Wearable Technology

Wrik Karmakar

Rahul is driving through the national highway 1. He says, “Weather right now”. The tiny invisible projector embedded in his glasses projects the temperature and humidity. It is translucent so that Rahul doesn’t have to stop driving. He checks the route to Delhi and gets accurate directions. Soon Sweta calls him. Rahul, a responsible citizen, doesn’t look at his phone but pulls his left hand, in which he wore the smartwatch, towards his face.  After a short call, he uses his ring which doubles as a mini projector. His presentation charts are almost ready. He completes them wearing a sensitive cover on his fingers that do the work of stylus and typing for him. A sudden reminder from his glasses makes him concentrate on driving. He reaches Delhi in time, gives his presentation, takes a French perfume for Sweta and comes back.

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No, this is not a science-fiction story; it’s rather a suggestive image of our future in the next few years. In fact we already have the initial prototypes of  some of these gadgets, courtesy to Google, Samsung, Sony, Pebble and other tech-giants in the field of Wearable Technology (rumours are that even Apple, the rebel and innovator of the industry is also planning to introduce wearable watches by late 2014) – the next big thing in the world of silicon chips. Yeah, that what it’s called – “wearable tech”. And it ranges from costly glasses to cheaper watches.

 The terms “wearable technology“, “wearable devices“, and “wearables” all refer to electronic technologies or computers that are incorporated into items of clothing and accessories which can comfortably be worn on the body.(http://www.wearabledevices.com)  These devices in addition to their basic functions satisfy the user’s requirements in whichever way they are designed to. They complement their more standard counterparts and sometimes perform independently, outdoing the more stable laptops, and mobile phones. Their graphics and accessibility have improved considerably from the initial stages.

 The first appearance of wearable tech was as calculator watches. They were first introduced by Pulsar in 1975, and later by Hewlett Packard. Several watch manufacturers have made calculator watches over the years, but the Japanese company Casio produced the largest variety of models. Thus, Casio is considered the main player in calculator watches.

 Wearable technology has applications in monitoring and real time feedback for athletes as well. Athletes get vital information such as blood pressure, and heartbeats per minute hands-free. They give periodic notifications in intervals as configured.  Some of them can be paired with Mobile Phones syncing contacts and other information required to enhance the user’s accessibility. They may display prompts when text messages or phone calls arrive. Leading this race of wearable fitness trackers is an array of devices which can tell you calories burned, distance walked and other sophisticated measures of activity and can do even more when integrated with a cellphone. The smart accessories of this genre come not only from Silicon Valley companies but also from regular fitness brands like Nike. Nike’s FuelBand SE is a good example of a proper fitness tracking wearable device.

 User experience is a vital factor in measuring a wearable device’s efficiency and here modern upgraded devices such Google Glasses and the Motorola Watch score better than their predecessors. From synchronizing with the user’s calendar to allowing voice searching… these are no longer toys of the rich but useful tools for anyone who can afford them, and that’s a lot of people. They have become quicker and more user- friendly, so while they do all the complicated things, all you need to do is say a command out loud and Whoosh! You have the results around your wrist.

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And if this is the present, what about the future? What can we look out for in the coming decades or so? It is doubtless that very soon, in order to satisfy their customers, all the companies in the horizon would slowly create a segment of products in the field of wearable tech.  This progress would be inevitable and welcomed warmly by the masses. But what would be the devices of the future be like? As the heads of leading tech companies say, the wearables of the future would certainly look closer to fashion items and not geeky playthings. “They have to look like something you really want to wear before they get mass adoption,” said Mike Bell, head of Intel’s mobile business. “A problem they have is everything is a square touch screen. I’m pretty sure long term that’s not what people are going to want to wear all the time.” We can also look forward to a wide range of devices other than watches and glasses. “This year we’re hoping to see the beginning of the wearables market showing its diversity,” said Robert Thompson, business development leader for Freescale’s i.MX application processor line. And hopefully we will also have independent devices that can be used in the absence of smartphones or computers…

 Till then, we are left to our good old computers and primitive wearables. Sometime, in the future, maybe that will change…

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