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Editor's pick product technology

Bose and Coachella team up on audio augmented reality festival experience

Festival-goers at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend will be able to access exclusive audio content via Bose’s new audio augmented reality sunglasses.

The audio company has worked with Goldenvoice, the creators of the festival’s app, to enhance the platform with audio features that only work once paired with the smart glasses.

“We’re proud to see this exclusive content made available through Bose AR at Coachella,” said Crystal MacKenzie, head of marketing for Bose AR. “Fans who pair their Bose Frames with the app while attending the show will be able to spend more time looking up and seeing what’s going on around them, while accessing information that will help make their experience even better.”

The Bose AR sunglasses feature small speakers integrated into its frame, which for this experience will push real-time updates on the festival’s schedule, as well as notify wearers of when their favorite act is about to perform.

The smart frames will be available to buy at the festival grounds and Bose’s ecommerce website, for those who wish to purchase it beforehand.

This marks the first time that Bose’s new smart glasses and audio augmented reality technology will be featured fully operating in a consumer-facing scenario. At this year’s SXSW festival, the company introduced the glasses for the first time alongside a host of apps that have its technology plugged in. The aim was to showcase the many different applications the smart feature has, such as a tool for the blind, or enabling golfers to know the next hole information without having to check their phones.

Recently Huawei and Gentle Monster also announced their take on smart glasses, which allow for phone calls and voice assistant interaction. Tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft are also all said to be working on their own versions.

Additional reporting by Camilla Rydzek.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product technology

Gentle Monster and Huawei team up to launch fashion-focused smart glasses

Korean luxury eyewear label Gentle Monster has partnered with Chinese technology giant Huawei to announce the launch of a range of smart glasses.

The range was introduced yesterday (March 26) at Huawei’s P30 Pro launch event in Paris as ‘one more stylish thing’ the company would be introducing to their hardware range this year.

The smart glasses will have integrated microphones and speakers, which through Bluetooth technology will allow wearers to pick up calls by simply touching the frame, as well as activate a voice assistant. The glass range will come in both prescription and sunglass frames in a variety of styles.

Speaking about the partnership during the launch event, Huawei said both companies were trying to make the glasses look as normal as possible, and designed for user’s everyday life. “I really appreciate Huawei because they realize that the eyewear comes first and the smart comes later,” added Hankook Kim, co-founder and CEO of Gentle Monster to WWD.

Unlike previous smart glasses that have been introduced to the market such as the Google Glass (which was discontinued in 2015) and Snap Inc’s Spectacles, the product will not feature an embedded camera. This was a conscious decision to show a focus on wearability and design, as opposed to tech functionality.

Huawei is not the only tech company developing smart glasses, however. Google, Microsoft and Apple are rumored all to be working on AR-enabled models, while at this year’s SXSW festival in Texas, Bose introduced its own version of an AR platform for frames.

Wearable technology has been on a constant evolution as consumers struggle to become accustomed to the concept beyond smart watches. Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi’s, spoke about this last month when hinting on future plans for its Project Jacquard jacket with Google. For the designer, consumers will only invest in smart accessories if they also look good once turned off. Dillinger also spoke about the smart jacket at length on the Innovators podcast in early 2018.

Additional reporting by Camilla Rydzek.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product technology

In wearables, design needs to come before tech, says Levi’s

The wearables industry is expected to double in market value to $27bn+ by 2022, according to CCS Insight. But for Paul Dillinger, VP of Global Product Innovation at Levi’s, consumers will only fully invest in these tech accessories if they look good once turned off.

“We aren’t building a product just for the technology”, he said at a conversation during the Fashinnovation conference in NYC this week. “This has to be a technology integrated with things that you already want to wear because even if the technology isn’t engaging, people still want to wear their Levi’s jean jacket,” he later told TheCurrent Daily.

He was joined on stage by Ivan Poupyrev, Google’s Head of Advanced Technology and Projects, who worked with the denim brand on the original Project Jacquard jacket, which uses a sensor on the cuff to control music, screen phone calls, and even receive notifications from Uber or Lyft. Google famously thought tech-first when it designed its now defunct Google Glass, but it (naturally) believes trial and error is part of the process: “You put the product in the market, learn from mistakes, and do it again.” According to Poupyrev, however, unlike the Glass, there was a strong focus on the physical appearance of the smart jacket, wherein technology came in to simply extend its functions.

