Wearable technology is all over the tech news and the 2014 trends-to-watch lists.
The most hyped wearable technology at the moment seems to be Google Glass - a slim-line (somewhat geeky) pair of glasses that incorporates a camera that can record videos or take still pictures of what you see - hands free. You give it verbal instructions and it can perform a variety of tasks such as giving you directions, sending a message, connecting with someone, taking a picture, etc. Google Glass can also show you video images. This means you can overlay a picture with information over the real thing you are seeing - great for tourists who want to know more about what they are looking at. Google Glass can record what you see while you play a musical instrument or sport, helping you to improve your technique. This is just the next step though in wearable technology; we have been using some form or another of wearable technology for a while.
The original 'Swiss watch' may have been one of the earlier forms of modern technology that was worn. Originally, it was clipped to clothing (the pocket watch) and later worn around the wrist. Digital watches then became popular and new features were added to them, including calculators and displays for multiple time zones. As the availability of clock displays increased on walls, computers, tablets, smartphones and cellphones, the need for wearable watches decreased. Have you noticed that fewer people are wearing watches these days? The cycle seems to have run its course and what resembles a watch now may also display the wearer's blood pressure, pulse rate and other health information. This can be useful in a gym, but if the device can digitally record the information over time, it can also provide a record of information throughout the day. This turns the original idea of a watch into a sophisticated health device. Google is working on a contact lens that can monitor the wearer's blood sugar levels - especially useful for people who need to test their levels regularly throughout the day. These devices are of course only really useful if they can easily transfer the information they record to a computer or website that then uses the data to provide useful information to the user.
Other wearable technologies that are starting to be more prevalent with people who like to keep near the cutting edge, are:
• Smart jewellery, such as bracelets that can monitor your skin's ultraviolet exposure and earrings with a built-in bluetooth headset.
• Bluetooth-enabled toothbrushes that can let you know if you are brushing efficiently.
• Activity trackers, with more advanced smartphone features.
• Devices that monitor athletic performance and provide immediate feedback.
The next wave of developments in wearable technology may see collaboration between technology and fashion/design experts, as many of the current available products just do not seem that 'wearable'.
Submitted on 29 January 2014. First published on AfricaEducation.org.