Wearable Technology: Everything You Need to Know


Remember when in a galaxy far, far away Darth Vader got a very robotic looking Mech-arm and Luke Skywalker followed in pop’s footsteps by getting one himself? Or in Back to the Future II, when Marty McFly’s (future) kids wear headsets to make and receive calls and watch TV? (Plus who can forget that kickass pink hoverboard!) Or even take the granddaddy of gadgets himself, James Bond, with his wrist dart guns and suave Seiko watches with built-in TV screens and wireless video transmissions.

All these might have seemed fantastic back then but chances are you’re probably already using a few such gizmos in your daily life. Because if there’s one thing the earlier decades got right was that technology would soon become an indispensable part of our daily lives. And let’s be real, we wouldn’t survive a day without our gadgets. Lose them and you probably end up looking like Christmas got canceled.
In this article, we’re primarily gonna focus on the wearables. “Wearables” (or simply put wearable technology) is a fancy way of describing tech gadgets that you get to wear like an accessory.

With the introduction of Google Glass, gaming headsets like Oculus Rift, Microsoft's recently announced Hololens, Lexus’ prototype for a real, rideable hoverboard and smartwatches capable of text and audio transmissions – we’ve come a long way folks!

With smartwatches, smart clothing and 'smart-everything-else', the world is getting round to making sci-fi fiction seem a lot more like.. err non – fiction. Some of the hottest devices on the planet, wearables have now overtaken the smartphone as some of the biggest innovations the tech world has seen.

In this post, we will talk about anything and everything related to this fascinating industry. Read on further to know more:

So, what exactly is wearable tech?

The clue's in the name itself. Wearable technology is electronic gadgets that you wear; tucked into items of clothing (e-textiles, smart fabrics, headbands, beanies and caps), accessories worn at the wrist or clipped to the body or even hung around the neck and even blending with jewellery (watches, rings, pendants, bracelets you name it!) - all tapping into the connected self (helping you achieve goals such as staying fit, losing weight or being more organised)

These devices perform many of the same functions as mobile phones or laptop computers; and in some cases, even outperforming them entirely! More sophisticated than any technology on the market today, they provide sensory and scanning features not typically seen in your everyday devices (E.g. Biofeedback - tracking of physiological functions)

However, wearable tech isn't just a trendy pair of headphones, or a digital watch. Sure to evolve even more over the years, wearable tech includes dozens of categories from - Smartwatches, Fitness Trackers, Lifeloggers, VR headsets, AR headsets, to UV exposure trackers worn around the neck or a pair of earbuds that are internet-ready.

So, what kind of wearables are available at the moment?
 
When it comes to technology, there’s always a “next big thing.” The early 90s meant it was the laptop computer, 2007 saw the Apple smartphone and come 2018 what do we have? Gadgetry that offers more power than the tools used to put men on the moon in the 60s! Seamless, versatile and highly convenient – wearable technology has given us some pretty fly gadgets that would make even James Bond drool.

SmartWatches

Who wants to check a watch and just tell the time? Never thought we would hear that sentence. Smartwatches are now all the rage. Essentially watches, they come with a connection to your mobile phone. Acting like mini-windows into your digital life, these watches notify you about your calls, messages, emails and even Social media.

Be it from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Fossil, Tag Heuer, LG etc, smartwatches have become pretty much mainstream with almost 35 million expected to be sold this year.

Whether its a fitness smartwatch (Fitbit’s Ionic tracks a range of workouts from running, biking, swimming and weight lifting) or a standalone smartwatch (Apple's first cellular smartwatch, the Apple watch 3, lets you make/receive calls, get texts and other notifications alongside fitness features, built-in GPS and 50m waterproofing – making it one of the best smartwatches for swimming) or Samsung’s Gear S3 (smartwatch and fitness tracker, with a heart rate sensor, GPS and a much-improved Samsung Health software packed in) – smartwatches are living proof of technology that was unimaginable just 20 years ago!

Fitness Trackers
Just 10 years ago, medical engineers were talking about developing wearable devices that could monitor the health and well being of patients. But that was all talk. Or so they thought.

Come 2018, and you have fitness trackers available in every shape, size, color scheme and level of sophistication. Worn on the wrist or clipped to a belt, fitness trackers are bands or watches that help keep a count of the number of steps you take each day, monitor your heart rate and even accurately track your calorie burn and exercises.

Fitness trackers are quickly becoming an affordable option for people wanting to stay fit and healthy. Take the Fitbit Alta HR, a top-rated powerful fitness tracker. With a lit 24/7 heart rate monitor, sleep tracker (deep, light or REM), daily step tracker, customizable bands and smartphone notifications – it is a wonderful example of a tiny device crammed with a massive amount of tech.

