#TECH­NOL­OGY Page 22

YOU CAN’T GO OUT IN THAT! A RUN­DOWN OF TO­MOR­ROW’S WEAR­ABLE TECH

Guru Magazine - - Con­tents - STU FAR­RI­MOND• SCI­ENCE GURU

Got your mo­bile phone and keys? Yep! Got your wal­let? Check! Digi-specs, smart­watch, and sweat-ac­ti­vated, il­lu­mi­nated sweater? Err... Wear­able tech­nol­ogy is soon to be­come a big­ger part of our lives. Here’s a run­down of four emerging tech­nolo­gies with our ‘whether you should re­ally wear it’ score.

It seems that Ap­ple are run­ning out of ideas. Loved for their abil­ity to charm the masses with beau­ti­ful and in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy, their iconic smart­phone is start­ing to look de­cid­edly less ex­cit­ing with each new ver­sion that ap­pears. A big­ger screen? Yes. A bet­ter cam­era and re­mod­elled case? Well, that goes with­out say­ing. A new fin­ger­print scanner and ‘ask-me-any­thing’ Siri? They’re re­ally only fun for about five min­utes. Put sim­ply: smart­phone cre­ativ­ity has plateaued. De­vel­op­ers know that it is time to di­ver­sify. Where next, then, for the pi­o­neer­ing Steve Jobs-wannabes of this world? Look­ing lat­er­ally, most pun­dits think that the next fron­tier in ‘smart’ tech­nol­ogy is in what we wear: watches you can talk to, glasses that can guide you, and un­der­wear that tells you when you’ve eaten too many dough­nuts. And while some of this wear­able tech prom­ises to be pretty neat, most of it sounds plain nuts. Here are four ex­am­ples of wear­able tech­nolo­gies that are worth watch­ing out for. Ex­pect to see them adorn­ing a body near you very soon…

Google Glass

Al­ways on the look­out to make our lives just that lit­tle bit more sci-fi – what with their self-driv­ing cars, space rock­ets and of­fice sleep pods – Google are now try­ing to make the in­ter­net just that bit more ac­ces­si­ble – by stick­ing it on the end of our nose. Her­alded by techies as some­thing we’ll all want, Google Glass is a pair of spec­ta­cles for peo­ple who don’t ac­tu­ally need them – a cun­ning bit of kit that pro­jects a dig­i­tal over­lay onto ev­ery­thing you see. Orig­i­nally de­signed by peo­ple with the all the fash­ion sense of a four­teen year old boy, they look de­cid­edly man-geek – al­though slightly less so af­ter a re­cent high-pro­file redesign. But it’s not just the im­age that needs work; it’s their func­tion­al­ity. If you can’t think of why you’d want a pair, then don’t worry – nei­ther can Google. They’re still try­ing to come up with de­sir­able uses for these digi-specs. Let’s be hon­est, the prospect of so­cial me­dia up­dates, GPS di­rec­tions and weather re­ports pop­ping up in your visual field aren’t the sorts of things that get the heart rac­ing. And the in-built eye-level cam­era and video record­ing fa­cil­ity may feel a lit­tle voyeuris­tic to some. At the mo­ment, it seems that Google Glass is one of those ini­tially point­less cre­ations that will ul­ti­mately end up be­com­ing quite use­ful. Af­ter all, who’d have thought just a few years ago that a third of us would be own­ing big, flat, touch­screen smart­phones that you can’t fit in your pocket*?

Sum­mary: Isn’t the world bet­ter with­out Face­book in your face?

‘Can’t wait for it’ rat­ing: 2.5/5

*Also known as tablet com­put­ers

Smart­watches

It wasn’t so very long ago that peo­ple were claim­ing that time was up for the wrist­watch. A sur­vey in 2011 showed that the ma­jor­ity of 16–34 year olds no longer used watches and were in­stead us­ing their smart­phones to tell the time. But the times could be chang­ing again: the 400 year-old cre­ation is set to make a come­back, thanks to smart­phone de­vel­op­ers look­ing to in­ject life into their stag­nat­ing brands. The idea is pretty straight­for­ward: squeeze the func­tion­al­ity of a smart­phone into a watch, à la Cap­tain Kirk’s wrist com­mu­ni­ca­tor from Star Trek. Yet, de­spite its hype, Sam­sung’s first smart­watch, the Galaxy Gear, was a rip-roar­ing fail­ure. Ugly, bulky, and with piti­ful bat­tery life, it was so aw­ful that nearly a third of peo­ple who bought one took it straight back to the store. Fun­da­men­tally, how­ever, smart­watches aren’t a ter­ri­ble idea. Aside from the time-saving fea­ture of not hav­ing to reach into your pocket to read your text mes­sages, an in­ter­neten­abled wrist­watch could ac­tu­ally be pretty use­ful. For ex­am­ple, a smart­watch could let you check the weather re­port, glance at your cal­en­dar or check so­cial me­dia up­dates. With­out doubt, the real beauty of a watch is its sim­plic­ity: all a wrist­watch does is tell the time. And that’s some­thing the de­vel­op­ers need to get right: a sim­ple but use­ful watch. No-one uses dig­i­tal cal­cu­la­tor wrist­watches anymore be­cause peo­ple never re­ally needed the cal­cu­la­tor any­way. Thank­fully, fu­ture smart­watches look set to do a bet­ter job that the Galaxy Gear: both Peb­ble and

