December 14, 2005 10:56 AM PST

Sports bra monitors your heartbeat

Stuck on what to give someone for the holidays? How about a sports bra that can perform medical monitoring functions?

A sports bra from Numetrex picks up a runner's heartbeat and sends the signal down to a computer attached onto a waistband or worn on the wrist. The system effectively cuts out the sometimes uncomfortable attachable sensors that runners and cyclists generally have to use if they want to monitor their heart.

The bra sells for $45, or $115 in a bundle with a Polar watch and transmitter.

Electronic fabrics--like the wearable computer and the LCD (liquid crystal display) eyepiece--have long been a staple of technology futurists' speeches. In the past year, a couple of start-ups have begun to make it a reality. The fabric in the Numetrex bra comes from Textronics, which was founded by the same people. The yarns developed by the company conduct electricity but otherwise share similar properties to Lycra.

The Numetrex bra is the first commercial product to incorporate Textronics' fabrics.

Similarly, Britain's Eleksen has devised a fabric that can transmit electricity. The fabric does not contain embedded wires and feels like the outer skin of a raincoat. Products that rely on Eleksen's fabric include a keyboard that rolls up into a tube and snowboarding jackets with built-in MP3 controllers.

In a similar vein, Triage Wireless has developed a patch that can monitor blood pressure and other vital signs for medical patients. The information gets beamed over the cellular networks to doctors.

For reasons that have yet to be fully explained, the bra has become something of a canvas for IT designers recently. Earlier this year, Triumph International showed off a bra that keeps people warm.

 

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