So much have changed since the invention of the computer. After decades of developments computers have become smaller, more powerful and more efficient. Present day computers do not require large spaces and can now be carried in a bag or a pocket. Who would have thought  that same technology that we see in movies and TV will become reality. Wearable computers and other wearable technology are being introduced  slowly into our daily computing lives. Although we are still far from having hover boards, self drying jackets, power lacing shoes and the Flux Capacitor, different technologies are being made as fast as we blink our eyes. At present wearable technology is one of the most prolific trend in the technology industry today. From wrist-watch sized activity-tracking bands to Google Glass and the resurgence of virtual reality through Oculus Rift, many tech giants are getting involved  in many ways.

Steve Mann and the development of his wearable headset. Image courtesy of www.wired.com

Steve Mann and the development of his wearable headset. Image courtesy of www.wired.com

History Of Wearable Technology

Did you know that the concept of wearable computing devices are from individuals who wants to cheat at casinos? These clever inventors created the first variant in the 60s and 70s to count cards and make the gambler’s chances higher at the cards or roulette table. Pretty neat, but at the same time, kind of sinister. Let’s take a brief look on the history of wearable tech.

Wearable technology is not something new as mentioned earlier. It has its roots with gamblers wanting to cheat at the casinos. With other advancements in technology at that time, the concept has been refined over the following decades. The definition of wearable technology also has evolved over time just like how Smartphones are defined today. Most wearable technologies involved head-mounted displays and wrist-mounted user interfaces like normal wristwatches. Current wearable computers are no longer confined to the so called super geeks, but are going mainstream as proven by Google Glass, and return of virtual reality and the introduction of smart watches today’s wearable technology’s UI is not just for mobile computing, but it can also offer other functions like navigation, research, learning and other accessibility options. Present day wearable computers are more powerful. More compact and more efficient, plus they possess a wider range of of features and more convenient to wear and use. It also features better displays, longer batteries, enhanced processors and excellent I/O systems.

infographic history of wearable technology. Image courtesy of mashable.com

Infographic history of wearable technology. Image courtesy of mashable.com

The 80s is the decade where pioneering wearable computers really took off. In 1981, a multimedia computer was designed to be worn and used as a backpack research and inventor Steve Mann. Toe-operated computers were introduced and commercialized in 1983 which was based on the Z-80s that was used for counting cards. During the late 80s and early 90s, a head mounted display called the private eye created and released by Reflection technology. It has a red monochrome display with a resolution of 720×280 pixels and using a 1.25 inch screen. The calculator watch was born during this decade and it was the most widely used wearable technology at the time.

In the 90s, the first student electronic notebook that featured a mobile IP and Private Eye was demonstrated. It used a Toshiba disk-less AIXprototype computer notebook and features a TCP/IP band service, a virtual keyboard, NFS mounted file systems and stylus-based input. 1993 saw the development of a wearable computer system that uses a Private Eye display and a Twiddler chording keyboard. The system eventually evolved into the MIT Tin Lizzy wearable computer design. In the same year, the Pathfinder system. A wearable computer that has a radiation detection  system and global positioning system. 1994 introduced the “Forget-Me-Not”, a wearable computer that has the ability to continuously record interactions with people and other devices.

How Google Glass works. Image courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk

How Google Glass works. Image courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk

The early years of the new millennium was not as productive as the previous decades if we speak about wearable technology. There were no major milestones, but still, there were few systems created in pursuit of developing wearable technology further. The Tinmith wearable computer was introduced. It’s a system that was created to support research and augmented reality. In 201, the Poma wearable PC was introduced, but it did not find any commercial success. 2003 saw the release of the Fossil wrist PDA that runs on Palm OS4. It features MicroUSB sync to any PC. In 2009 the Glacier computer was released and was designed to run on either the Linux OS or Windows CE.

By 2010, the 6th Gen iPod nano was released and it came with a wristwatch attachment which enables the device to be worn as a wearable tech. Smart watches were also gaining momentum and are now being established as a new segment in consumer electronics. Then came Google Glass and the resurgence of virtual reality through Oculus Rift. Goggle Glass and the Oculus Rift are both game changers thus big names in electronics are going back to the drawing and started creating their own versions of the two technologies.

Are We Ready For Wearable Technology?

Some people say yes, but some experts say no. It will also depend on the perspective of different people, its intended use and application. Exoskeletons, bionic limbs and other artificial body parts are can be classified as wearable technology. Exoskeletons have been studied and further improve in helping individuals with physical impairments and injuries, especially ones with physical motor issues. Limbs with electrical sensors that detect normal muscle movements are already in use today in helping people to cope and go back to their normal routine using their hi-tech limbs. For years, the military has developed wearable technology in enhancing their capabilities in the field and enhancing their abilities to perform any tasks assigned to them.  Attack helicopter pilots have been using specialised helmets that help them point and target by just moving their head to the intended target. Modern fighter jet pilots also have a specialised display on their visors for targeting and other in flight functions and tasks.

An F-35 helmet with mounted display system. Image courtesy of defence.pk

An F-35 helmet with mounted display system. Image courtesy of defence.pk

If we talk about the fashion side of it, it’s not as good as it seems. Most wearable technology that is tied to fashion are as bad as Griff Tannen’s  fashion sense. Wearable technology may be the future, but not anyone is that much interested especially in its current form. There was a report stating that 1 in 10 of people are not prepared to use wearable technology in its current form. The current form may make someone look like an uber dork, a douche or a fashion disaster. Google Glass is a very noble idea, but none will caught wearing one in public. It’s just like wearing a Bluetooth headset all the time. It can make anyone look silly. Sensoree, a company that has produced a so called “mood sweater” change colors depending on how the wearer feels. This sweater will make anyone look like a walking lava lamp. Sony has a patent for a smart wig, this will come in handy if you’re a spy, but if you’re on a date. It’s a total disaster because it has a laser that can go off and blind your date and a hidden camera to record how the date is crumbling.

The Sensoree mood sweater. Image courtesy of www.verimatrix.com

The Sensoree mood sweater. Image courtesy of www.verimatrix.com

Wearable Technology If Applied To Business

If applied to a corporate IT management, business and enterprise applications, the approach will be different. As businesses take the lead in delivering needed products and services with wearable technology, they have to level up their strategy and game to make sure that the wearable technology will meet the consumers expectations and needs. Wearable technology should enhance the customer experience, but with its current state, it will also add another layer of things that can possibly go wrong. This will surely annoy many customers. Wearable technology is transitioning from an interesting and eye catching new technology to a technology that businesses and customers can rely on. Just imagine how cell phones have become since its introduction up until todays smartphone. What was once a highly anticipated and amazing technology is now very common and somehow take for granted. This will the fate of wearable technology once it becomes successful and part of anyone’s daily life. Data security and hackers are still the biggest threats. As wearable technology evolves, it will be smaller but more complex. The more complex the device is, the harder for it to be secured. IT should proactively work with the pioneering businesses to better understand the devices for deployment and its intended use. This will speed up the development of the technology, understand the what technologies are mission critical, knowing the failure levels and the risk involved.

Image courtesy of www.verimatrix.com

Image courtesy of www.verimatrix.com

We can say that the market is not yet ready for wearable technology. For it to be accepted, it should be more transparent, have a good design and function well. Wearable technology should combine form and function without making anyone look like a walking lava lamp.

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.