Saturday, November 21, 2015

Where Are All the Wearables We Want to Wear?

ORIGINALLY POSTED by AURAMETRIX, introductory post on Linkedin
Millions of years ago our ancestors straightened up and started carrying tools around, instead of dropping them after use. And so technology became a part of daily routine.
As time passed, more useful tools were made than it was feasible to carry or wear over the shoulder. One solution to this problem was monetary exchange, the other was a better technology. Wearables promised to add more convenience than carryables and, ever since humans started to wear clothes some 170,000 years ago, there was no lack of attempts to turn useful products into wearables. But this was not easy.

Eyeglasses correcting vision appeared 700 years ago and moved into mass production phase as more books were printed and read. Yet, first wearers of glasses, monks and scholars, were stigmatized as weak and old until the early 1900s when the 29th US president Theodore Roosevelt and the king of comedy Harold Lloyd finally made glasses popular.  Eyeglasses kept evolving but their primary function remained vision correction and eye protection. Google glass was an amazing technological accomplishment but we were not ready to put computers on our faces.

The first wearable HDTVs from Sony were inconvenient because of the bulky battery pack, and the surrounding waves seemed to reverberate  through your skull. Even so, smart glasses are already developing loyal following  in niche markets such as Augmented/Virtual Reality  gaming and tools for persons with physical disabilities. Google glass is heading toward a second version, and so are second generation wearable TVs like recently launched Royole-X that combines high-resolution display with noise-cancelling headphones. Virtual reality is back with some incredible headsets in development, and the best is yet to come.

The first truly wearable watches were created 200 years ago, some 300 years after portable spring driven clocks. The first smartwatch appeared in 1977. Hewlett Packard’s HP-01 combined a personal calculator, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a timer, and a 200 year calendar.  Linux-based WatchPad developed by IBM  and Citizen in 2001 featured a graphic display, Bluetooth and an accelerometer and were called a “popular publicity gimmick”. Smartwatches developed in the last decade run on processors and internal components designed for smartphones. As new electronic components are being created, watch designs are getting slimmer,  more attractive and more functional.  Smartwatches might have a chance.

Hearing aids introduced over 100 years ago, are examples of still existing and successful wearable technology. They evolved from cartoonish ear trumpets to digital hearing devices that do more than amplify sound. Many technical problems – such as background noise still remain, but developers are already working on merging more features – like health tracking capabilities or the ability to flip through songs with just the tilt of a head – to create the new wave of hearables.Picture

Google Engineers Invent New Body Part To Strap Gadgets Onto. This was a satirical headline from Onion, but the truth is inventors have already tried every part of the human body as a surface for wearables.

Wearable storage evolved from clunky wooden trunks to small purses hung on one's belt (like Robin Hood's pouch) to ​pockets as we know them, sewn into trousers and dresses, in the late 1700s. Pockets went out of fashion  in the 1790s, and women began to use handbags. They came back larger and plainer during the 19th century. Today's  attempts at wearable storage vary from handbags with built-in-batteries to charge your favorite gizmos on the go, to microchips in clothes or implantable chips storing personal information for mobile payments, to wearable robots aka exoskeletons for lifting and carrying heavy loads. 

But however strange some of the wearables may seem, they are the future and this future is ripe for growth.  


Toups MA, Kitchen A, Light JE, & Reed DL (2011). Origin of clothing lice indicates early clothing use by anatomically modern humans in Africa. Molecular biology and evolution, 28 (1), 29-32 PMID: 20823373

Bouzouggar A, Barton N, Vanhaeren M, d'Errico F, Collcutt S, Higham T, Hodge E, Parfitt S, Rhodes E, Schwenninger JL, Stringer C, Turner E, Ward S, Moutmir A, & Stambouli A (2007). 82,000-year-old shell beads from North Africa and implications for the origins of modern human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104 (24), 9964-9 PMID: 17548808

Mombers C, Legako K, & Gilchrist A (2015). Identifying medical wearables and sensor technologies that deliver data on clinical endpoints. British journal of clinical pharmacology PMID: 26542184

Sungmee Park, & Jayaraman S (2014). A transdisciplinary approach to wearables, big data and quality of life. Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual Conference, 2014, 4155-8 PMID: 25570907
blockquote { margin:1em 20px; background: #dfdfdf; padding: 8px 8px 8px 8px; font-style: italic; }