What are wearables? Future Inventors Club 101

The word wearables, in and of itself is pretty much explanatory. When you first hear about wearables, the first things to come to mind are smart-watches and fit-trackers, right? Well, there’s so much more. Wearables are a type of technology that can be worn to facilitate access to our smartphones and the IoT or to keep track of our health.

What are the different types of wearable devices?

Besides smartwatches and fit-trackers, wearable technology also includes implants – used for medical purposes, smart clothing and head-mounted displays like VR head-sets and more recently, smart-glasses.

Smartwatches

Smartwatches are the most popular type of wearable technology in the market today, made prevalent by the rise of fitness trackers and the Apple Watch. They are basically small computers you can wear on your wrist, having most of the functionalities of a normal smartphone, but on a tiny display. These have multiple uses, from sport tracking and keeping up with notifications from your phone to taking a real-time ECG as of last year.

We’ve also created one of the first wearable devices for kids a couple of years ago: the Creative Coder. This kit allows kids to code their own “smartwatch” that reacts to their movements and helps them understand how this technology works.

Did you know? 

Watches were, in fact, the first-ever wearable in history. In 1500, German inventor Peter Henlein created small watches which were worn as necklaces, being the first-ever watch to be worn. 

what are smart watches

Head-Mounted Display

Virtual Reality head-sets have been on the rise, especially in the past two years. This type of wearable device takes you to an entirely different virtual “world” and paired with headsets you can become completely immersed. Pioneered by companies like Oculus VR and industry experts like John Carmack, these devices are used in the gaming industry. However, it is a common misconception that VR is only used for gaming. VR headsets are also being extensively used for medical science, space exploration, education and military exercises.

Did you know? 

The Playstation VR headset was developed secretly by a small group of Sony engineers in one of their R&D labs and supervisors didn’t know about it until it was complete!

After watching this video, we can’t help but wonder… Did Ready Player One author, Ernest Cline, get it all right?

Smart Glasses

Just beginning to get some popularity with consumers, smart-glasses have multiple uses. Primarily, they aim to provide life-monitoring services (a trend among wearable tech as you probably notices) as well as allowing users to take more authentic pictures. More recent models are also equipped with augmented reality technology to assist with everyday life. However, even though such hardware is already available from both tech giants and start-ups alike, the chunky design means we are yet to see this tech being widely embraced by consumers. 

Did you know?

Google’s smart glasses – simply called Glass – are being widely used by manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare companies. They are also used by Emirates Airlines as a tool to improve customer service on their flights.

what are smart glasses

Smart Clothing

Maybe not as popular as smartwatches, smart clothing is definitely on the rise. Smart clothing can monitor heart rates, like the AIO smart sleeve from KomodoTec and the Owlet Smart Sock for babies. It can now also answer calls and texts, play and pause songs, take pictures or notify you of letting your phone behind through haptic vibrations, like the clothing from Google’s Jacquard project

Did you know?

Kids can also make their own wearable badges that light up with our Sew + Glow kit!

Implantables

In the future, implantables may be considered their own technology category. However, for the time being, implantable tech is still considered part of the wearable tech category. Their primary use is medical, ranging from diabetes and heart monitoring chips to implantable birth control that can be controlled through an app, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Researchers are also working on creating Smart Tattoos. Yep. Tattoos! These new and improved tattoos will be able to track body processes as well as allow you to control things such as your tv, sound levels and more. 

Did you know?

Harvard and MIT scientists have developed a smart tattoo ink capable of monitoring health by changing color. It can alert an athlete when they are dehydrated or a diabetic when his blood sugar rises! There is no current plan to develop this research project into a consumer product… yet.

smart tattoos

Wearable technology is pretty much in its infancy, but we can see as clear as day that its potential is world-changing. 

If you or your child want to learn more about wearables, our Future Inventors Club monthly subscription using the BBC Micro:bit gives kids and their parents the opportunity to get hands-on with the future of technology, including wearables, AI and robotics. 

Do you or would you use any of the above-mentioned wearable devices? What do you think about wearable technology? Let us know on social media by tagging @techwillsaveus with your thoughts! 

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