What's New In Wearable Computers?
Computerized apparel or "wearable technology" is next step in the evolution of personal computers and personal electronic devices. By wearing our personal electronics we no longer need to be concerned with carrying around multiple bulky devices and remembering where we put them down. The items we commonly wear as clothing or accessories will now be outfitted with computerized processing capabilities which will eventually replace current handheld devices we have come to rely on and will push the boundaries to do even more than today's devices.
Wearing technology is not a new concept at all as people have been wearing time measuring devices (also known as "watches") for years. Some watches did more than tell time. In 1969 by Zeppo Marx (from the Marx bothers) patented a watch capable of measuring a person's heartbeat. Today we routinely utilize fitness and workout watches which monitor pulse, calories, steps and miles.
The difference now is that the technology is evolving to the point where it is now within real possibility to create clothing and wearable accessories with computer processing and communications capabilities. The circuitry is small and light enough to do this. As are the displays and human interfaces. We now have conductive fibers which can be woven into fabrics and flexible keypads and display panels. The last piece of the puzzle is to invent a power supply which is light and flexible. Current batteries are rigid and heavy; hardly suitable for making into clothing. But there is work in the pipeline on thin flexible batteries which would serve this purpose well.
We are just seeing the beginning of the new wave of wearable electronic devices entering the market. Currently this is really cool new stuff, but as a practical matter what can this stuff do for you? and why would you need it or use it? Does this stuff really help you to be more efficient? Or is it just another electronic distraction?
Some devices are purely designed for entertainment and hobby purposes, but there are also some very important potential uses for computerized clothing and accessories which include:
The ideas for these types of devices is not that new. Those of us who have been around for a while remember the old time TV shows where the characters used shoe phones, television watches, and spy cameras hidden in jacket buttons, miniature tracking devices and even glasses with computer displays. Those seemed really far out and cool at the time - far from anything that was really possible.
We live in exciting times now where these ideas are coming to reality.