Saturday, May 4, 2013

Five crazy potential developments in Wearable Tech

I've been thinking a lot about new technology and where it is heading as I spent the last two weeks working on the next book in my SciFi series "Socialite". Part of the challenge of writing these books is determining where technology will be in ten or twenty years. One type of device that is sure to see an explosion in development over the next few years is wearable tech. 

Wearable tech is just beginning to gain momentum. Of course there is Google glass - the odd looking eyeglasses that will take a picture when you wink among other things. Nike, Motorola and many other companies have bracelets that monitor your heart rate and track your fitness progress in miles or reps. There are also clip-on pedometers and things you stuff in your shoe. One aspect of these technologies I don't like is that they are add-ons - something else you have to remember to grab as you race to pick up the kids or catch the train. We already have too much to remember to take with us. Wearable tech, for the most part is something else we'll forget at home and get annoyed with over time.

Often these devices don't even look appealing. For example, I hate the look of the Google Glass - I bet they made it so weird as a form of advertisement for Google. I appreciate the technology, but wish they designed it to be non-obtrusive, blending in with existing glasses, still functional, but not so much … in your face.

The same goes for the bracelets, watches, belt clips. Why not make the tech a part of the items we already wear?

To that end, I propose 5 Wearable Tech devices that make your life easier by being part of your regular wardrobe.

1. The techie tie

I guess it could also be a techie scarf, but for now we'll stick with the businessman's tie. It looks just like a regular tie, comes in a variety of styles and colours. Its large surface area is perfect for a faintly lit, touch activated bluetooth keyboard to appear on its surface. Even if you don't want another keyboard, you'll still appreciate the huge storage capacity of the battery that occupies the immense volume of the tie's interior. Who wouldn't want a readily available backup power source - plug in your smartphone and recharge!

2. Mood tuque

It monitors the heat rising from your head and your movements to assess your moment to moment mood. You can set it to change colour based on your mood or to send updates to Twitter when your mood changes. Integrated GPS could result in posts like, "I am hot and bothered at the 1st Ave Dairy Queen." Sure to generate a following!

3. Locator Belt

Belts are a part of everyone's wardrobe. And like a tie, they have a big surface area and volume to exploit. Belts also wrap around the person, making them ideal to be used as a locator. Currently companies like Hitachi and Murata offer Radio tags (RFID tags) small enough to be placed on almost anything. Imagine embedded tags in your keys, your wedding ring, the television remote. Tell the Locator Belt that you can't find your keys and the portion of the belt closest to the keys vibrates, orienting you in the right direction. Get closer to the tag, and it vibrates faster.

4. Sniffer shirt

Not only is it embarrassing when you realize that your deodorant didn't last the whole day, it's annoying for everyone around you when you don't realize it. "Nose Tech" is currently used mostly for explosive and drug detection in places like airports but as all tech is trending toward miniaturization it shouldn't take long for manufacturers to devise a shirt with integrated sensors for moisture and unpleasant odours in the underarm area. A text sent to your phone that says, "YOU ARE RIPE!" will help you avoid becoming a water-cooler gossip topic.

5. Porous Pants

Imagine you are at a tense meeting in a hot stuffy boardroom craving relief from the heat. Press an inconspicuous button on your pants and instantly the pant fibres expand slightly, allowing more airflow to reach the skin on your legs. This may not be too far fetched. Piezoelectric polymers that respond to electricity by expanding or contracting have been around for decades. PVDF, for example, is extensively used in sensors and other electronic devices, and is manufactured in all shapes and sizes, including as fine threads. Pants integrating such fibres could put airflow manipulation under user control. While everyone else swelters during stressful negotiations, you would be cool, calm and in total control.

Bonus #6 - Smart Purse

Actually, I'd be shocked if no one already thought of this. Most women carry their purses everywhere so it's an obvious choice for integrating many of the features that I listed above. Purses should include a backup power source that charges the phone sitting within. It could also display a full keyboard when desired like the techie tie. It should do GPS linked instant Twitter postings like, "Hey, I'm chilling at Starbucks!" Its 3-D shape would be ideal for multi-dimensional locator functions - pick up your purse, press a button and it leads you to your keys! With all of these functions, the man-purse might finally become a must have item as well.

So the possibilities really are endless for the future of wearable tech. What would you like to see on store shelves in the near future?

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