We are riding an incredible wave of wearable tech. The world is strapping on fitness devices to their bodies, Google Glass-like devices on their heads and smartwatches on to their hands. The one category that is seeing the most innovation is easily wearable tech. Unfortunately, it's also seeing
the most ridiculous ideas pouring in from every direction.
When one company sees success, others want to follow. Currently the biggest streams of money and sales are coming in from technology that isn't carried, but worn. The quantified self movement, where everything you do with your body and mind must be measured and counted, is the fastest adapted way of living. Fitbit, Nike, Google, Jawbone, Samsung and about a hundred others are already in this arena. About a thousand will follow. The problem? Wearable tech only works when the device can be worn unobtrusively and naturally, and most companies are running out of places on the human body to fit in their device. This lack of real estate is leading to some of the most ridiculous and frankly horribly outlandish devices ever conceived.
Microsoft Smart Bra
A bra you need to plug in every few hours. Just imagining that scenario is wildly amusing, but when you get into what it does and how it does that, the story gets even more comedic. This push-up apparatus has a gyroscope, accelerometer, electrocardiogram and electro-dermal sensors, which means that it can monitor your heart and emotions. Thankfully, that doesn't mean it's going to send shockwaves down your chest as soon as it senses you craving ice cream - it just notifies your smartphone way ahead that emotional eating is about to occur. Sexist flak notwithstanding, the reason they've gone for a bra is because of the proximity it allows to the heart. Apparently they did try out a similar underwear system for men, but it didn't work very well as the sensors were too far from the heart - sending signals of a different kind.
Sony Smart Wig
So, Google Glass owns the eye area! What other areas of the face can they exploit next? Sony came up with the head. And the smart guys at Sony decided that the most easily acceptable wearable device would be a wig! Moving away from that follicly-challenged argument, the Sony SmartWig would contain sensors to detect things like blood pressure and even brain waves plus ultrasound transducers and a camera, speakers, GPS and a microphone. It'll vibrate when you get a phone call and give you bit of a heads up (pun intended!) to a dozen other things happening in and around you. Two things fox me though. Do I really want radiation emitting sensors so close to my brain? And do I want to wear a ratty little wig all day?
Sproutling: The Fitness Tracker for babies
Yes, this is a tracker that you put onto a newborn baby's ankle. The concept and thought is actually pretty sound as it senses both the baby and his or her environment. It can track a child's heart rate, skin temperature, tosses and turns, whilst also telling you about the room's temperature, humidity, and ambient light levels. This can then achieve minor miracles like telling you down to the last minute when a baby will be waking up, when it should be fed, when it's going to poop, is the baby crying because it's too warm or cold and what time a small baby should go to sleep to get maximum hours of actual rest.
To all brand new parents who haven't slept for the last two months and are literally rushing to order this - hold on for a second. One, it's not out yet and two, the amount of wireless sensors this one uses may just be enough to fry the brains of a newborn baby and its delicate little head. There's no point having a well-rested baby with brains that have been radiated to nothingness.
An encyclopaedia of many more
There are of course many others that I will not be able to fit in here. A tweeting bra that sends off a tweet as soon as it's open; Shreddies are this awesome line of underwear that can process foul-smelling gases that you emit due to a 'state-of-the-art carbon panel' embedded at the right area; Intimacy is a line of clothing that can sense when you really 'like' someone and start getting increasingly transparent; Melon is an all-new mind reading headband that you have to wear all day and it can then help you focus better; Navigate is a jacket that uses haptic feedback as well as LED lights built into a very Michael Jackson-styled jacket that can guide you to your destination; Phyode W/Me is a new generation mood ring that tells you your emotional state by monitoring your autonomic nervous system (ANS); Scepter is a ring that holds all your electronic passwords and needs to be waved in front of your computer or smartphone to unlock them... I could go on and on.
There is no denying the fact that tech that you adorn is by far the most exciting new category in the word of gizmos and gadgets. It just needs a slight slowdown, a 'sit back and take a deep breath' approach, to reduce some of the awesomely ridiculous stuff that is being churned out in the name of wearable tech.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, December 15
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