Ralph Lauren is launching the activewear of tomorrow today at the U.S. Open in Flushing, outfitting six ball boys with a new high-performance “Polo Tech” shirt that measures physiological data like heart and breathing rates, transmitting it via an app to a smartphone. And up-and-comer Marcos Giron—the No. 1 singles player in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association—will wear the state-of-the-art shirt tomorrow during warm-ups for his first Grand Slam.
“It feels like a regular shirt,” says David Lauren, executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and corporate communications for the brand, who has given the shirt a test run himself. “And it will come in a variety of fabrics and styles when we introduce it into our spring collection next year.”
That’s right—us regular folk who don’t happen to be tennis phenoms will soon be able to get in on the action.
The seamless shirt—developed with neuroscientists and engineers at the Montreal-based OMsignal, makers of “bio-sensing” technology for clothing—contains silver fibers woven into the fabric, making the shirt a sensor that tracks physiological data, storing it in a small black box about the size of a belt buckle affixed to the shirt. (The box contains an accelerometer and gyroscope, to capture movement and direction, and is tucked subtly along the side of the rib cage.) The black box transmits biometric data into the cloud and to your phone.
“It’s a pretty cool product,” says Giron, who demonstrated the shirt today at the Ralph Lauren showroom in Manhattan. He forehands, backhands. “See? The little box doesn’t affect my movement at all,” he says.
Then as he does quick sprints up and down a hallway for about a minute, his heart rate rises from 69 beats per minute to 110, breathing rate rising from 18 to 54, the numbers popping up on his phone instantly. (These are pretty impressive numbers, of course, given that Giron is in tip-top shape. Your readouts, and breathing, may be...um...wobblier.) After he stops, huffing and puffing and returning to normal breathing (in a remarkably short amount of time), the numbers on the phone slowly descend, too.
“It’ll be a great training device,” says Giron’s coach, Amir Marandy.
Not athletic? No problem. David Lauren says the goal is to eventually put this cutting edge tech in things other than activewear—like maybe dress shirts and suits, so you can measure your stress level, say, before a board meeting or during a presentation.
“That’s the future of clothing,” says David Lauren. “And the future is here.”