Japan leading in wearable smart textile

Toyobo-smart clothing-pets
Figure 2: Toyobo offers smart clothing for both pets and people. (Photo courtesy of Toyobo)

Wearable smart textile has reached a new height, as Japan’s  Teijin Frontier Co., Ltd. Has developed a virtual-reality jacket that can simulate the sense of touch in virtual reality. Teijin’s ‘Synesthesia Wear’ provides users touch feedback in virtual reality without wires. This virtual-reality jacket that reproduces the sense of touch, a belt that predicts and monitors human health.

Figure 1: Teijin’s Synesthesia Wear gives users touch feedback in virtual reality without awkward wires. Courtesy: Teijin

This Synesthesia Wear jacket can simulate the sense of touch in virtual reality. It tracks user’s movements, and attached modules vibrate in diverse ways reliant on how the user interacts with the VR space, adding another layer of realism to the experience.

Also, the jacket does not have plug-in connections that made Teijin’s previous version of the technology challenging to market. Made from a specially designed fabric that conducts electricity and communications signals, letting users place the battery and haptic modules wherever they choose.

Nisshinbo Textile, a subsidiary of Nisshinbo Holdings, is working on a smart pregnancy belt that can forecast a few days in advance when the wearer is likely to go into labor by checking the baby’s heartbeat with a small microphone. The company plans to market the belt as regular apparel rather than medical equipment, selling it through retail stores and online. It looks to keep the price below $100.

Toyobo-smart clothing-pets
Figure 2: Toyobo offers smart clothing for both pets and people. Courtesy: Toyobo

Another company, Toyobo has developed a stretchable conductive film for smart clothing, branded Cocomi, that can be used for humans and animals alike. The company plans to offer similar wearables for pets and farm animals.

As the animals vary in how they sweat, how much hair they have and their general shapes, Toyobo plans to develop wearables optimized for different species.

Another leader in innovative technology, Toray Industries has made smart clothes with its Hitoe conductive fabric approved for medical use. Made from ultrafine threads that stick closely to the skin, allowing it to accurately detect electrical signals from the heart.

Figure 3: Smart clothes made with Toray Industries’ Hitoe fabric can detect arrhythmia. Courtesy: Toray

The idea of smart clothing has been available in the market for more than a decade. Now, tech companies are pursuing boldly for services that go beyond just collecting biodata. Building applications for highly functional textiles will be a crucial part of Japanese manufacturers’ growth plans.

“Highly functional textiles that are useful for society are Japan’s strength,” said Masanao Kambara, the president of the Japan Textile Federation who is also a senior adviser to Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings.

Japan’s smart clothing domestic market will grow to approximately 7 billion yen ($66 million) in 2022, according to Tokyo-based consultancy Fuji Keizai, or 11 times bigger than in 2017.