Who wants hi-tech socks for Christmas?
- 21 December 2012
- From the section Technology
This Christmas Day, smartphones, tablets and e-readers will vie with the more traditional (and squashier) gifts of socks and jumpers under Christmas trees around the country.
Technology and clothing are the hardy perennials of any good Christmas list but how about if you could combine them together?
The BBC has turned Santa and selected a few of the wackiest technology and fashion combos.
Sadly not all will be available for this Christmas but it is never too early to start planning for next year.
It doesn't get more traditional - some would say, boring - than socks for Christmas.
My partner may well have 40 identical pairs of black socks, accumulated from Christmasses dating back to the early 1990s.
This year his mum might be persuaded to upgrade him to pair of RFID (radio frequency identification) tagged Smarter Socks.
The Swedish company behind them hopes to solve the perennial problem of odd socks.
Founder Samy Liechti describes them "as something the sock world has never seen before". Critics may argue that they are a little over-engineered.
Each sock comes with its own RFID chip, which can be "read" by a NFC (near field communication) device known as a sock sorter, which in turn communicates via Bluetooth with an iPhone.
As each pair has its own unique identifier, finding a lost pair amongst a pile of identical socks is as easier as scanning them with the sock sorter, and waiting until the iPhone app beeps to tell you it has located the exact match.
"Some cynical women may say it is the only way men can sort their socks," says Mr Liechti.
For those who really want to keep track of their socks, the app also produces a range of data - checking how black they are, offering to replace worn-out socks and even finding a close match for socks whose partners have gone astray.
Smarter Socks which comes with one Sock Sorter and ten pairs of socks, is priced at £119.
No Christmas would be complete without one member of the family overdoing it on the sherry and falling asleep with their party hat at a jaunty angle.
To ensure they make it home at the end of the day, how about a pair of homing shoes?
English shoemaker Dominic Wilcox took his inspiration from The Wizard of Oz, for his "No Place like Home" shoes.
Just as main character Dorothy finds her way home by clicking the heels of her red slippers, the surprisingly stylish shoes are also able to guide the wearer home.
They have a GPS reader embedded in the left heel. Wearers need to plug their destination into a computer program, then upload it to the shoe using a USB cable.
When out and about they just need to click their heels three times to set off internal sensors to turn on the device.
An antenna disguised in a strip of fabric on the back of the shoe will connect it to GPS signals.
The shoes were shown at the recent London Design Festival and Northampton's shoe museum before going off to Wired magazines annual technology exhibition/shop.
"I set out to create some shoes that I would like to wear myself, they seem to have caught the imagination of people so there may be a possibility of production in the future," Mr Wilcox tells the BBC.
Everyone has a younger member of their family who seems to be surgically attached to their phone, checking Facebook every three seconds.
So how about if they could wear their status updates on a T-shirt?
The T-shirt OS started life as a promotional collaboration between whisky maker Ballantines and fashion firm Cute Circuit, which has been designing wearable technology since 2006.
Wearers can upload pictures and Twitter feeds, as well as listen to music via the shirt. An Android version will come later.
It is, says creative director Francesca Rosella essentially a T-shirt version of an iPhone and will, when it goes on sale next year, it likely to cost at least as much as the smartphone.
The company has also made a Twitter dress, worn by pop star and X-Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger. As with the T-shirt it also offered a wearable billboard for tweets and at the launch of EE's 4G network fans were able to tweet Ms Scherzinger, and then read their messages on her dress.
It is slightly more glamorous than the T-shirt, encrusted with thousands of Swarovski crystals and is currently a one-off design.
Next year CuteCircuit is also due to launch its Hug Shirt, which is essentially a T-shirt fitted with sensors, allowing someone wearing an identical garment miles away to send a hug that can be felt by the wearer.
Virtual tape measure
Ok so this is not strictly clothing and as software it might be a little hard to wrap but it could still prove a thoughtful gift.
Most people who have bought clothes online have experienced the frustration of them arriving and not fitting and the subsequent annoyance of having to send things back.
So how about a virtual tape measure that can take accurate measurements to ensure that doesn't happen?
The web-based system takes detailed measurements of the waist, hip, chest and other measurements and advises the user on which size garment to buy whenever they visit the website of a participating retailer.
With funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the software is currently being developed by London College of Fashion and computer vision experts at the University of Surrey, in collaboration with body-mapping specialists Bodymetrics and digital creative agency Guided.
They anticipate a launch within two years.