One of the biggest problems faced by wearables manufacturers, is making devices that people would actually wear. Unlike laptops, tablets, netbooks or any of the other last decade of tech trends, wearables need to look good all the time, because you’re wearing them. Unfortunately, doing so can often mean cutting back on functionality, so not every manufacturer bothers. Some, like GPSports don’t and instead opt to hide its tech in a compression vest that’s worn under your usual garments. However sometimes they pop out, giving the world a chance to take notice.
That happened this weekend when Australian rugby fans noticed halfback Trent Hodkinson wearing one of GPSports compression half-shirts, with built in sensors. It looks, for all intents and purposes, like a man-bra, which is exactly what a lot of viewers thought too.
They have a point as it is an odd looking piece of equipment, but it houses a lot of detailed sensors. Unlike most wearables which come in a wrist band and cost around £120, the GPSports half-vest is $2,000 for each one. However its sensors and internal hardware are very small form factor, lightweight and provide a detailed breakdown of the athlete’s body after a game, giving them a better chance of recovery.
Speaking with news.com.au, Damien Hawes, international sales manager for GPSports, said “The vest holds a small player tracking unit that’s worn really tight under the jersey to quantify the demands of the game, and that data is used as a benchmark for training and to dictate recovery protocols.” He also said that previously the players had worn the sensors in a harness, but that they found it irritated their armpits during the game and chafed, so they switched to the half-shirt idea. Internally, GPSports staff refer to it as the “bro,” a masculine take on a bra.
One of the big advantages of this product beyond improving recovery however, is real time tracking for coaches, which means they can see if a player is getting too tired and substitute them as necessary. This is something we’re going to see a lot more of in the coming years, as sports teams start taking a real interest in how their athlete’s bodies are performing during every aspect of their sport. It should mean better performance from the players in the long term, but also less instances of injuries, as players that are pushing themselves to their limits can be reined in before they hurt themselves.
However in the mean time, public opinion of something like this isn’t particularly strong and will take some time to change.