Now, instead of creating a product from scratch, Google is focusing on working with established brands in the industry, who can teach the tech giant a thing or two about what fashion customers want. “We realized that if you want to change the nature of apparel, as a connected and intelligent garment, you need to work with someone who has expertise in making apparel,” said Poupyrev. “Not just a prototype, but someone who understands how to scale all the way from the design to the supply chain and marketing. That was a shift  in thinking in the company as well.”

The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket
The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket

Since Levi’s is one of the world’s biggest brands in denim, a partnership with the brand was an important strategic decision. While the classic Levi’s jacket retails at $150 or less, the smart model retails at $350. For Dillinger, customers who chose the premium alternative should expect the technology to continue to evolve with time.

In 2017, six months after it was first introduced to the market, it received a series of updates, such as enabling it to work with Uber and Lyft. Just before Christmas, it added a functionality where the jacket sent the user a pin drop notification in case the owner left it behind. “That was a new value that no one was expecting for it or paid for it,” he said. “That promise of sustained improvement puts the purchase in the context of a lifetime, instead of a moment.”

Just like a smartphone, the jacket keeps improving. But unlike a shiny new iPhone, a Levi’s jacket customer is looking for design that is timeless and not forced into obsolescence. “You can talk about improvements of a phone, but eventually that phone won’t be the one you want to have any more. This garment, this jean jacket, stays in perpetuity, so the value will continue to go up”, added Dillinger.

For all its innovation, this is still an early attempt at a mass-market smart denim jacket. But as the technology becomes more deeply integrated into people’s lives, the wearable category may well begin to move beyond its early adopters.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns product technology

Puma re-releases classic 80s connected sneaker

Puma has re-released its 1986 RS sneaker for the digital age, adding a small computer to the back of the shoe that links to a dedicated smartphone app to track data.

The original shoe, released in 1986, only featured a computer chip built into the heel, which registered data such as time, distance and calories burned when it was worn. Data collected was then transferred to a home computer via a 16-pin connector.

Puma’s new RS sneaker

In its new iteration the shoe still measures the exact same data, but this time it uses bluetooth technology to connect it to smartphone devices and relay it to the user via an app.

In a nostalgic twist, the app’s interface uses the same graphic displays (called 8-bit) as it did in the 80s, and as well as a game.

Only 86 pair of the shoes will be sold at Puma stores in Tokyo, Berlin and London and in the US, at streetwear retailer KITH.

How are you thinking about digital innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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product technology

Levi’s updates its Google smart jacket with Uber, Lyft and Bose features

Google x Levi's Project Jacquard
Google x Levi’s Project Jacquard

Levi’s has announced its first update on its Project Jacquard smart jacket developed in collaboration with Google, including the ability to work with ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, and Bose headphones.

Although at this point users won’t be able to order a car through the jacket, once connected to the Uber or Lyft apps, it will notify them that their ride is three minutes away and do so again once it arrives via its cuff, which will light up and vibrate. Brushing the cuff will also enable real-time updates on the car’s whereabouts via connected headphones.

Google x Levi's Project Jacquard
Google x Levi’s Project Jacquard

The jacket now also supports Bose’s Aware Mode, which picks up any surrounding sounds and sends them to the user’s headphones. This enables users who are listening to music while on the go to still enjoy noise reduction, but be able to hear any important things happening around them – in a cyclist’s or pedestrian’s case, this could mean a horn or a fast-approaching vehicle. Bose users will also be able to turn their headphones on or off via hand gesture.

Another new jacket feature enables users to drop a pin on the map to save a location and then see and share that from the app’s activity screen.

At a conference in California in October 2017, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh hinted at upcoming innovations by stating that if there is a feature that doesn’t require a screen, it is possible that it could be incorporated into the commuter jacket’s 2.0 version. By approaching it with that mindset, the company can potentially investigate the future of smart clothing beyond cyclists, which was its initial target audience with the Google partnership.

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product technology

bPay partners with seven watch brands to introduce contactless payments

bPay contactless payment technology
bPay contactless payment technology

bPay, the wearable technology solution from Barclays bank, has announced partnerships with seven watch brands – GUESS Watches, Mondaine, Timex, Kronaby, Suunto, ADEXE and LBS – to embed payment technology into traditional timepieces and fitness trackers.

The new watches will be showcased at this year’s watch and jewellery trade show, Baselworld, this week in Switzerland.

Launches include six new contactless watches by Guess; eight new styles for both men and women from Timex; LBS will be launching the ‘TapStrap’, a contactless payment strap that can be fitted to any watch with the most common strap sizes; and Suunto, which specializes in sports watches, will create a bPay-enhanced fitness style launching this spring.

