HIGHTOWER: Wearable Electronics

Time for another journey into the Far, Far, Far-out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower launches you into an odd orbit that swings waaay out to the cutting edge of high fashion. In this new fashion world, sheer style is out and function is in -- indeed, we're talking about clothing that can talk to you, play music for you, tell you what time it is, and otherwise interact with you. Call me a Luddite, but I'm not sure I want to interact with my clothing.

Nonetheless, "wearable electronics" is said to be the next big thing. For example, the Wall Street Journal reports that, Philips, the electronics giant, has teamed up with Levi Strauss to create a windbreaker-style jacket called "ICD+." It comes equipped with a built-in cellular phone, an MP3 player, a headset, and remote controls. The jacket is wired with what Philips and Levi call a PAN -- a "personal area network," which is an electronic circuit with nearly four feet of wires woven directly into the jacket. Various electronic devices can be clipped onto your PAN -- though I personally would not advise wearing the thing in a lightning storm.

You can operate the ICD+ cell phone by simply speaking commands into the collar of the jacket. For example, the jacket phone also receives voice-mail messages, so you can say to your collar: "read messages." And it will. An exuberant Levi Strauss spokesman says that the ICD+ jacket "becomes like a car with the stereo playing and the car phone ringing." Ahhh...progress.

This totally-wired jacket is yours for only $900. The jacket is only a start -- there's plans for an electronic sports bra that, among other things, would monitor your heart rate. Can an electronic jock strap be far behind?

This is Jim Hightower saying...Levi asserts that wearable electronics "will become a huge part of everyone's life in the future." Please, sir, don't threaten me.

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