If it feels like everyone already has an Apple watch or fitness tracker these days, know that it’s only the beginning for smart clothing. Case in point: the new exhibition, On You: Wearing Technology, at the Museum of Design Atlanta. Opening Sunday, and through October 2, the show documents the creation—and the challenges and the future—of wearable computers for consumers.
“In the past 10 years we’ve overcome a number of challenges, and we’re finally at a tipping point,” says Clint Zeagler, co-curator of On You and program manager of the Wearable Computing Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which sponsored the exhibition. “Our devices aren’t just collecting data, but engaging and interacting with it.”
For example, one piece on view, the PIXI dress, is made with 600 LED lights that display a range of colors, all of which can be changed in real time with the remote use of an app. “It’s one of my favorite pieces because it bridges the gap between computer science and design,” Zeagler says.
The wearable tech industry is slated to rake in $14 billion this year, according to CCS Insight, a market research firm focused on the mobile and wireless industry. And that number is only expected to grow; CCS Insight predicts the industry to be worth $34 billion by 2020.
“Smartwatches and fitness trackers are only the beginning—they’re just an entryway,” Zeagler says. “I think in five years, you’re going to see more developments with fabrics and fibers. If your phone rings while you’re in a meeting, you’ll be able to turn off the ringer by just touching the fabric of your outfit.”