One important role for wearable Health Tech devices is the gathering of data. But that information does little good if the user is not made aware of the results. Wireless communications with a smartphone or other mobile device can be a good solution for some applications, but there may be times when such a device is not readily available, or maybe information needs to be provided to others who are in the same area as the user. Indicator lights such as LEDs can provide limited information, such as an alert signal, but they cannot convey more complex messages.

We have covered other projects that turn textiles into displays by weaving them into the fabric, but researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have taken a different approach. They have developed a way to create organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays on top of fabric. Using polyurethane plastic, they create a planarization layer on the fabric to create a smooth surface to received the display. They used multi-layer barriers to block the oxygen and water vapor that destroy OLED materials. The result was a display that operated for more than 1,000 hours, and was able to bend along with the flexible fabric.

This could lead to smart garments that could display information such as incoming text messages, but it could also show alerts in the event of a health problem. It might even be used to display biometric data such as vital signs in the event of an emergency, helping first responders diagnose and treat patients faster and more effectively.