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Ralph Lauren's biometric-sensing smart shirt hits retail Thursday

Ralph Lauren's biometric-sensing smart shirt hits retail Thursday
The Ralph Lauren PoloTech smart shirt ($295), at left, hits retail Thursday. It sends data, including heart rate and calories burned, to a fitness app that runs on Apple devices such as the iPhone at right. (Ralph Lauren)

Ralph Lauren's big push into the world of wearable technology -- a smart shirt that collects a range of data, including the wearer's heart rate and number of calories burned -- is set to hit retail Thursday.

You may have first heard about the PoloTech shirt during last year's U.S. Open, when the brand (the official outfitter of the event) put a prototype version on a player named Marcos Giron (as well as a handful of ball persons). Now, a year later -- and just four days before the 2015 U.S. Open gets underway Monday -- the company is set to roll out a version for consumers.

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Despite its luxury-label DNA, at first glance the end product doesn't look very different from the kind of stretchy, second-skin crewneck T-shirts that are a staple of today's workout wear. Currently offered in a men's style only (a women's version is reportedly in the works), it will be available in a single color -- black -- with the lone style flourish being the label's signature polo pony logo emblazoned over the left breast.

The technology part of the PoloTech, developed with Canadian company OMSignal, is tucked into a small, rectangular black box -- roughly the size of a computer mouse -- located diagonally below the logo at about the level of the wearer's bottom rib.

The brains of the smart shirt, the black box clips into a biometric-sensor chest band that's part of the shirt fabric itself, and can be disconnected so the shirt can be laundered normally. (According to the announcement, silver fibers are woven throughout the chest band.) The black box also houses a 3-D accelerometer, gyroscope and Bluetooth connectivity that allows it to communicate with a fitness app that's compatible with a range of Apple devices, including the Apple Watch, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Data gathered by the biometric sensors and channeled to the app include heart rate and variability, breathing depth and recovery, intensity of movement, stress levels, steps taken and calories burned. The app also includes a series of workouts (focusing on cardio, strength and agility) that can be adjusted on the fly in response to the data.

Although last week's announcement of the upcoming retail rollout makes no mention of battery life, a description of the technology at OMSignal's website says it can "power through 10 workouts or 1 day of continuous use before recharging."

The PoloTech smart shirt, which retails for $295, will be available at the Polo Ralph Lauren flagship in New York City, at its U.S. Open store at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and online at www.ralphlauren.com starting Thursday.

For the latest in fashion and style news, follow me @ARTschorn on Twitter.

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