To Wear Our Emoticons on Our Sleeves: Innovations of Smart Watches, Google Glass, and Other Wearables

People have always challenged the word, “No”. It’s human nature to reject impossibility and innovate to achieve what can’t be done. Mankind saw birds take to the air and he built wings to follow them. When he didn’t have the strength to fly he designed engines and propellers to pull him through the air. When those planes took him away he built a phone so he talk to the people he left behind, and when he needed that phone to do more while sitting in his pocket, he built the smart accessory.

While smart accessories, or wearables, are gaining popularity, they’re nothing new. Computerized accessories and clothing have been around for decades, but with recent technology, companies are seeing incredible possibilities. Google Glass has allows users to capture video and share content with unprecedented ease. The public has been talking about this unique gadget since it was revealed for the first time, but not everyone is happy about the possibilities it carries. Businesses that may be negatively affected by recording technology such as sports arenas, concert venues, movie theaters, and casinos have banned the device. Places where Google Glass represents a privacy concern like hospitals, banks and ATMs, locker and dressing rooms, and gentleman’s clubs have also added it to their list of banned items. Naturally, using Google Glass while driving represented a concern and so in many places, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while wearing it.

Smart watches are another wearable that has drawn enormous attention, but the idea of a wrist-communicator is nothing new. Science Fiction stories have included them for years, and a wrist-radio can even be seen in the January 13, 1946 issue of Dick Tracey, when the famous comic detective uses one to communicate with other members of police. Like the personal jetpack and driverless car, the wrist communicator is shifting from science fiction to reality, and fitness fans couldn’t be happier. Fitness represents a major use for smart accessories, as smart watches can allow users to track their heart rate, running speed, and location without having to remove their phone from their pocket. Manufacturers recognized this application for smart watches very early on and have targeted the devices towards athletes ever since. While independent smart watches are still somewhat impractical, it won’t be long before users can limit themselves to just one wearable for all their mobile needs.

Some smart accessories are designed as part of a system that can integrate with the user more effectively than just one independent device. Smart wristbands, glasses, necklaces, and rings are being designed to connect with the user’s phone and show notifications. This can allow people to stay updated in a more discrete manner than when they’re required to pull their phones out.

Intelligent wearable technology isn’t limited to checking snapping selfies, tracking fitness, and staying connected on social media. Oxford University is working on a wearable that actually allows blind people to see. It’s a pair of smart glasses that captures images of the user’s surroundings, and simplifies them into clear black and white outlines. This allows people with severe visual impairment to maximize their remaining ability to see and recognize objects. Other devices, which use surgically implanted microchips that sync with a glasses-mounted camera, stimulate optic nerves to offer results for people that are completely blind.

People have always challenged the word, “No”. When faced with the limitations of the human body, we use our minds to adapt, and create tools to do the impossible. Wearables can allow mankind to connect with ease, capture constant video, and even allow blind people to see. Wearables are the next step in integrating computers with mankind, but each new leap forward offers as many questions as possibilities. Although there will always be negative implications, technology like smart accessories open doors to bigger and better things.

 

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