Whether its an all-day fitness tracker with training modes (Moov Now or the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro perfect for swimming) or a fitness tracker with GPS and heart rate tracking built-in (Garmin Vivosport) or even a child friendly design (Vivofit Jr.2. - not only makes kids get up for a walk but also set chores reminders and rewards when they're completed) – these wearables are without question the bands of the future!

Head-Mounted Displays
Wearable technology exercises a major influence on gaming and entertainment. Combining augmented reality and wearable technology creates a highly realistic, 3D environment in real time.

First discussed way back in the 90s, today’s prototypes have moved away from bulky tech to much smaller, lightweight options. Whether its fashion or functionality, pattern or practicality; these devices have made technological advancements that are off the charts.

You have your Google Glasses, the Oculus Rift headsets (started the VR craze, that one) that plug into your computer's DVI (or HDMI) and USB ports and track your head movements to provide 3D imagery on stereo screens and the Vufine+ Wearable Display used to process both videos and text documents right in front of your eye; with a detachable magnetic docking station and a run-time of 90 minutes and easy portability.

Sounds like something straight out of sci-fi novels? With touch controllers, room-scale tracking and easy portability, head-mounted displays are gobsmackingly awesome devices just waiting to be strapped on.

Smart Clothing
Imagine a vest that starts burning calories as soon as you put it on. Or fitness pants that gently pulse at the hips, knees and ankles to encourage you to move and/or hold yoga positions. Or running shorts and capris that monitor ground contact time and stride length. Or a jacket that allows users to access music and map apps and dismiss phone calls with a swipe. Or socks that aim to detect and prevent diabetics’ foot injuries or even monitor your little one's heart rate. Or running shoes that track your activity and store all your exercise metrics. Or.. phew, well we hope you get our point.

While all this sounds super badass, it gets a little difficult to believe it's all real. Well, apparently it exists and how! That calorie burner? Yeah, it's called ‘Thin Ice’. The uber cool jacket? Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket. The tracking shoe? The Under Armour Men's UA Speedform Gemini 3 Record and so much more!
Smart clothing is yet to go mainstream but companies have slowly but surely begun pushing the experimentation envelope fairly successfully. With built-in haptic vibrations, touch and gesture sensitive areas; able to sync to your Android or iPhone, microsensors, biometric sensors, Bluetooth smart sensors etc – Smart clothing is an amazing match up of garments and electronics.

Implantables
Would you go so far as to implant a piece of technology within your body? Freaked out? Don’t be. Millions of people have already done it. Yes, that’s right. From cyber limbs to super-human senses, technology has brought the future to the now.

Implantables are a group of wearables surgically attached somewhere under your skin, that you carry around wherever you go. These might be for medical reasons, like insulin pumps, or for contraception or they might simply take your fancy (like sticking some magnets in your fingertips or even smart tattoos) Yeah, that's a thing.

While it may seem invasive and you may be getting Terminator, Robocop or multiple other cyborg vibes, the truth is the medical world is filled with biomechanical solutions to a range of traumas and disorders.

There’s the 3cm metal device called the artificial cardiac pacemaker sitting in your chest. It has a 20-inch cable leading to an electrode buried into the right chambers of the heart which emits electrical impulses to regulate the movement of the cardiac muscles and they’ve been around since 1965!

There are implantable defibrillators that can detect abnormal rhythms and deliver the required shock before anything gets too serious, the brain pacemakers that can sense an oncoming seizure and fire off some pulses for those with Parkinson’s disease, clinical depression, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and Tourette’s, Cochlea implants that directly stimulate the auditory neural pathways, Retinal implants that receive information via a video camera attached to a pair of glasses sending pictures wirelessly in real-time, the Deka Arm which is a prosthetic limb that lets users brush their hair, use keys and locks, and pick up eggs and so much more!

Then there’s the body modifications. Believing in improving the human condition by hacking oneself with electronics and DIY science, body modifications use nootropics (smart drugs to enhance cognitive processes), genetic modifications to change the likes of eye-colour, modifications to implant magnetic sensors in the fingertips and contraceptive implants for women in the form of a small, flexible, 4cm tube inserted into the upper arm.

So, where do we go from here?

Our minds may take a lot of time to process all this but the fact is, the change has already begun. As potential continues to grow, the impact of wearable technology on the future can’t be dismissed. Wearables have gotten good at measuring us. Recording our heart rates, body fat composition, perspiration, health, temperature and muscle activity as well as our movements, distance and speed using GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscopes; all by a touch - wearable tech is officially here to stay.

With the current technological landscape evolving at an alarming rate, so much so that, walking out in public and watching people on their devices is barely worth the attention,  wearables will soon eclipse most tech innovations with their efficacy. In fact, tech developers and analysts, medical and fitness experts and all sorts of other professional opinions concur that wearable technology may change the technological and cultural landscape entirely.