Hands-Free Navigation for the Stylish Traveler


Article by Jane Stringham | 663 words

To walk the streets of the world’s most thriving and crowded metropolises, whether as a veteran resident or a starry-eyed tourist, often requires some degree of dependence on a GPS application. “Directions to Shang Hai Café,” we say to our handy rectangular navigators. We proceed to walk in the direction of Chinese sustenance. With our eyes glued to a screen, we also proceed to miss the charming historic hotel to our right and the internationally renowned rose garden to our left. All in the name of Siri and chow mein.

Enter “The Navigate,” a trendy and tourist-friendly alternative to your cell phone’s GPS. The jacket allows city walkers, bikers, taxi drivers and tourists alike to stay present in their environment by guiding wearers to their destinations through subtle vibrations in the jacket sleeves. This divorces wearers’ eyes from their screens and marries them to more pleasing and culturally enriching sights. Navigate designers encourage wearers to stop and smell the roses while ensuring that they won’t get lost along the way.

Navigate's Paris version

The Paris version of the Navigate. Credit: WearableExperiments.com

This surprisingly stylish jacket concept stems from Australian designer Emma Chee’s engineering design. It was developed in collaboration with Wearable Experiments, a self-proclaimed “socially driven wearable technology company” that aims to improve quality of life through the marriage of fashion and technology. On its site, We:eX emphasizes the social aspects of its mission by recognizing humanity’s ever-increasing desire to connect. The company believes that sating this desire is possible without making a complete human-to-robot transformation, and that clothing right now is a largely “untapped” resource that can help people stay more connected.

And this connection doesn’t just apply to other people or social circles—it also applies to our immediate surroundings. In the words of Billie Whitehouse, cofounder and design director of We:eX, “These jackets give you the most authentic experience in your city of choice. No longer do you need to be hunched over a map or a smartphone. Now you can experience Paris as a traveler rather than a tourist,” as stated in an October 2014 press release for the Navigate, which is just one part of We:eX’s line of location-enabled apparel.

Thus far, the booming metropolises included in their line are Sydney, New York and, most recently, Paris. The 100 percent wool, Paris-specific jacket boasts a houndstooth pattern, red collar flips and neoprene sleeves. Each aesthetically different, city-specific Navigate garment was designed with its particular urban style in mind. However, the hardware and software in the houndstooth print Paris jacket function just as well in Sydney and New York. That is to say, the subtle vibrations that enable navigation in New York will adjust to Australian terrain upon a user’s arrival in Sydney.

After the wearer enters their destination into an app and slips on the Navigate, their journey begins by following the integrated LED lighting on the jacket’s sleeves. From there on out, vibrations directed by haptic feedback help the wearer to know whether they must turn left or right, along with all the directional variations in between. For example, the location and intensity of a “merge left” vibration differ significantly from those of a “take a hard left” vibration.

Additionally, the Navigate’s hardware and software are both removable and washable. We:eX hopes to soon offer an induction charging coat hanger so that wearers won’t need to charge their jackets through a separate device.

As Whitehouse states in a video on her site, “We are transforming the art of travel into a hands-free application… When wearable tech becomes invisible, which is what we’re working towards, that’s when we know we’re doing something right.” With pedestrian smartphone-related accidents on the rise, Whitehouse’s emphasis on “hands-free” and “invisible” applications seems to foster not only a richer experience of travel and discovery but also a safer experience. So, the Navigate blends fashion, function, technology and safety all into one beautiful package. It can be ordered in any size from small to extra large for either men or women on WearableExperiments.com.

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