Editor's View November 2018

Perspective On High-Tech Wow Factors

Have you heard about Pepper (see image by Owen Beard below)? It’s a 4-foot tall, semi-humanoid robot with personality made by Softbank Robotics that debuted in June 2018 at the flagship HSBC bank in New York City to serve as a new high-tech way to convey information about products and processes—as well as tell a few jokes and pose for selfies with customers. (Actually, Pepper was introduced by Softbank Robotics in 2014, went on sale in Japan in 2015 and in the U.K. in 2016. By May 2018, 12,000 Pepper robots had been sold in Europe.)
Pepper is another in an increasingly long line of developments with a “wow factor” that distinguish the 21st century as a golden age of technology. Who knew only a few years ago that a voice assistant like Amazon’s Alexa would be on its way to being commonplace today? And then there are devices like Ring and other control systems that not only allow one to view what’s going on at home from a remote location, but that can manipulate appliances, lighting and other devices via cellphone.
With all those kinds of high-tech “wows” becoming reality, home textiles may seem to some consumers like a sleepy little non-player in that arena. However, as evidenced by some of the products showcased in this issue, the home textiles field has its own versions of wow-factor technologies.
For example, in the bath sector, companies are researching and developing ways to manipulate fibers and constructions that take towels to whole new levels. Micro Cotton offers towels that are 300 times more abosrbent than regular terry towels of the same weight. Trident is adding benefits to towels, with options such as ReCHARge that blends charcoal with cotton to keep towels odor-free.
In the comfort sleep arena, pillows from Malouf enhance the sleep experience with soothing additives such as lavender, peppermint and charcoal. Soft-Tex contributes to wellness with pillows that integrate natural ingredients such as copper, silver, charcoal, graphite and aloe vera to increase circulation, relaxation and freshness.
In fabrics, the Breathe by Milliken line of performance fabrics is responsibly manufactured without the use of harsh chemicals. Even small companies, like Fells Andes, featured in “Industry Views” on this page, are keeping up with new technologies that result in better products. Their Fjun fur fabric is made with sheared superfine alpaca collected without harm to the animals.
The new technologies developed to create home fashions often are not the first thing the consumer sees or understands when considering a product purchase. But whether it’s efforts to increase sustainability or to offer new benefits to the end user, technologies are in constant development by many home textile companies. It’s up to retailers and suppliers to seek out and choose wisely what new integrated wow factors will continue to bring home textiles into the tech-rich, 21st century marketplace.