Wearable tech so far has often tended to dresses that light up or wristwatches that act as remote controls for your smartphone. But what if wearable tech actually produced sound – and it wasn’t a pair of headphones?

That’s the question posed by SubPac. It’s a sort of backpack subwoofer aimed both at improving tactile bass response for consumers and allowing proper bass monitoring for DJs and producers – you know, when they can’t just try their latest mix on a big club PA.

We’ve covered wearable tech on CDM before – we’ve even hosted workshops and labs on the topic. But big consumer companies are finally picking up on the idea that if technology is going to get close to you, it’s probably going to get close to something else close to you – your clothes and fashion. And now none other Richie Hawtin is endorsing than in a video for Intel at top, as the chip company pushes the idea that we’ll buy tech all over again as part of our clothes.

Oddly, Hawtin says the kinds of things that you’ve heard the likes of rocker Neil Young say – that musical experience is suffering because of a lack of full-frequency sound – so maybe not what you’d expect from a techno icon. But once you see what they’re doing, you’ll see the influence of the world of clubs. This is about that pounding you feel in your chest. And as a result, Richie joins Kode 9, Mala, and Flying Lotus among other bass lovers. In practice, this “tactile” accessory could mean one of two things:

  • 1. Listening. Feeling sound – just to add the sort of tactile, sensational “thump” you get in a club. (Cough, Berghain, Funktion One, yadda, yadda.)
  • 2. Safety. Alerting users to threats, waking drowsy drivers or distracted pedestrians.

Not mentioned here, however, is an additional application: wearable speakers could open up new opportunities in club sound and sonic diffusion, an idea we saw in the 4DSOUND spatial system.

You can see how they describe it in the company’s own video:

SubPac | Bass, It’s the FEELING that Matters from SubPac on Vimeo.

To be honest, I’m surprised by the idea that you’d take this into a studio, but that’s the argument SCIENTIST makes. (Sure, if you only have small near-fields, you might need this, but that’s why studios typically have a second pair that can produce bass, or connect a subwoofer. Then again, if you don’t have this, I wholeheartedly endorse what he’s saying – and I am still curious to try it.)

SubPac | IN THE STUDIO featuring SCIENTIST from SubPac on Vimeo.

There are two products here – the S1, which attaches to your chair, and the M1, which you wear like a backpack – US$299 and $349, respectively, though at the moment sold out.

Whether you’d want this or not, it does seem to open another window into the possible avenues wearable technologists might explore. These aren’t just watches or sparkly dresses, though those are certainly included. Intel has done with The Creators Project a fairly rapid overview. It feels like a sponsored video to me (not only because of the Intel bits plugged in, but also because there’s a bit of a lack of any greater depth – it does feel like an ad for wearable tech). But I do know many of the folks here, and it isn’t a bad sampling.

I guess the question is this: which of these sorts of directions would you want to see CDM investigate further?

I might not adopt the blind optimism of a video espousing the merits of wearing your technology. But it does seem that technology has to learn something from the intimacy of fashion and garments if it ever wants to get closer to the body. And it likewise seems to me that the path there may be one of repeated, iterated failure – the criticism on this site of Imogen Heap’s Gloves Project (and the fact that it is fundamentally the same technology as was in use decades ago) being some indication of that.

But I find iterative failure interesting. If you do, too, let us know which kind of failures you’d like to see. (Ahem.)

Oh, and frankly, out of all of this, I think that lighting you wear on your face is kind of freakin’ awesome. I’d rather have that than the backpack subwoofer or anything else.