One of the most fun parts of my role at Microsoft is exploring trends in technology and the role Microsoft is playing. In the past on this blog I have talked about trends such as Natural User Interface. Over the past year, the convergence of fashion and technology is a trend on the rise.

There are a lot of examples of this, especially in the sports industry — such as LeBron James’ new Nike sneakers featuring sensors that tell you how high you’re jumping, or UnderArmour’s Biometric Compression shirt that tracks performance indicators like heart rate and body position. As technology has become more natural, intuitive and woven in to many aspects of our daily lives, we’ve become more comfortable with it – all of which is helping this trend explode across brands, continents and inside Microsoft. We have researchers exploring the field of wearable computing, technologies that enable retailers to offer new ways for customers to experience apparel, and have long been in the business of designing products that help our customers reflect their personal style.

It’s fitting then that for New York Fashion Week, Microsoft is teaming up with Bloomingdale’s — a brand synonymous with fashion — to bring the intersection of fashion and technology to life for consumers. One place you’ll see this is in Bloomingdale’s NYC 59th Street store, which will feature the Microsoft Research Printing Dress. The dress is an early prototype and artistic installation that integrates computer components into a dress made almost entirely of paper and shows us what could be possible when technology becomes wearable. The wearer can write tweets on the surface of the dress using a bodice mounted keyboard and visitors to the 59th Street store can send tweets using the #MSBLOOMINGDALES hashtag. The dress won Best Concept and Best in Show at the 15th annual International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC) in San Francisco last summer.

The Microsoft Research Printing Dress is an artistic installation that illustrates the wearable computing trend with integrated computer components sewn into a dress made almost entirely of paper.

Other Microsoft Researchers are exploring wearable technology that could make any surface an interactive display as well. With the Wearable Multitouch Projector, our researchers are exploring wearable technologies that could one day be a brooch or lapel pin that turns any surface into an interactive display. With PocketTouch, we’re exploring the integration of fabric and sensors and how to remove the barrier to interacting with technology in our pockets and purses.

Another aspect of the fashion and technology trend is the potential to use technology to explore the latest fashions — virtually. Microsoft’s Kinect sensor has unleashed a wave of new experiences for retail. Swivel is a virtual dressing room from FaceCake that enables you try on clothes without the pain of really trying on clothes. It leverages Kinect’s motion sensing technology to recognize the human form and display it on a TV screen. From there, you simply wave at the TV to choose an outfit, move around to see different angles like you would on screen, and snap a picture of your new look to share with your social networks. Swivel will also be featured in the Bloomingdale’s 59th street store and 19 other Bloomingdale’s stores nationwide.

Microsoft is exploring the field of wearable computing, technologies that enable retailers to offer new ways for customers to experience apparel and have long been in the business of designing products that help our customers reflect their personal style.

Of course, the way most people interact with technology today is via the devices they use. Along with our partners, we’ve always believed that offering the widest choice possible in the world of PCs allows people to express the own style. The PCs on the market today and the wave of new PCs arriving with Windows 8 will continue that self-expression.

And just as we accessorize our outfits, we accessorize our PCs with important technology such as mice and keyboards. The latest mice and keyboards from Microsoft Hardware continue to offer beautiful design and artistic inspiration. Personally, I’m a fan of the new Wedge Touch Mouse and Wedge Mobile Keyboard as they offer the ideal balance of form and function. Speaking of design, beginning this week, select Bloomingdale’s stores and Bloomingdales.com will carry the award-winning Arc Touch mouse, which fuses beauty and function.

You can get your hands on lots of this great tech (and more) by entering Bloomingdale’s sweepstakes. One Ultimate Grand Prize winner will receive a Windows tablet, Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse and Wedge Mobile Keyboard, Xbox 360 with Kinect and a Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone. Forty first prize winners will receive a Windows tablet and Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse and Keyboard. To enter, simply text “ITSON” to 51515 (US only).

This has just scratched the surface of where Microsoft is integrating fashion and technology – there is much more to come. Check in on the Next at Microsoft blog to follow this trend, view this slideshow on the Microsoft News Center, see my report from NY Fashion Week and find out whether I really did try on this Printing Dress.

And if you’re in New York or near a Bloomingdale’s store, be sure to stop by and check out the products first hand.

Posted by Steve Clayton
Editor, Next at Microsoft