“Consumer appetite for wearable payments is reaching critical mass, and we’re proud to be meeting this growing demand with the help of our industry-leading partners,” says Adam Herson, business development director of Barclays Mobile Payments. “Thanks to the range of products these agreements will bring to market, customers will be able to buy a watch or fitness tracker that not only suits their taste, but also unlocks benefits of speed and ease in everyday purchases.”

Recent data from Barclaycard’s Contactless Spending Index shows that spending via bPay surged by 129% year-on-year in 2017. The company claims ‘touch and go’ contactless payments save seven seconds per transaction when compared to chip and PIN.

Since 2015, bPay has been patterning with then UK-based fashion brands on bringing payment technology to accessories, such as launching a line of accessories with Topshop. For more on payment technology, listen to our episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast with Alipay’s Souheil Badran.

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Editor's pick Podcast

Gadi Amit on designing human-led wearables that evoke connections

Gadi Amit & Liz Bacelar
Gadi Amit & Liz Bacelar

In an increasingly digital world, designing physical products that are genuinely useful and evoke an emotion from the consumer, is a tough challenge, according to Gadi Amit, president and principal designer at NewDealDesign, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators.

With tech’s fast-moving evolution comes a need to design objects that are sustainable and desirable, he highlights in his conversation with Liz Bacelar. Best known as the designer behind the original FitBit wearable device, Amit thinks technology is still very much about utility, but that pioneers such as Apple’s Steve Jobs and Jony Ive have ignited change. Consumers are now becoming increasingly accustomed to technology pervading many aspects of their lives, and as a result are looking for objects that enhance their personal experiences by creating deeper connections, he says.

When developing a successful wearable product, for instance, brands need to look beyond designing status-seeking elements to ask basic questions, such as: “What does it do for you? How does it enhance your life?”, says Amit. He reiterates that an object’s uniqueness lies in its true experiential value, and not just the label.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

For luxury, an industry that has struggled to enter the fast-moving market of digital technologies while retaining its products’ values of longevity, Amit suggests starting with the values of the brand first, and building the technology that speaks to it.

For fashion the 2014 wearable boom was short-lived, as the market became overcrowded with products that consumer demand didn’t respond to. Although Amit thinks this is partly because devices lacked uniqueness, this is also due to the fact that wearables are so difficult to design, he explains. He particularly contradicts a common notion in the fashion industry that technology within wearables should be made to be invisible – from a usability standpoint, there are always design elements that need to prioritize function over aesthetics, he comments.

“Wearables are different animals, they’re not accessories in fashion. This is a piece of technology that needs to be on the human body, and therefore needs to be designed appropriately,” he concludes.

Scrip
Scrip

The self-confessed “contrarian by nature” is tackling payments next, an industry that historically champions frictionless and simplified interactions. Research around how exchanging physical currency affects behaviors and creates subconscious connections led him to design a new device called Scrip. This induces friction by asking the user to swipe at it a few times in order to share digital currency, meaning users make more conscious spending decisions.

It acts as a cashpoint in the user’s pocket, in which its tangibility plays a key role in triggering neural functions that automated payment systems like Apple Pay have hindered. In designing Scrip, Amit explains that it taps into the need to create objects that perfectly combine function and aesthetics in such a way that its owners will never render it obsolete.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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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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ICYMI: Industry faces its #MeToo moment, tech hits Olympics, Vogue and Amazon Echo Look

