Stretchable electronics let you look like a futuristic superhero in this wearable tech jacket

Technology and fashion have moved a little closer together with the launch of a responsive LED jacket with an integrated soft, stretchable electronic system.

Dubbed Sporty Supaheroe, the jacket has been developed by Austrian wearable tech startup Utope.

Described by the company as a “high-tech jacket for the urban nomad”, Sporty Supaheroe features a soft panel of electronics that contain LEDs, sensors and microcontrollers, as well as a rechargeable battery and the typical on/off switch.

The jacket’s electronics are based on something pretty revolutionary for wearable tech: a stretchable circuit board.

Ordinarily tech is based on printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are rigid and lumpy, resulting in large hard lumps in the wearable that have to be hidden with pockets or clever tailoring.

But Utope – in collaboration with microelectronic heavyweight Fraunhofer IZM – has designed it so that only individual electronic components in the system are hard: the connections between them are soft and flexible. And even the components have been reduced in size, with an ultrathin switch, tiny but bright LED lights and a controller board the size of a €2 coin (or a US quarter).

Developed with white LEDs along the front of the jacket and red LEDs along the back, Sporty Supaheroe is designed to increase your visibility at night, and is particularly useful for cyclists, runners and pedestrians.

The jacket even comes with sensors to enable it to react to body movement and direction changes. But unlike other visibility wear employed by late-night travellers, Sporty Supaheroe wouldn’t look out of place in a bar or nightclub.

Not only is the jacket designed to boost your safety by making you more visible to traffic at night, but Utope has spent a lot of time ensuring that it is safe in itself. Short circuits and overheating are prevented through the use of a smart fuse and reverse polarity protection, and all electronics are embedded into a flame-resistant non-woven material.

This also means that the electronics are protected from moisture – normally a potential problem for wearable tech- and the system has built-in resistance to electrostatic charges from the textiles.

Utope is looking to take the jacket into mass production, and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the $69,000 needed for an initial manufacturing run.

But with an eyewatering retail price of €1,500 ($2,000), this is hardly wearable tech for the masses. The company says that the high price is largely down to the stretchable circuit board, which is why Utope started with premium sportswear to get its product out there.

Given time, we could be seeing this sort of tech in high street fashion, as Utope believes that with demand rising production costs could fall considerably.


Images courtesy of Utope. Via the Sporty Supaheroe Indiegogo page.


GN ReSound introduces first hearing aid that works with the iPhone

The humble hearing aid, which started out as nothing more than an an ear trumpet in the 17th century, has been bought into the modern age: the first hearing aid has been made for use with the iPhone.

The new device is capable of streaming high-quality stereo sound from Apple devices without the need for an additional pendant-like device, and combines with a mobile app to enable users to customise the sound they are hearing.

It has been produced by hearing aid technology company GN ReSound which claims the device is the first that connects with the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch directly using a new chipset and Bluetooth technology.

The hearing aid has been made to stream music, phone calls, FaceTime calls and any sounds that can be played from the Apple devices, making the technology available to those who are hard of hearing.

It is intended to help give users of portable technology the ability to use it in the same way that those with perfect hearing can do. In theory the product can help users to connect with the latest technology and applications that they may not have been able to do while using conventional hearing aids.

The hearing device acts like wireless stereo headphones but also works as a conventional hearing aid. It has the potential to improve the hearing and lifestyles of those who have been unable to use the latest mobile phones and applications to enhance areas of their lives.

The smart hearing aid can also be controlled by the user’s mobile phone, allowing them to turn the volume up or down, adjust the bass and treble and more depending on the situation they find themselves in.

In one of its most revolutionary uses the hearing aid’s location can be found by the iPhone when it has been misplaced or lost.

ReSound’s CEO Lars Viksmoen said the company wanted to use their technology and combine it with the latest in mobile devices to help more people improve their hearing.

“We saw an opportunity to create the world’s best hearing aid by combining the capability of GN ReSound’s life-changing technologies with the compatibility and global prevalence of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

“We are committed to improving people’s lives through use of innovative technology and look forward to more people correcting their hearing with this new technology – a triumph in accessibility for the hearing impaired.”

GN ReSound is an international developer and manufacturer of hearing healthcare solutions.

Since its formation in 1943 it has been responsible for a number of hearing industry firsts including having the first system to eliminate howling and sound distortion.

You can find out more about the new hearing aid in the video below


Image and video courtesy of GN ReSound.