CES 2016 is all about wearable technology, and this year the wearables are hitting the slopes in the form of a smart ski vest that doubles as an airbag to protect skiers from falls.
Based in the Alps, French company In&motion uses the kinds of technology found in smart wristbands to help protect pro athletes (and clumsy skiers like yours truly) with its Smart Ski Airbag Vest.
It's this kind of innovation that shows the evolution of wearable technology at CES. The show has moved from clunky wristbands for counting steps into smart accessories and wearables that measure every possible human movement and feed them back to the user for self-tracking and self-improvement.
In&Motion's Smart Ski Airbag Vest looks like a flak jacket and sits under your regular skiing gear (but for the $1000+ pricetag, you may want it on show). Clipped into the back of the vest is a smartphone-sized attachment packed with gyroscopic sensors, GPS and an accelerometer. The sensors detect minor movements and if there's a loss of balance in the wearer, the flat vest becomes one giant airbag.
The company claims the airbag deploys in less than 100 milliseconds, and while they have some impressive videos of the vest in action, we only saw pre-inflated vests on the showfloor. It feels a little like a life jacket when it's inflated, but I certainly got the sense it would be enough to protect this clutz from bumps and bruises.
Company founder Valentin Honoré says the inflated vest protects the hips, back and "vital organs", and the sensors inside can record every detail about your trip down the mountain. When that data is uploaded to the cloud via Wi-Fi, Honoré says his team can use the information to analyse skier behaviour and rollout updates that better catered to the way athletes move in the real world.
While In&motion has worked with the French Skicross team to develop the vest (including for World Cup events), the Smart Ski Airbag Vest is set to hit pro shops next summer (June/July 2016) in time for the following winter ski season, retailing at $1,200 (roughly £815, AU$1668).