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Wearable Tech

26 June 2014 11:50:29 AM AEST

IT’S A BUZZWORD CATEGORY
— ‘wearable tech’ is grabbing attention around the world, at the forefront of the recent 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the subject of a whole conference in Europe.

The tech itself ranges from currently available smart watches and, of course, Google Glass, through to specialised devices such as Moticon, awarded ‘Wearable Tech of the Year’ for its world-first “fully integrated sensor insole”. The German-based company is promoting the insole’s ability to analyse and record foot pressure distribution while in use, charting such variables as acceleration and leg strain, and so allowing sports athletes and coaches to improve performance and avoid injuries.

Also in the sports space, the Fitbit one is already finding success as a personal training accessory, measuring steps taken, distance travelled and energy used during the day, then going on to measure your sleep quality at night and assist in improving your sleep patterns – all synced to your smartphone for instant analysis.

Feeling furtive? The Kapture was one of several Kickstarter-funded devices on show at CES this year — it is worn like a watch on the wrist, but has no screen, instead recording audio continuously or on demand, and crucially it always preserves the last 60 seconds, like an aircraft’s blackbox recorder. Hear something controversial? Just press the button to keep the evidence or, via its phone tethering, share the recording via email or social networks.

Another wearable unit, the Kiwi Move (short for Kinetic Wearables, it’s nothing to do with New Zealand) might have smart-home applications, responding to body gestures and then communicating pre-determined instructions via the internet to any IP-connected device. Hear a song you like? Draw a musical note in the air and the Kiwi can sample the music, send it to a server for identification and purchase the song direct to your iTunes account. Such wearable technologies promise to develop strong connections with that other big area of development, the “internet of things”.

At the recent Wearable Technologies Europe Conference, Isabel Pedersen, Canada Research Chair in Digital Life, Media & Culture, suggested that current development from carryables (like smartphones) to wearables put us on a technological path which might lead to ‘implantables’. While ethical issues with implantables would be significant, she notes public enthusiasm thanks to their regular appearance in pop culture and movies like ‘Terminator’, ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Elysium’.

Many of the tech majors are experimenting with wearable tech, but Sony perhaps takes the gong for the most unlikely concept — a computerised wig. “The usage of a wig has several advantages that, compared to known wearable computing devices, include a significantly improved user comfort”, says the US Patent Application filed by Sony’s Tokyo office. “The processing unit and the communication interface are arranged in the wig and are at least partly covered in order to be visually hidden during use.”

Will it take off, or fall off? The world will decide…