polotechRalph Lauren

Ralph Lauren “Polo Tech” smart shirt hits the tennis court

The game of tennis is about to get geekier, with Ralph Lauren introducing a high-tech shirt for players.

The so-called “Polo Tech Shirt” has integrated sensors that measure the wearer's heart rate, respiration, energy output, and stress level. It connects to a separate wearable device with its own accelerometer and gyroscope for measuring movement and direction, and the device then sends all the data to a smartphone over Bluetooth.

Marcos Giron will be the first player to wear the shirt, though he'll only do so during practice. Ralph Lauren claims that Giron will make “adjustments in real time to his play, form and breathing” based on the shirt's data. Several ball boys will also wear the shirt during certain matches.

Ralph Lauren didn't create the shirt on its own. Instead, the fashion maker teamed up with OMSignal, a company that's already making its own branded smart shirts. OMSignal's shirts are available on pre-order for $199 and will ship in November for men, and by year-end for women. While Ralph Lauren does plan to sell Polo Tech shirts to the public eventually, the company hasn't said when that'll happen.

Ralph Lauren and OMSignal aren't the only companies working on smart shirts. Earlier this year, Intel revealed its own shirt in partnership with AIQ, offering many of the same capabilities as the smart Polo. But again, the company didn't say when the shirt would become a commercial product, if ever. Another company called Hexoskin is selling sensor-laden tanktops for $399, after a successful crowdfunding campaign last year.

But so far, no one's really talked about a purpose for these smart shirts, beyond simply quantifying a bunch of biometric data. The idea of Giron adjusting his play style based on the shirt's data is intriguing, but Ralph Lauren has only offered a vague sense of how that will work. Perhaps we'll have to watch Giron's US Open performance this week to see if high-tech shirts are worth breaking a sweat over.

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