Tom Ford - ICYMI #metoo metoo fashion week
Tom Ford

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • New York Fashion Week: industry faces its #MeToo moment [TheGuardian]
  • Can an app launch the fashion world’s #metoo reckoning? [Vanity Fair]
  • Olympic clothing designers try to beat the cold with technology [Scientific American]
  • Vogue and GQ will test content inside Amazon’s Echo Look [Digiday]
  • Can Christian Louboutin trademark red soles? An EU court says no [NY Times]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Intel unveils smart glasses that you might want to wear [Engadget]
  • Walmart’s tech incubator buys VR startup Spatialand [Reuters]
  • Opinion: Blockchain technology will make true luxury more lucrative [JingDaily]
  • JD.com and Fung align for AI development [RetailDive]
  • Asics Ventures invests in conductivity textiles [FashionUnited]
SUSTAINABILITY
  • Eileen Fisher, Columbus Consulting reveal details for sustainable design plan [WWD]
  • Primark publishes global supplier map showing all of its factories [TheIndustry]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Target CEO: Our personal shoppers will deliver to ‘your kitchen table’ [CNBC]
  • Macy’s plans pop-ups to amplify discovery [RetailDive]
  • Malls are dying, but things remembered is still hanging on [Racked]
  • Tips from the e-commerce giant Zalando [Maize]
MARKETING
  • Benjamin Millepied directs Ansel Elgort and Kate Mara in a mesmerizing film for Rag & Bone [CreativityOnline]
  • Nike rolls out NikePlus membership benefits [WWD]
  • Asics personal trainers will kick your butt as you use its fitness app [CreativityOnline]
SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Instagram entices brands with new shopping-enabled ads [TheDrum]
  • Pinterest sees 600 million visual searches every month [VentureBeat]
  • Swarovski and KiraKira+ launch fashion week ‘brilliance’ filter [WWD]
PRODUCT
  • UA HOVR, ushering in a new chapter of sneaker tech innovation [FashNerd]
BUSINESS
  • Canada Goose craze continues as shoppers flock to new stores [BoF]
  • British designer Misha Nonoo is rewriting fashion’s playbook [FastCompany]
  • The cautionary tale of H&M and digital disruption [BoF]
  • LVMH Luxury Ventures backs Stadium Goods [WWD]
  • Tapestry shares rise after earnings beat expectations [BoF]
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data Editor's pick Podcast product technology

How Levi’s is thinking about data to combat obsolescence with Google Jacquard

The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket
The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket

The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket is the first of its kind – a commercially ready piece of wearable tech that’s both fashionable and washable.

But more than that, it’s one of the only “devices” out there aiming to tackle the idea of obsolescence, Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi’s, told us on our latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

The jacket itself is designed for urban cyclists, or as Dillinger refers to it, “for people who live in the city and need to get around”. It’s based on the existing Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket, but embedded with technology in the sleeve in order for it to operate a number of useful functionalities for wearers. It launched to the public in September 2017 for $350 in stores and online.

“It’s a classical denim trucker jacket that is designed to make an urban cyclist’s life a little safer, a little lighter, a little better. To that we’ve then added about 15 rows of capacitive yarn in the left cuff, that forms an area that is capable to be touched.”

Users can tap or swipe in that spot to then control various utilities including playing music, getting GPS directions, answering or rejecting calls and more. It is connected via Bluetooth to your phone to do so.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

The key, according to Dillinger, was about making it still feel like a fashion item. “(The jacket) had to feel like a Levi’s product not a piece of Google technology,” he says. But it had to function to the same level of a Google technology too. We had to take a lot of time to weave it in so that it was working but not visible, trying to make it look and feel right.”

The aim now is to constantly improve on that functionality to make it increasingly more useful to the user too. “The spring [update] of this product won’t be a new object, it will be new abilities. We built digital platforms so that the jacket never gets obsolete,” Dillinger explains.

In partnership with Google, the team studies user behaviour data to gain indications of how they should be improving.

That approach is a marked difference for the two industries involved. Tech is usually designed to be replaced. It’s the reason we all upgrade our iPhones. By comparison, in fashion – despite the shift towards disposable clothing at the cheaper end of the market – the ideal is for longevity. Denim from Levi’s frequently falls into that latter category.

Liz Bacelar of TheCurrent and Paul Dillinger of Levi's recording TheCurrent Innovators podcast
Liz Bacelar of TheCurrent and Paul Dillinger of Levi’s recording TheCurrent Innovators podcast

“The challenge is to make it something that people will want to wear, and something that is more like a platform, that can improve itself,” Dillinger notes.

This is a jacket that’s essentially a piece of software more than hardware then, with upgrades that install automatically. “We started selling in September. By the holidays the users got a notification on their app saying, your jacket just got better, we have capabilities that are improved,” he adds.

“We’re giving people a reason to keep a garment longer, not less, and we’re giving them an improved version of something they already know. So rather then giving you the bad feeling of something going out of fashion, we’re giving you the opposite feeling by improving over time what you already bought.”

TheCurrent Innovators is a podcast about the leaders pushing the boundaries of fashion, beauty, and retail. Hosted by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, and distributed by MouthMedia Network, each episode is a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced by top brands and retailers around the world today, through the lens of technology. Check out some of the other highlights, including an interview with Stefano Rosso, CEO of Diesel, and William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of the tech behind Amazon Alexa.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.