Imagine a world where the internet can be consumed while walking down the street, where your car or phone only unlocks for you, where a snap of your fingers is all it takes to pause a movie when you get up to go to the bathroom. It’ll be a better world, a more convenient world – a more digital world. That’s the world of wearable electronics.
Technology is becoming more and more integral to our everyday lives. People can’t leave their homes without some kind of connection to the internet, be it from their smartphones, or even their new car, with many new models coming with GPS and traffic reports integrated in the dashboard. It’s getting harder to separate the real from the virtual, and while some may view this as a bad thing, the applications for this can be endless.
Take augmented reality, which sees smartphones and other devices equipped with cameras take real world cues and locations and use them as triggers for information delivery. Soldiers can receive real-time strategic information, and business owners can advertise their shops virtually. Really, when the concept takes off, computer screens may no longer be needed. A new layer of connectivity may not be as bad a thing as people claim, but could, in time, bring people closer together.
In recent years, the announcements of products like Google Glass and smart watches have made wearable electronics a topic of conversation among everyday consumers, and much more popular and accessible. Research and development of these new technologies has become a top priority for tech companies and a fashion statement for anyone else keeping track of them.
An idea that started out as t-shirts that mimicked instruments has quickly spiralled into an everyday, functional part of normal attire. Radio-frequency identification implants, light-up tattoos, and gloves with phone receivers in the fingers are all examples of how technology is being integrated into the things we wear. While there's no telling what the future holds, we can say with some confidence that the devices on this list will be influential on whatever comes next.
Here are some of the more exciting offerings from the world of wearable electronics.
5 iOptik Contact Lenses – Comparable to Regular Contact Pricing
The problem that most companies face in developing augmented reality products is that the eye is unable to see objects that are very near to it, such as anything placed between the eye and traditional eyewear. Innovega seems to have solved this problem. Their iOptik contact lens enhances the wearer's natural vision with microscopic optical elements, allowing wearers to clearly see and switch focus between a presented digital image and the real world.
It uses two filters to achieve this effect: the center filter, located in the middle of the pupil, lets the light from the digital display through, but defocuses and then blocks light from the environment. The outer filter, located around the center filter, lets light from the surrounding environment through. This allows the wearer to see, in detail, images that are both very near and very distant from the eye. The iOptik is to be used in tandem with other augmented reality eyewear, and consumers will also be able to get them with a prescription.
4 Google Glass - $1,500
Google Glass is augmented reality eyewear. It allows the wearer to view digital information in real-time, right in front of their eyes, without obscuring their natural view. By connecting to an Android phone or an iPhone via Bluetooth, Google Glass gives the wearer many of the best Google products, such as translations and GPS, without them having to lift a finger.
The device features a Siri-like voice-control system and has touch-control on the headset, as well as an HD-capable screen and a 5MP camera capable of capturing video in 720p, which can then be uploaded to the internet. It even allows the wearer to share live video of what they’re watching with friends and family, and with voice commands it is able to respond to text messages or emails. The only drawback is that the display can only show one image at a time.
3 Nymi - $79
Nymi is a wristband that uses the wearer’s unique heartbeat to authenticate identity. Like fingerprints, heart beats are unique, but are rarely used for identification purposes due to the difficulty of isolating them. With Nymi, devices such as phones, computers, and even cars, can be unlocked just by the wearer being in proximity. Those worried about theft can rest easy knowing that the Nymi offers a triple-layer system to maximize security.
The first is the wearer’s heartbeat, which is different for every individual. The second is the wristband itself. Should the consumer take it off, it will need to be synced again to be put back on. This ensures security because, although others could potentially still wear it, the Nymi will only unlock devices when the heartbeat of the wearer and the one in its memory match. The third is an “authorized authentication device”, such as a phone, enabled with the Nymi app. The device is registered in the app, meaning to gain control of the device someone would need the Nymi and the phone – which can only be unlocked by the Nymi’s user’s heartbeat.
2 MYO Armband - $149
Thalmic Lab’s MYO armband is a gesture and movement control armband that can be used to interact with phones, computers, and other digital devices. It is worn around the forearm and can detect changes in the wearer’s muscle movement, as well as its own movement through space, to perform tasks. Consumers can, for example, pause a movie by snapping their fingers, or scroll through images with a wave of their hand.
It does this using multiple sensors inside the armband to detect the speed and angle at which the consumer’s arm is moving, and also recognizes multiple hand gestures based on the muscle activity inside the forearm. The consumer just needs to connect it to their devices via Bluetooth and they’re ready to get started. The applications can extend from watching a movie with no need of a remote, to adding another layer of immersion to video games.
1 Neurowear Neurocam - Price TBA
For all the lifebloggers out there who are tired of carrying around their cameras, the Neurowear Neurocam will soon be at your rescue. The Neurocam is a headset camera system that detects the wearer’s emotions and captures moments they find interesting. The Neurowear team developed an algorithm to determine interest based on a scale from 0 to 100, allowing the device to work in tandem with the consumer’s smartphone, which attaches to the headset. It then analyzes the brainwaves detected by the sensor at the front and determines the interest value.
Any moment with an interest value above 60 is recorded into five second GIF files, with a timestamp and location, and is then saved on the phone to be viewed at a later time. There is also a manual mode for anyone that wants to record longer videos or take pictures. The main drawback is its awkward aesthetic, making a sleeker redesign a hopeful feature to come. The device is still technically a prototype, so no pricing options have been revealed.