When referring to wearable technology, fitness bands and smartwatches will undoubtedly pop up in most people’s minds. However, the scope of wearable technology is in fact much broader than that, and it has been around much longer than you probably realise. For example, digital hearing aids that were released in 1987 can also be considered a wearable. As component chips miniaturise, and display and communication technologies advance over the years, functionalities and gadgets combine in various ways that encourage the birth of modern day wearable technologies.
Miniaturization, Digitization and Convergence
Miniaturization and portability, wireless communications, power-efficient and advanced display technologies interrelate and fuse in a way that makes the increasing plethora of smart devices and wearable technologies possible. And by adding touch to display, it has opened a new area of human-technology interface, making it more user-friendly and easier to adopt wearable technology devices.
It started in the mid-1970s. Most portable electronic devices had a strap that hung around the neck. By the end of the decade, cameras, radios and even the Walkman had gotten smaller, cheaper and personal, creating the foundation for the consumer electronics industry. During this period as well, the digital revolution was also set in motion. Seiko introduced the first automatic quartz watch that used a rotating pendulum inside the case to recharge in 1969, and Casio created the first electronic wristwatch in 1974.
The first wearable
Although the first wearable glasses is nothing like the Google glasses, the eye glasses designed in 1286 aimed to increase clarity and enhance perception and the wearer’s experience of the world. Before the invention of the convex lens, those who were short-sighted had to find other methods to see clearer. For example, Nero, a Roman emperor, looked through an emerald to see the gladiator fights better.
Advancements and convergence in technology
Advances and converges in electronics, communications, computing and display have created the technologies possible in smart wearables today. These devices and technologies have revolutionalised the way people see, act and do things at home, work and play. And in the near future, it is likely to see the Internet of things in this mix as well. As the demand for wearable technologies increase and components are manufactured in bulk, this would create economies of scale and likely make the devices more pocket friendly.
Today, the demand for wearable devices has evolved, with smartwatches leading the pack. Apart from the cool functionalities that it can perform, the aesthetics of the device is of equal importance to consumers. At the 2014 Wearables Europe Event in London, the expert panelists unanimously agreed that before people know and understand the functions of the device, they should be desiring it. No matter how amazing a wearable gadget can be, it would just be a pile of junk if there is no demand for it. Much like the mBracelet, the first touchless payment device developed in 1999 by Studio 5050, that was 15 years ahead of its time.
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