It’s no longer news that smartphones, smart watches, smart wrist bands, smart shoes, smart shirts, smart TVs and smart cars exist across the world. What is news is that this artificial intelligence has been successfully infused into the lingerie industry as demonstrated by a San Francisco-based company, OmSignal with the unveiling of the world’s first smart bra.
The groundbreaking smart bra named Ombra was unveiled at the January 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, United States and will be available in the market by next quarter.
Developed by experienced bra designers, scientists and smart textile engineers, Ombra is a sports bra with a sensor that tracks heart rate, breathing rate, activity intensity, steps, and calories, all in real time.
The product is ideal for women who are working out, running and participating in team sports. The advantage it has over other fitness apps is its ease of use, being an item women normally wear. So the discomfort of adding an additional accessory like a smart watch or heart rate monitor is removed.
Stephen Marceau, co-founder of the company disclosed that it took 1,683 prototypes to make the smart bra. Unlike other smart wearable items, Ombra combines aesthetics, support, look, comfort, and technology. It will be available for $150 apiece.
How it works
The smart bra is embedded with small sensors which records and sends the wearer’s biometric information such as heart rate, breathing rhythm, etc, right into her iOS devise during workouts or other sporting activities. This function enables the wearer to monitor progress over time and determine whether to exercise harder or take a break. By this the wearer can push her limits safely.
The smart bra has adjustable straps on the shoulders and back to fit different body shapes, and to give it flexibility. The sensor sewn into the smart bra is water resistant so it can be washed and even put through the dryer like any other clothing item. Also, the bra can be used several 10 times before recharge, according to the manufacturers.
OmSignal’s Key Design Elements
Below are the key design element OmSignal considered in the development of Ombra as stated on their website.
Stretchable fabric: The four-way stretchable, light fabric ensures the bra conforms to the body’s shape while in movement. The bra can easily adapt to any breast shape as it is made from a blend of polyester, nylon and elastane. It also serves as an absorbent to pressure, and reduces stress on the back and shoulders.
Mesh: Breathability is of paramount importance in sports bras. Mesh panels are integrated on the front and back of the bra. The fabrics and meshes are antimicrobial with sweat-wicking properties to keep you dry.
Adjustable straps and closure: To make sizing easier, the bra can be adjusted depending on the sport being practiced, the top worn over the bra, or simply one’s mood. During sports, but also in running, the breast does not only move up and down, but also left and right. These movements are less apparent but have a huge impact on comfort. The OMbra limits movement of the breasts by securing the movement in 3 dimensions with adjustable straps, lateral stitches and double-layered compressive sides. The OMbra also has a special racerback that dissipates the straps’ force to the side of the bra instead of the back. This stops the straps from slipping onto the shoulders as well as blocks the elastic band from moving upward.
Cups: A high support bra doesn’t mean poor aesthetics. On the aesthetic front we found it exceptionally important to integrate padded cups, as a high support bra should not result in a flattened chest. The OMbra comes with removable padding to adjust to different cup shapes and sizes, and to accommodate different climates.
OmSignal Vs Microsoft
With the unveiling of Ombra, OmSignal no doubt has beaten Microsoft into the production of smart brassieres. It would be recalled that in 2013, Microsoft developed a smart bra prototype with physiological sensors that could monitor a woman’s heart activity to track her emotional state and combat overeating. The sensors could flash a warning message to the wearer’s phone to caution against overeating. The company’s research effort was fuelled by studies which have proved that people reach for calorie-rich foods like doughnuts or other snacks when they are feeling stressed, bored, discouraged or simply on edge.
Reactions to Microsoft’s smart bra at that time ranged from amusement to annoyance. While some women feared that their bras could be hacked just like any other computer, some questioned the rationale for focusing on women even though overeating is not a gender problem even as they challenged the company to produce a similar product for men’s undergarment.
However, Microsoft said it had no plans to commercialise the smart brassiere. For OmSignal, it is too early to measure general response to its innovative smart bra. However, going by the success achieved with the company’s collection of smart shirts for men launched in 2014, they are very optimistic.