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The price of being fashionably tech

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Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week I wanted to share just my opinion that was sparked earlier this week when I saw another article promoting a high-end dress that was supposed to be both fashionable and functionally charge your devices as well.

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Now I am no fashion authority. It's a commonly known fact, evidenced by years of mismatched socks on my kids, navy blues and blacks are way too close in color, and there was even one embarrassing incident where I mistook my brown slacks for gray in the dim lighting. Anyway, my abhorrent fashion sense aside, it was just as painfully obvious that this outfit was disgustingly awful.

I laughed terribly hard at this grotesque attempt at appealing to the fashionistas of the world with tech appeal and I thought to myself that I didn't know a single person who would consider wearing something like that. However, it did get me thinking about tech gadgets in general and the visual appeal that they have to maintain but still have the functional ability to work.

So, this week we're going to take a look at some things and ways that you can use either wearable tech or ways that you can make your tech backup more mobile.

Some of the most common wearable tech items today are the smart watches, which I've reviewed a couple, and fitness bands. Both of these items were easy steps for the public because we were used to wearing watches and bracelets. They were also close to the same size as their predecessors. In fact, unless you were looking closely, you might not have been able to tell they were different from an ordinary digital watch.

Things to be wary of: They can still be overly bulky. The Samsung Gear that I reviewed was the largest I'd seen but not unwieldy. The Pebble probably felt the most natural. Look for different sizes that fit your body.

Things to keep your eye on: Watch out for the new influx of Android Wear gear that is starting to hit the market. Initial accounts seem to indicate that, like the android phones, the Wear gear will be produced by multiple manufacturers and therefore will allow for a greater variety of sizes rather than the one-size-fits-all like the Gear.

Another series of items that are becoming more popular are gesture controlled devices. These devices, like the iRing by IK Multimedia, the Myo or other controllers, are becoming more and more common. I think this is a trend that will continue, especially as our separate devices are able to connect with each other more and more. The only difficulty is that many of these devices require some kind of bio-feedback to work - muscle sensing, bio-electric, etc. - and this requirement makes them unusable in some environments. For example, hard to use a ring style controller with mittens on.

Things to be wary of: Many of these seem fairly gimmicky to me. Not that they aren't useful but that they may not be worth a large investment (yet). In some cases, though, with gaming or presentations, this tech might be just the ticket.

Things to keep your eye on: Watch for items that can be programmable. The Myo touts that it's ready to use out of the box, but will also allow for customization. I haven't been able to look at one as they are still in testing, but the ability to customize the function will greatly increase the appeal of these types of controllers.

Next, there are more optical gadgets that are going to be more mainstream in the future - Google Glass, 3D gaming stations and others like that are looking at changing the way we interact with our day-to-day lives. Google Glass has gone for full integration mode, where they created a Heads Up Display (HUD) that creates a sort of picture in picture effect with all of your notifications and stats. There are also a number of other companies that are developing devices like Google Glass and Expect. We'll see more of that launching near Christmas.

Things to be wary of: Right now this tech is extremely expensive. Glass has a price tag of $1,500, and that was for the early adopters! Other devices have kicked around pricing that ranges everywhere but the technology used to create this experience is expensive.

Things to keep your eye on: Because the price tag is so high, expect to see it come down, maybe not in the first six months but certainly around the one year mark you should see a dip. In the meantime, be aware of what devices these items are readily compatible with.Tthe last thing you want is to spend a fair amount of money and not have your device work with your new gadget.

Combo gadgets are the last item we'll take a look at. They by far make up the broadest category as it can basically encompass any device that combines two or more other devices. Some, like the Bio-Lite stove, look like real winners. A camping stove that uses thermal energy to create electric energy that you can use to charge your devices - serves dual purposes and fits a niche market.

On the other hand you have disasters like this sack-ish charging blanket/dress. True, you can say I am no real authority on dresses, and you're right, however, it looks terrible. It's a shapeless sack that has solar panels sewn into it. Oh, and a USB port. Of course, the pitch is that by having this device/dress you will always have a power source with you and you can keep your devices juiced.

Things to be wary of: I don't even know where to start. Follow the example of Bio-Lite - clearly identified, packaged into a neat product and functional. If the concern you have is keeping a recharging source near you, like the drack (dress/sack - yeah, I just made that up), I'd encourage you to explore other options. There are numerous chargers, like the Eton SolarBoost, that I've reviewed that are much more functional. Granted the SolarBoost isn't a dress, or a sack, but it's much more compact and I can have what I like and still have a power source nearby. You could also look at any other number of stick style chargers like Mophie, who have many different options.

Things to keep an eye on: If it comes to wearable tech, I think I'll hold out for wearable contacts that use bio-electricity to power their displays...

There will come a time when fashion and tech may work together, maybe even in a way that is appealing. Until that time, I strongly encourage everyone to keep a level head and pay attention to the actual function of the device to make sure that it is really a benefit to you. You can also keep an eye on tech that is shrinking in size. Look at portable storage, floppy disks to zip drives to micro SD cards. It's come a long way and it shows that you don't necessarily need to integrate it into your clothing, if you can conceal it on yourself.

What do you think, should we have a Tech Savvy fashion show?

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Phil Seibel
I've been in the Brainerd Lakes Area for the last 6 years, currently in Baxter with my wife and two little girls. We really enjoy all the activities and places to see in the Lakes area and particularly enjoy going to the beach and walking out at the Arboretum. I grew up in western MN and went to school at the University of MN, Crookston.
(218) 855-5862
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