Ralph Lauren’s smart shirts are latest in sports wearable tech

Two Ralph Lauren models wear the smart shirt and showcase the app. (source: Business Insider)
Two Ralph Lauren models wear the smart shirt and showcase the app. (source: Business Insider)

The 2014 U.S. Open not only kicked off with some great tennis, but with a new wearable technology introduced by Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of the grand slam event. Ralph Lauren has teamed with Canadian biometric smart sportswear company OMSignal to produce the “Polo Tech shirt” with an attached sensor, called the “black box,” that offers real time information such as heart rate, respiration, stress level and energy output.

The debut at the U.S. Open marks the first time a global sporting event is used as a platform to launch a collection of wearable technology products. “The fact that Ralph Lauren chose the U.S. Open as the venue to unveil its Polo Tech shirt enhances our tradition as a showcase for innovation,” said David Brewer, U.S. Open tournament director. Brewer added that he thinks the smart shirt can revolutionize how players train and compete.

The smart shirts will be worn by ball boys during the U.S. Open, ahead of the product’s release in 2015. In the meantime, there are kinks that need to be worked out, as well as determining pricing for a commercial product. Pricing for the OMSignal shirts starts at $80 and that does not include the sensor, which is $120. Another challenge is figuring out how to embed the sensors into different kinds of fabrics, as explained by David Lauren, OMSignal senior vice president of advertising, marketing and public relations.

“Everyone is exploring wearable tech watches and headbands and looking at cool sneakers,” Lauren told the The New York Times. “We skipped to what we thought was new, which is apparel. We live in our clothes.” The product is essentially a Fitbit attached to your shirt. Now, there will be no need to worry about whether the band is still on your wrist.

This technology will soon be available not only for sports attire, but for health-conscious individuals everywhere. “Smart clothing is easy because it’s the only wearable medium you’ve already been wearing your whole life,” said Stéphane Marceau, co-founder of OMSignal. “In a decade, every piece of apparel you buy will have some sort of biofeedback sensors built in it.”

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