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Editor's pick product technology

Ministry of Supply introduces AI-enabled heated jacket

Ministry of Supply's intelligent heated jacket
Ministry of Supply’s intelligent heated jacket

US performance label Ministry of Supply has launched an intelligent heated jacket that uses machine learning to adjust the garment’s temperature.

The Mercury jacket creates a microclimate optimized to the wearer’s body by using a custom microcontroller heating system to heat up carbon-fiber heating pads sewn in the garment’s lining. The system takes in to consideration the weather and body temperature, motion data, and user preference to modulate power. For example, when walking to a train stop the jacket senses temperatures and an elevating heart rate, as well as user behaviour learnt through time, to regulate the system.

The machine learning element ensures that the more feedback the user gives its accompanying app, the better the system gets at learning their preferences. Meanwhile an added voice element allows wearers to naturally activate the jacket through a smart assistant like Amazon Alexa.

Ministry of Supply's Mercury Jacket
Ministry of Supply’s Mercury Jacket

“Our mission is to invent clothing that blends form and functionality — and temperature regulation is one of the most important factors in comfort,” says the brand’s team. “We’re excited to present our vision of what wearable technology can become, not just a way to monitor our vitals – but also act on it allowing us to become more comfortable and capable because of it. The Intelligent Heated Jacket is just that literally putting a learning thermostat in your jacket.”

Since Ministry of Supply’s inception, it has approached clothing through a human-centric, design-led methodology that takes into consideration both aesthetic and function. The jacket has been developed to replace any other outerwear alternative.

The jacket’s production is being crowdfunded via a campaign on Kickstarter. Since its launch yesterday (February 21) the jacket has trebled its original donations goal, to reach over $150K in pledges.

This is Ministry of Supply’s third successful Kickstarter campaign. In 2012, it launched the Apollo shirt, which controls body temperature after raising over $400K. Following that, the Atlas socks, which are made out of coffee beans that filter out sweat, raised over $200K or its $30K goal.

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Editor's pick product technology

Ralph Lauren introduces heat-conducting smart jacket for USA Olympics team

Ralph Lauren has launched a smart jacket that will allow the USA Olympics team to keep warm at this year’s Winter games, taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea.

As part of the team’s official uniform, which the brand has been designing for six years, a parka and a bomber jacket each use heat-conducting ink that generates warmth similar to an electric blanket.

“We’re looking back and celebrating what’s iconic and symbolic of America, and merging that with where we’re headed,” says David Lauren, the brand’s chief innovation officer. The uniform, which includes classics of American fashion such as jeans and thick suede gloves, nod to different American frontiers, he adds. “The frontiers of the 1800s and 1900s, and then the frontier of today, which is technology.”

Lauren explains that the design’s top priority was to allow for flexibility: while temperatures in South Korea can reach below zero in the winter, athletes needed to feel equally comfortable wearing the jacket while waiting at the backstage area ahead of the Opening Ceremony. After investigating suitable fabrics, the brand landed on technology.

 

Ralph Lauren's Heated Parka, tech-enabled textiles
Ralph Lauren’s Heated Parka

The garment’s heat is achieved through a special type of carbon and silver ink bonded to the jacket lining, which in keeping with the brand’s roots, were sewn in the shape of an American flag.

The ink connects to a battery pack sewn into the garment, which when fully charged can heat the jacket for up to 11 hours. Athletes can then adjust the temperature up or down via an app.

To develop the jacket, the RL innovation team worked with several US-based  partners such as engineers at Delaware-based tech giant DuPont, who had previously developed heated garments which were deemed to heavy for everyday wear. The brand also worked with Butler Technologies, a high-tech precision screen-printer based in Pittsburgh; apparel manufacturer 99Degrees, who helped bond the heater to the jacket’s lining; Key Tech, a high-tech design firm that helped design the battery packs with user experience in mind; and Principled Design, who designed the connectors that attach the battery pack to the heater in a streamlined way.

A sketch of Ralph Lauren's Olympics opening ceremony outfit connected tech, textiles
A sketch of Ralph Lauren’s Olympics opening ceremony outfit

Lauren explains that the jacket is an experiment towards launching a consumer-facing connected product this year: “Our hope is that we’ll learn enough that we’ll be able to go into production with a different, limited edition jacket for this fall.”

For years, the brand has been experimenting with technology and how it can improve performance when embedded in textiles. In 2015, it launched the PoloTech smart shirt, which captures biometric information and transmits it to an accompanying app, while for the 2016 Summer Olympics, it created a blazer with electroluminescent panels for torch-bearer Michael Phelps.

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product technology

Uniqlo exhibition demonstrates its history of fabric innovation

Uniqlo and Toray's The Art and Science of LifeWear exhibition in New York
Uniqlo and Toray’s The Art and Science of LifeWear exhibition in New York

Uniqlo is hosting an exhibition in New York celebrating the upcoming 15-year anniversary with its fabric technology partner, Toray Industries.

“The Art and Science of LifeWear”, is a large-scale exposition that acknowledges the co-development of innovative clothing that aims to keep consumers cooler, warmer and more comfortable. It includes Heattech, which launched in 2003, as well as views on the science behind AIRism, Kando-pants and Dry-EX.

Tadashi Yanai, president and CEO of Uniqlo parent company, Fast Retailing, said: “Toray’s revolutionary technologies have been vital in Uniqlo’s quest to create LifeWear clothing, which makes everyday life better and more comfortable for people everywhere. I encourage people to attend this exhibition to see the innovations stemming from this partnership that have enabled us to deliver new value by combining unparalleled functionality and comfort with contemporary styling.”

The exhibition is fronted by a series of large-scale installations and experiential displays that enable visitors to understand the technologies and science behind them. They can see a deconstruction of Heattech on a molecular-level to demonstrate its heat-retention properties for instance, and an experiment that shows the absolute minimum volume to which Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down can be compressed.

The brand has reportedly sold over one billion items of Heattech clothing since launch. Uniqlo more broadly did $17 billion in sales last year.


Akihiro Nikkaku, president of Toray Industries, added: “Our corporate philosophy is about contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies, and products. As an integrated chemical company, we engage in research and development from long-term perspectives in the conviction that materials can change our lives. I hope the exhibition of Heattech and other technological fruits of joint development with Uniqlo will give attendees a solid understanding of why this partnership can keep delivering new value in the years ahead.”

Visitors to the Art and Science of LifeWear can also preview other advanced Toray technologies from fields including aircraft, racecars and rockets, and gain a sneak peak into the future of clothing accordingly, including items that change colour and that provide instant feedback to athletes. According to Nikkaku, the company looks 10-20 years out at innovation.

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Uniqlo UK pushes Heattech line with kinetic energy game

Uniqlo is encouraging consumers to convert their “social energy” through kinetic floor surfaces and a pop-up game console in various locations across London.

Designed to promote its thermal Heattech collection, the initiative sees footsteps transformed into energy at the entrance of the Japanese retailer’s flagship store in the UK in order to power digital screens, and custom-made game consoles inviting consumers to “step to generate” in exchange for an item from the line.

These “heat spots” (as pictured) are accompanied by an online version on the Uniqlo UK Facebook page, and a mobile game accessible via QR codes located on the heat spots and in Uniqlo store windows.

The resulting energy from both online and offline, as well as conversations around Heattech via Facebook and Twitter, are then being calculated and showcased on the in-store screens.

The campaign launched in Covent Garden in London on October 25 and continued in the Westfield London shopping centre over the weekend. From tomorrow, Monday, October 29, it will run in Westfield Stratford and Bluewater in Kent.