There was a time, not long ago, when advanced wearable technology was more Star Trek than stocking filler, but it looks like when Christmas rolls around this year and next there could be a lot of intelligent accessories under the tree.
Samsung is launching its Galaxy Gear on 4 September in Berlin, it may sound like something you pick up down a dark alley, but it’s actually a smartwatch.
Details about the device have been leaking faster than surveillance programmes on Edward Snowden’s iPad - we know it will run on Android, have Twitter and Facebook integration, be able to make phone calls and have ten hours of battery life.
We know it will look something like this:
We also know, that it will beat other major smartwatch launches - such as Apple's iWatch - to the punch line.
This is by no means the first smart watch to be released, the kickstarter-funded Pebble watch has gained plenty of attention but Samsung is the first of the big tech companies to release its 'next generation' connected watch, and it’s expected to start a wave of releases which will push the boundaries of the smartwatch.
Which brings us to...
The iWatch has been hotly anticipated, following Apple's filing for the ‘iWatch’ trademark in July, and Tim Cook’s comments that wearables are ‘incredibly interesting’. Some have even speculated whether Apple, who has suggested it won’t launch the product until 2014, will reveal it at its 10 September iPhone launch – in a Jobsian ‘one more thing’- type twist. Anything not to be too far behind its Korean rivals.
Apple Smart Shoe
Apple is also reportedly working on computerised shoes. Thanks to a patent applied for in January of this year, we know they are looking into ‘smart shoe’ systems which feature sensors that tell you when you need to replace the shoes (although MT would rather trust its own judgement in that department than fork out for new shoes because Apple tells it to).
Then there’s the wearable we all know about...
We've all seen Google Glass at this point (you may even know that Google founder Sergey Brin has left his wife for Google Glass’ marketing manager). While some lucky folks (or unlucky, depending on how much you like wearing odd headgear), have had the Glass since the summer, it is expected to launch properly in 2014.
Google Glass has thus far been the reserve of Google founders, geeky early adopters and journos intrepid enough to give them a go. But the technology recently got the coveted nod of approval from fashion bible Vogue, in its September issue. Well, if Anna Wintour says it's chic, it must be.
These are just a few of the high profile ‘wearables’ coming to market soon. But there are some other incredibly interesting concepts out there which have had less attention.
Here’s a few:
1. FIDO project
Remember ‘Up’, the feature length tearjerker featuring dogs with a collars which gave them human voices? Well, that concept isn’t a million miles away from reality. FIDO project, or Facilitating Interaction for Dogs with Occupations (catchy) has created a computerised waistcoat which dogs can use to send messages to humans by biting, tugging or nose gestures.
The message would then be transmitted through voice activation or to a person’s Google Glass headwear. It is designed for use by guide dogs or bomb sniffing dogs.
‘The FIDO team ... created four different sensors that dogs could activate (based on biting, tugging, and nose gestures) and tested them on-body with three assistance-trained dogs,’ said Clint Zeagler, a member of the FIDO research team.
‘We were able to demonstrate that it is possible to create wearable sensors that dogs can reliably activate on command.’
2. Smart nappy
A New York startup called Pixie Scientific has created a nappy (diaper if you must), which detects things like urinary tract infections, kidney dysfunctions and dehydration in babies.
The nappy is connected to a smartphone app which gives you an update on your babies health based on its urine content. No doubt it can also alert you when the baby needs changing, which is a function you would hopefully need more often.
3. Social networking clothes
Those who feel bereft of the in-depth conversations which occurred between friends before social media gave everyone the attention span of a gnat, look away now.
Ping, is a social media ‘garment’ which connects the wearer to their social media accounts. You activate the clothing by moving it, lifting the hood, zipping, tying a bow etc. All of these movements allow you to respond to social media interactions.
You need never open a laptop or look at a phone to stay on top of your social networks again.