We, Robot – Wearable Tech’s Present and Future

We Robot

Technology’s a funny thing. Looking back (I was born in the 90s, so just roll with this, okay?), it’s interesting to see how computing technologies and gizmos have evolved. They generally started as big clunky machines that, despite their size, could only do very little. If you listened to your elementary and high school computer classes, the names ENIAC and UNIVAC might ring a bell. Even the first mobile phones weighed around a kilogram and were ridiculously bulky at about 9 inches long, 5 inches thick, and 2 inches wide. Every phone call was essentially a bicep curl back then.

As the years passed, and as technologyimproved, phones and computers became smaller. We were graced with classics like the indestructible Nokias and hospital-white PCs. As the functions of these were generally basic, it made sense to make them portable. They need be only as big as what they are able to do.

With the advent of smartphones and the continuing trend of powerful performance using small components, we are able to do more. This necessitated bigger screens where we can see what we’re doing more clearly.

With a big screen, you’ve of course need to have a lengthy phone. You see the pattern computing has took in terms of size? From big, to small, then big again. What’s the next big “small” step for technology?  Well right now, we have smartwatches—wrist pieces that do more than just tell time.

Wearable technology such as these have been around for a long time but they’ve only taken mainstream consumer following in the recent years. Tech toys are not only limited to our wrists, but they can be anywhere on our body. Though we are still far from ubiquitous computing, technology seems to be steadily heading towards that direction. We have a lot of tech right on our person as it stands. Let’s do a quick accounting of ‘em.

Smartwatches

Smartwatch

The first advanced watches had added features such as a calculator, scheduler, Bluetooth, and sometimes Wi-Fi. In the present, smart watches have become extensions of our smartphones, allowing us to see what’s going on with our mobiles without directly checking them. Additionally, they can be used to text, call, play music, and track your location through GPS. Today’s smartwatches are far from perfect though, and only time will tell if they get accepted by the market or snubbed as a sham.

A sub-category, smart-bands, uses sensors, Bluetooth, and an accompanying app to monitor all sorts of different activities, all helpfully served back to you in a simple, easy-to-digest form. What you do with all that info is, of course, up to you, but that can be the start of anything: making a new health plan, changing up your routine, or keeping track of different things that happen. The possibilities are endless.

Bluetooth Headsets

bluetooth headset

There’s nothing cooler than receiving a phone call, tapping your ear, and answering a call without taking out your phone. There’s also nothing more comfortable than listening to music without tangling yourself in wires. Pair these up with…

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags

rfid

…and you can have your own J.A.R.V.I.S just like Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies. Am I kidding? Not a chance. Software engineer Chad Barraford created his own do-it-yourself digital life assistant he calls “Jarvis.” Unlike his movie counterpart, Jarvis can’t fire missiles, adjust flight, and do supercomputercalculations. He can, however, welcome Chad, turn on appliances, read e-mails and news, post to social networks, and respond to questions—these among others. If one man can create such an amazing product, maybe an Iron Man-esque future is looming somewhere yonder horizon.

Google Glasses/Oculus Rift

oculus rifht

These are eyewear that hopefully represent what the future has in store for mobile computing. The Google Glass functions just like any other prescription eyeglass, but with an optical head-mounted display that projects images on the lens while allowing you to see through it. Controlling the smartglass via voice and touch controls gives you access to weather reports, notifications, as well as the built-in camera. It’s what sci-fi movies have always teased and it’s now a reality.

Meanwhile, the Oculus Rift is a soon-to-be-released virtual reality head-mounted display that seems to be the next step in video gaming. Imagine the worlds of Elder Scrolls, Grand Theft Auto, and Pokemon no longer relegated to the flatness of screens but projected around Rift users, immersing them in their gaming environments. Sign me up for one now, please!

Smart Shoes

smart shoes

We’ve heard of shoes that have GPS trackers and pedometers in them so you can track your activity levels, but how about ones that guides you where to go with vibrations? That’s what Durece Tech, an Indian wearable tech company, has in store for those who preorder their Lechal smart shoes. With proper marketing, development, and public support, these might even pave the way for blind people to walk the streets confidently.

Smart Rings

smart rings

There’s no consumer smart ring available as of writing in the market and that’s because the technology for it is far from ideal. With only a few centimeters to work with, expect that everything will be cramped, controls will be hard, and you won’t really have screen space. There are other possibilities for the integration of smart rings to our daily computing, though, such as hand gesture controls and hopefully, manipulable projections.

Solar Panel Jackets

smart jackets

A wearable tech that’s probably not made for our sweltering, tropical country. Designed by new player Wearable Solar, this jacket takes advantage of flexible solar panels  intertwined with its lightweight garments that when exposed to the sun for an hour, will charge a smartphone up to 50 percent.

Smart Garments

smart garments

Along with the solar jackets are other innovations in techie clothing. Some of them are just eye-candy and purely aesthetic such as fabrics that create color patterns depending on surrounding noise, and dresses that move and glow when someone is staring at them.  Already in mass production are sports socks that can tell if you’re running wrong, and a sports bra that provides precise heart rate information when paired with a heart rate monitor—both from Sensoria.

Hand Tree Air Purifier Bangle

air purifier

Designed by Electrolux Design Lab semifinalist Alexandr Kostin, this is an air purifier that will sit snugly on our wrist. It sucks the polluted air in our surroundings, filters it, then sends the purified air out. Obviously, just one of these bangles won’t do anything much, but if thousands of us bought the Hand Tree in the future, then we’d probably be breathing in Manila’s air instead of covering our noses and mouths when were out and about. Hopefully, this goes into mass production soon.

Battle Armor

battle armor

No, not the ones you see during comic book conventions—though those are really cool and amazing. Presumably taking inspiration from one of Marvel’s most milkable characters, the real life suit of armor is being developed by the United States’ military in partnership with 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national laboratories. Dubbed TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit), it’s capable of gunfire invulnerability; monitor its wearer’s vital signs; supply heat, air, and oxygen; fix minor wounds; and possibly possess an array of offensive abilities. If TALOS becomes functional, then maybe comic books are less fiction than we think.

 

First published September 2014 – Gadgets Magazine

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