable Experiments, says that the tights have been her company's most successful offering so far.
The Nadi is far from alone when it comes to articles of clothing that communicate with their wearers through the sense of touch. This field — known as haptics from the Greek word "haptikos," which means able to touch or grasp — is developing rapidly, with everyone from Google and Levi Strauss to budget airline EasyJet releasing haptic-enabled clothing. And the list will only grow longer as the motors become smaller and cheaper, and consumers grow more accustomed to receiving information from what they are wearing. In the next decade, haptics could change everything from what we wear to how we shop.