Wearable computing: straps, hugs, belly-wraps

aNewDomain.net – Google Glass isn’t the first attempt at wearable computing, but it stems from some of the earliest forays into wearable tech. The origin of Google Glass dates back to 1994, when MIT student Thad Starner strapped a bulky wearable computer to his head so he could take better notes. At the time, Starner told the Boston Globe that he developed the device because he was spending $20,000 on an education and not remembering a lot of it.

Wearable computing – where tech becomes a part of our person, leaving hands free – has been a long-time dream of gadget enthusiasts dating back to the 1970s. Pulsar and Hamilton Watch sold a handful of calculator watches in the late 70’s. By 1985, Casio’s Databank calculator watch was the market leader. It was not only a calculator, but stored appointments, names, addresses and phone numbers. An upgrade to eData had even greater memory and could store passwords.

Nearly 30 years later, the Pebble watch – started as a Kickstarter project – performs many of the same functions found in that early Casio eData watch. Strapped to your wrist, the Pebble is mainly a small screen that wirelessly connects to your smart phone to receive emails, reminders and much more.

Most wearable computing today integrates with the smartphone, which provides the network infrastructure and takes the burden off the device – so designers don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Want to give a hug from across the globe? The hug shirt lets you give someone a squeeze with a few swipes on your smartphone. The shirt is embedded with sensors that “feel the strength of the touch, the skin warmth and the heartbeat rate of the sender and actuators that recreate the sensation of touch, warmth and emotion of the hug to the shirt of the distant loved one.” If it seems trivial and even a waste of resources, remember that the Internet was designed to distribute essential U.S. data in multiple locations in the event of a thermonuclear attack. So using the hug shirt to give someone a hug and a squeeze isn’t the worst you can do with it.

Gopad Wearable Computing

Finally, there are the low-tech straps, mounts and pockets.

The GoPad mounts a tablet to your belly so you can input data with both hands.

Think no pocket is large enough for a Dell XPS 10 Tablet? This suit by Mohan’s has a pocket breast large enough for even the largest portable gadget.

big pocket in sports jacket

A lot has changed since 1994. $20,000 will only cover half a year of education at MIT, not including room and board. And wearable computing is closer to a reality for most tech junkies.

Thad Starner is now a professor at Georgia Tech and a leader in the Google Glass project.

Dino Londis
Based in New York, Dino Londis is an IT veteran, an alum of The National Lampoon and a senior technologist at aNewDomain.net. Contact him at [email protected]
Dino Londis
Dino Londis
Tags: Downtime,Gadgets & Devices