So in the world where smartphones and tablets reign supreme, us technology junkies know that it doesn’t take much for today’s trends to become yesterday’s news. Considering this, I’d thought I’d look at the next potential trend on the horizon – Wearable Technology. How else could you make technology more integrated in everyday life!? Of course, by wearing it.
So this ‘next phase’ has already begun. With technologies most powerful players trying to get the biggest head start on the new phenomenon, an array of Wearable Technology has already entered the fray.
The topic on every tech-head’s lips at the moment is the hugely anticipated Google Glass. Now available in the UK through Google’s ‘Explore Program’, Goggle Glass literally allows you to see technology from a new perspective. Giving you the ability to take photos, tweet, search the web and much more through simple vocal commands – Google Glass is arguably the first real invention that could truly change the way humans function.
Currently in the form of the LG G, Samsung Gear and Moto 360 (out Summer 2014), Android Wear aims to revolutionise the humble wrist watch. Also fuelled by vocal command technology, Android Wear provides another way to use a plethora of Android apps on the move, without even having to take your phone out of your pocket. Competition from companies such as the Pebble Steel and the much anticipated iWatch lets us know that this craze may be around for a while to come.
Build for the purpose of personal fitness development, Fitbit offers a selection of products, designed to track your activity throughout the day. Whether it be how many steps you’ve done, how many calories you’ve burned or how well you’ve slept – Fitbit is there to collect all the data, and set goals towards making you a more physically efficient human being. Think of it as a Google Analytics for the body, without the worry of any cookie approvals (little web design joke there).
Earphone Mood Monitor
Tech giants Microsoft are currently working on project Septimu, a project aimed at manufacturing ear-buds that choose the music you hear dependent on your mood. “Capable of monitoring heart rate, temperature and other bio-rhythm”, the ear-buds will have the ability to connect to a mobile app called ‘Musical Heart’ that will be able to choose appropriate music in relation to the user’s mood. So when the user get’s angry over a altercation on the way to work, the ear-buds will select some soothing music to calm him or her down. Clever stuff no!?
Hug Simulation Jacket
The ‘T Jacket’ is a tablet-controlled jacket that aims to simulate a hug without human contact. Based on the ‘deep pressure theory’, a theory at promotes pressure (though the aid of air pockets in the jacket) as being soothing for children with ADD or autism, without any risk of distressing them with human interaction. Although the jacket is aimed at such children – it can also be used in a wider context, for children whose parents spend an extended amount of time away from home.
Students at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland USA have created a wearable defibrillator, aimed at users with heightened risks of heart attacks. Moving away from the large, blocked personal defibrillator designs that currently exist, the lightweight vest can be worn amongst everyday garments and sends a 200-joule shock to the patient when required. The Student’s prototype won a $10,000 prize in a competition and are continuing testing at the University’s Simulation Center.
Responsive Thermoelectric Bracelet
‘Wristify’ is a thermoelectric bracelet that sends pulses to the wrist, heating or cooling a person’s entire body. Designed to keep the user’s body temperature at a comfortable level, the bracelet monitors air and skin temperature to send hot and cold thermoelectric pulses dependant on the user and their environment. The prototype is intended to significantly reduce energy consumption in buildings by cooling the individuals, rather than the entire building.
Now a lot of these inventions (both existing and in the pipeline) are undeniably baffling and fascinating. It allows us to see a new perspective on how technology can integrate with our human lives, with the intention to improve what we already have. However, will it improve what we already have – or further complicate our lives with needless inventions that could do more harm than good?
The potential social implications
Interestingly, each of the inventions above sparked a strong reaction within myself. Reactions that were both hugely positive and negative. It’s safe to say that anything that can have a large effect on how we live is something that us humans hold close to our hearts, for obvious reasons.
For me, inventions such as the Fitbit, Earphone Mood Monitor and Wearable Defibrillator are inventions that don’t interfere with our lives, but set out to genuinely enhance it (maybe because I like running, music and people not having heart attacks!). Their intentions seem legitimate and add varying degrees value to the user respectively. After speaking to a few colleagues here however – you may not agree.
However – in my eyes, the other inventions carry (whether it be intentional or not) values that could be of detriment to our way of living. Whether it be the invasion of privacy (Google Glass), or the detachment of basic emotional needs (Hug Simulation Jacket) – some Wearable Technology has the power to effect the lives of people not using the technology, without any choice of their own. This is a social implication that will inevitably be addressed, if and when these technologies reach their commercial peaks.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this and other Wearable Technology, and whether or not you share the same muted scepticism as me!