The second Fashion Tech Week 2014 event I went to was WearTechCon: WearableTech Demo Night on Thursday evening 2/27 at General Assembly – Forio, 20 Rausch St., San Francisco. The slightly uneasy feeling I had when walking to the event from 5th and Mission parking garage was immediately washed away upon arrival; many had arrived and the place was buzzing with excited chatters.
The Wearable Tech Demo Night featured wearable tech professionals, designers, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts who presented their latest fashion tech products, as well as promotion / marketing analytic insights. In a way, this night is perhaps the most relevant event in the whole Fashion Tech Week 2014 since it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase the fusion of fashion and digital technology. If you’re interested in learning more about wearable technology, I suggest you join the Wearable Tech Meetup group.
Before the event started, I chatted with Murat Ozkan about his interactive LED light coat, which was featured at last year’s WearTechCon. This one-off custom creation that lights up when the bulbs come in contact with your hand (or solid objects) when turned on, was initially conceived for Burning Man. There are several different ways the bulbs light up when you brush through them, and those are according to specific patterns Murat programmed. It was a treat to see all the connected circuit boards inside the coat, and it was exciting to see the potentials of this coat if it’s developed further. Weather change / temperature sensitivity, for example? This guy is one heck of a fashion hacker.
The Wearable Tech Demo night started with Zackees – the turn signal gloves, which Murat is a co-founder and CTO of. The other half of the Zackees machine is co-founder Zachary Vorhies, who started Zackees after 5.5 years working at Google Earth. The turn signal gloves was initially born as a hackaton result, which then upgraded with electrical functionality to help yourself seen better by vehicles behind you when you’re about to make a turn while riding your bicycle. In his presentation, Zach shared numerous insights from Zackees funding campaign via KickStarter.
There are so many valuable gems Zach shared during his presentation; I’m sure many audience members enjoyed his transparent sharing of tactics employed, challenges, results, and present product roadmap. Presentations like Zach’s are the ones that make coming to Fashion Tech Week events worthwhile; you can learn so much from them. I cannot list all of them here, but at least I can share some highlights.
Zach and his team owned the organic search keyword ranking of “turn signal gloves”, and having that 1st place rank for a phrase that describes what your product is isn’t really a bad idea at all. Moreover, they created demo products that avoided time-consuming product options (such as monogram for your name initials) to streamline production and sent them to reviewers. The ROI for the samples sent are high, as they were featured in 27 major media outlets, including Huffington Post, CNET, Venture Beat, Self, Tree Hugger, and NBC Bay Area.
Out of all the traffic to Zackees Kickstarter campaign, the team generated 87% of the traffic through their own hard work. Only 13% came from Kickstarter. They raised $72.5K in 30 days (the goal was $35K) with 800 backers and average price of $78. With all the attention Zackees has garnered and funds they gathered, Zach and his team is now more focused on improving quality and developed pricing model that can be attractive to retail stores like REI.
One more thing Zach stated that was encouraging to people who are in the middle of their crowdfunding campaign or just came out of a not-so-successful campaign: it’s a pretty consistent trend that you accumulate more funds when you do a subsequent campaign. So stay positive and don’t give up, people!
Amy from Misfit Wearables, a company that invents and manufactures wearable computing products, was next to present. She brought two samples of Shine, a coin-sized activity monitor you can wear anywhere as a wristband, brooch, or clasp as you run, walk, bike, or swim! There are many wearable monitors in the market right now, but what makes Shine unique is that it’s waterproof up to 50 meters and it doesn’t require charging.
Shine is another product that’s using a crowdfunding platform to acquire backers, although in Misfit’s case, they used Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter. They successfully completed the campaign with $800K result, 700% increase from their original $100K goal.
As the two Shines went around from one audience member to the next for close examination during the Q&A session, Amy mentioned that people use Shine because they simply want to track how much they move, instead of setting unrealistic fitness goal. Wouldn’t it be more delightful if you found out that you just walked 22,000 steps yesterday instead of setting a goal of completing 22,000 steps?
But as there are many players in this wearable activity monitor segment, it is not surprising to see that there are many counterfeit or derivative products that copycat Shine’s features or improve upon them. As wearable tech monitor seems to be profitable and in high demand right now, this will be an ongoing challenge for Misfit Wearables or any other companies who are “competing” in this segment.
Now, it’s Protos 3D Printed Eyewear’s turn, represented by 2 of the 5 core team members, Marc Levinson and John Mauriello. I have to say that these 3D glasses look so cool. More importantly, the Protos team develop 3D scanning model software to develop tailored fit. You get custom fit and frames that fit your unique facial features based on two pictures of you (frontal and side view).
The team have 24 frames that have stock fit, which then is customized further to fit perfectly for each customers. A completely new eyewear design takes 2 weeks to be fully developed, and an order fulfillment takes 4 weeks turnaround.
Listening to them talk brought me wandering to their table, where I encountered an audience member that did the same. He then offered to wear one of Protos glasses for me to take pictures of…and dang bro, you looked good! Those glasses look awesome. I hope they do more colors soon.
A short break provided enough time for starving audience members to munch some pizza slices and a little more networking opportunities.
Andrew Hamra from Runnur started off the second half of the Wearable Tech Demo with stating that he believes pockets will be outdated. That people want to have carry-alls that allow them to carry their gadgets around hands-free, as well as access them quickly in 2 seconds or less. His Hands-Free Carry handsfreecarry.com is 5 years old already, and it has gotten considerable success especially on venues like ComicCon NY where it’s reaching all ages of target demographic. It’s a better alternative than fanny packs; it’s a sash that carries your many essentials and tools as you move around hands-free. It’s very relevant in healthcare, construction, retail, aviation, and education systems, among others.
He’s now debuting the Hands-Free iPad, which essentially follows the same idea as his Hands-Free Carry, only this time it’s to allow quick access to your iPad. The carry-on can even be snapped directly to your belt loop.
Andrew’s Hands-Free products may emphasized the physical side of wearable tech. The digital part of wearable tech is very apparent in products like Zackees, Shine, or Protos. However, Andrew brought out the other side of the wearable tech coin: we need to be able to access and use our devices fast. If we need to access our device in more than 2 seconds, our use of that specific device is reduced exponentially. In the near future, things like Google Glass isn’t going to replace work tools; the value of being hands-free AND being able to access your needed devices in 1 second or less are very high.
On a closing mark, I like the fact that Andrew is a drummer, specific placements of where things fall are very important. Having friends that value perfect placements make me feel that Andrew’s into something big here. His products are relevant with many people, and with naturally perfect placements, I’m looking forward to see Runner’s growing success.
Last but not least, Rick Tillilie from myFit took the stage to address a problem that’s undoubtedly in the mind of many women (and men!): clothing fit. Online shopping for new clothes are tricky; you don’t know how the garments will fit your body and/or it will look good on you. Online apparel retailers have 40% return rates, with clothing fit given as primary reason. myFit addresses this problem by taking your height and waist measurement to render a virtual 3D form wearing the garment you’re interested in, so you can see how it will fit on your body and whether it complements your personal style.
While myFit is addressing a very important problem, Rick lamented retail industry’s attitude that is slow to change. The retail industry continues to use outdated technology that highly contributes to the clothing fit issue. There’s hope though, myFit will launch with Sears, and the company is working to attract more retail partners.
Thank you once again to Owen Geronimo of SFFAMA for inviting me to this event. If you’d like to see all of the pictures from this Wearable Tech Demo event, feel free to browse the pictures from the album below:
Thank you for reading; until next time,