Wearable Tech: A New Frontier

Article by Raine Blunk

Each year, the music festival season is full of new innovations. Who doesn’t remember that performance by a holographic Tupac at Coachella? While OutKast’s return to the show circuit is arguably one of the biggest innovations of the 2014 festival season, there are a few examples of wearable technology already a part of the festival scene that starting to hit the market that have the potential to overhaul our future festival experiences.

One of the most prevalent examples of wearable tech at festivals is the silent disco, which uses two-channel headphones for late night dancers to get down without disturbing their sleeping counterparts. The silent disco was first brought to Bonnaroo eight years ago by a company called Silent Events (they have since coordinated the technology for SXSW, Wakarusa, and Camp Bisco, to name a few).

Some of the newer uses of wearable technology have been through NFC-connected wristbands. ClearHart Digital sponsored wristband connected internet kiosks for the Outside Lands festival in 2013.  This year, Counter Point Music Festival offered the same technology for festival goers to connect their debit cards and pay vendors wirelessly. These advances in tech-related experiences at festivals beg the question, “When do we get even better, cooler stuff?”

More and more brands are jumping on the “user experience” train at festies through free services like cell phone charging stations (because EVERYONE needs their iPhone fully charged to snap photos of the end of Pretty Light’s set!). Although having a phone with you at a festival can be a necessity for finding friends when they leave you at the portapotty, it’s also a buzzkill to realize your inebriated ass left your brand new iPhone 5 on a bench near the pizza vendor two hours ago.

The M-Dress from CuteCircuit could be the key to all those drug-induced cell phone disappearances. By inserting an active SIM card into a slot embedded in the tag, users can make and receive phone calls without their phone. Say goodbye to double checking your pockets every two seconds and hello to enjoying festivals phone free.

The M Dress from CuteCircuit

The M Dress from CuteCircuit

Depending on what kind of festival you’re going to, the musicians performing might not have much to look at besides a big light set and a DJ booth. That being said, what would a festival be like if all the artists were using wearable music-making technology like Imogen Heap’s Musical Gloves?

Heap’s glove project uses Bluetooth-enabled gloves to translate her hand movements into specific commands on Ableton. The software will be open sourced, so over the next several years, we could see DJs recording the software to emulate the motions used on a mixing table. No more DJ booth means a closer and more detailed interaction with the DJs and an entirely new perspective to the music we love.

But no matter how much we love the music, it’s impossible to deny that most festivals aren’t the most environmentally friendly. Thousands of people getting trashed for three days means there’s a lot of trash to clean up, and the music equipment certainly isn’t an energy saver. So what if festival goers could generate some of the energy themselves?

TegWear Technology absorbs body heat and converts it into energy for wearable electronic devices. While the technology can currently generate only milliwats of energy based on the placement and utilization of the “flexible thermoelectric material,” in the upcoming years we could see similar products that allow users to store the captured energy and then transfer it to a third party. How much energy could be generated by festivalgoers wearing TegWear t-shirts or hats? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

While everyone loves a good sponsored hashtag for festival photos or a free bag of trail mix from a vendor, the wearable technology industry should jump on the festie train to get the ultimate beta testing experience. If these developing wearable tech brands could see the same benefits in Bonnaroo that OutKast does, the future festival seasons could make Daft Punk’s aesthetic way more relevant.