Qual­comm have re­leased de­vices that are sim­ple, fairly at­trac­tive… and are good at telling the time.

Sum­mary: Prob­a­bly pretty use­ful pro­vid­ing they don’t have too many bells and whis­tles.

‘Can’t wait for it’ rat­ing: 4/5

Go faster socks and bra

The fastest grow­ing wear­able tech­nol­ogy seg­ment at the mo­ment is the per­sonal health and fit­ness niche. From a de­vel­oper’s view­point, fit­ness gear is a fairly safe bet: com­po­nents are rel­a­tively cheap and there is an es­tab­lished mar­ket of peo­ple who like to buy dig­i­tal pe­dome­ters and pulse rate watches. The newer, ‘smarter’ gen­er­a­tion of sports cloth­ing show­cases new ways of fus­ing tried and tested tech­nol­ogy into it. Take AiQ’s smart

fit­ness shirts, for ex­am­ple. These shirts are wo­ven with su­per-thin stain­less steel fi­bres and em­bed­ded with electrodes for record­ing heart rate, and will soon be able to mon­i­tor stress lev­els, fat con­tent and mus­cle strength in real time. Mean­while, Vivo­bare­foot have re­leased a smart

sock that analy­ses foot pres­sure and force, pace and stride length as you walk or run – feed­ing all the data to a smart­phone for anal­y­sis. Mi­crosoft have even patented a bra that takes an ECG heart trace while out and about. Per­haps the best thing about all this new fit­ness gear is that it is all ma­chine wash­able, so you needn’t feel guilty about get­ting sweaty in it.

Sum­mary:

Great for the hard­core fit­ness types.

‘Can’t wait for it’ rat­ing:

5/5 if you’re a fit­ness fan, 1/5 for every­one else.

Smart fash­ion wear

In a re­fresh­ing de­par­ture from all this man-cen­tric wear­able tech­nol­ogy comes a new wave of ‘smart’ fash­ion wear and jewellery that ac­tu­ally has a bit of style.

Sen­soree have re­cently un­veiled a de­cid­edly fu­tur­is­tic ‘ mood sweater’ that prom­ises to de­liver “ex­it­macy” (mean­ing “ex­ter­nalised in­ti­macy”). The sweater’s col­lar is em­bed­ded with LED lights that il­lu­mi­nate in a va­ri­ety of colours ac­cord­ing to the wearer’s ex­cite­ment lev­els. Hand sen­sors de­tect emo­tional state by mon­i­tor­ing skin sweati­ness so that the wearer’s feel­ings are pro­jected for the whole world to see (see side­box). De­signer Kristin Nei­dlinge says that the sweater’s il­lu­mi­nated col­lar “re­places speak­ing, [by mak­ing] the wearer’s truths in­stantly ex­pressed with colour”. It has the mak­ings of fun on a night out, but you def­i­nitely won’t want to be wear­ing it to work. Fi­nally, no 21st Cen­tury out­fit would be com­plete with­out ac­ces­sories. ‘ Beauty Tech’, a fledg­ing brand set up by com­puter sci­ence stu­dent Ka­tia Vega, of­fers just that. She is cre­at­ing ‘con­duc­tive’ make-up and false fin­ger­nails that have minia­turised elec­tro­mag­netic com­po­nents em­bed­ded within them. The plan is that di­vas will be able to click a fin­ger or wink to turn on a light, or buy their gro­ceries with a wag­gle of their thumb. And for the more con­ser­va­tive dresser, there’s ‘ Ring’, a Blue­tooth-en­abled metal ring that lets you op­er­ate all your elec­tronic equip­ment – and even make shop­ping pay­ments – with fin­ger ges­tures.

Sum­mary: And with a click of a fin­ger I can make the rab­bit dis­ap­pear.

‘Can’t wait for it’ rat­ing: 3/5

Dr Stuart Far­ri­mond (Doc­tor Stu) orig­i­nally trained as a med­i­cal doc­tor be­fore de­cid­ing to branch out into lec­tur­ing. He drinks too much cof­fee, eats ice cream and has a bizarre love of keep­ing fit. You can check out Doc­tor Stu’s blog at re­al­doc­torstu.com.

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