can wear your heart on your sleeve. Why not your
a burgeoning trend that has captivated Silicon Valley, a
mind-boggling array of "wearable electronics"
has begun to arrive, not just at a website or clothing
outlet near you, but on an arm, a face, a wrist and even
a pinkie finger.
recognizing that techís next great, innovating chapter
is more practical and intimate use of computing power in
our everyday lives," said Scot Herbst with San
Jose, Calif.-based design firm Herbst Produkt. "And
that means not having to reach into your pocket, grab
your phone and put in a password. Itís all about
making computers more organic in their interaction with
on to your hats, which also happen to be undergoing
digital makeovers of their own with things like
snowboard helmets decked out with a pair of $599 Oakley
Airwave goggles with GPS and streaming audio. From Appleís
rumored iWatch to Googleís in-the-works eyeglass-like
"Glass" ($1,500 for an early pilot version) to
tech-embedded clothing from Uniqlo that uses the bodyís
evaporating moisture to heat knee-high socks that cost
about $13 a pair, the wearable digital revolution is
trend is gaining momentum because the cost of chips,
along with sensors like gyroscopes and heat- and
light-sensing devices, has dropped dramatically,"
said analyst Avi Greengart, research director for
consumer devices at Current Analysis.
knows firsthand the wonderful allure of this wearable
technology. Greengart uses it himself.
a lot of bleeding-edge tech, these things work," he
said. "I have a Fitbit, which is a little clip you
put on your belt, and itís a glorified pedometer. But
it does much more, and it makes it easy for me to see
how much physical activity Iíve had during the day,
for example, and that motivates me to exercise even
army of engineers, fashion designers, futurists and
gadget geeks is hard at work, trying to extend the reach
of computing power along those precious few inches from
pocket and purse to forearms and ears.
Intel Labs, user-experience researcher Cory Booth said
his team is looking even beyond that, "past the
near-term fascination with specific locations on the
body, like the wrist, to a more long-term view. We see
an entire new ecosystem of devices that will multiply
over time and interact with one another."
of these gadgets will simply piggyback on the muscular
computing prowess available in the cloud, said Mike
Roberts, an engineer with PARC, a Xerox-founded
research-and-development center in Palo Alto, Calif.
take the mountain of input from your device, crunch it,
and immediately suggest ways for you to, say, improve
your athletic performance.
talked about one very human application of wearable
technology, a beta version of a head-mounted computer
that PARC worked on with Motorola Solutions. It connects
a user in the field ó say, a sailor trying to fix a
broken generator on a naval ship ó with an expert
thousands of miles away.
remote collaboration enables the expert to help someone
in the field solve a complicated problem in real
time," Roberts said. "The helmetís video
camera captures the generator, then the expert takes
stills from the video and annotates them to show the guy
which bolts to remove to fix the generator. This gives
you expert advice anywhere in the world, and itís all
time, experts say, consumers will be dazzled by an
assortment of electronic gear woven into their clothing,
strapped to their limbs, wrapped as thin membranes over
their fingers, or hung from their belts. Challenges with
wearable tech abound, from harnessing enough computing
power onto ultrathin devices like pieces of tape to
persuading average consumers to wear silly-looking
glasses and bulky watches without "nerding them
out" too much. As futurist Paul Saffo puts it,
"Iím convinced the Segway failed because no
matter who drove it, they looked like a dork."
tech toys are one thing, but merging them with fashion
raises all sorts of issues for designers. Said Saffo,
"Wearable technology is absolutely the way weíre
heading, but the secret is how designers work out the
details. The genius of Apple is that itís a fashion
company that also does tech. Look at the iPhone ó itís
a beautiful polished talisman, even when itís just
Edson, president of San Francisco-based design firm
Lunar, said that with the proliferation of these
devices, "my smartphone becomes just the collector
of all the data coming from the sensors Iíve got on
me. Like the swipe and pinch features on the iPad, weíre
just starting to scratch the surface of things we can do
said test audiences seem to love wearing the devices his
firm has worked on with BodyMedia. "Some of these
tools help users achieve weight loss through a wearable
sensor," he said. "They have really proven
algorithms that can clearly and accurately tell you
about your calorie burn, just by wearing a device that
tracks a few different body metrics."
road ahead will undoubtedly be littered with the
detritus of wearable electronics that consumers will
refuse to wear. But engineers and designers will keep
throwing ideas against the wall until something sticks.
got the iPhone," said PARCís Mike Kuniavsky,
"then you got the apps, and now the apps are
jumping off the screen and becoming devices you can