Wearable Tech

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Wearable Technology - The Intelligent Body // IMedia 2014 // Suzanna Melinn + Gavan Duffy

Wearable Technology is the implementation of advanced electronic technologies into designs which can be worn on the human body. These can take the form of clothing or devices which are designed to react, interact, log and augment the way we carry out our daily lives.



In the coming year of 2014, there are industry estimates that predict that over 100 million wearable technology units will be sold worldwide and the market growth will reach around 12 billion U.S dollars. The considerable push by technology companies to involve themselves in the wearable tech sector is a strong indicator that technology and design is somewhat catching up to the outlandish science fiction iconography that we dismissed as futile in previous decades. The integration is such that in terms of the Internet we are always ‘on’, always available and always connected. In terms of predicting the evolution of consumer technology, we need not look outward but inward toward ourselves. Our once private and intimate sphere is becoming integrated with technology and wearable technology, which integrates with our clothing is imminent.

In this desire to augment our everyday experiences there has been a conceived shift in which technology is migrating from its stagnant position on our desks to the physical body itself. As our digital life increasingly encroaches on our personal space, it seems only natural that the physical space between people and computers dissolve and the separation between biology and technology would be indistinguishable.

In the future constant connectivity and ubiquitous computing in our cities and homes will provide systems and environments controlled by wearable technology that is responsive and rich with feedback. Our bodies are our chief method of interaction, they are the interface with which we experience the world around us. This new digital frontier of wearable computing means that our primary interface will now be mediated through a high tech wearable toolbox. Data collected from numerous techniques such as tracking to biometrics will create a personalized milieu that will aid in areas from fitness and health to communication and assistive technologies.



The recent trend in wearable technology in the sports sector is heavily focused on capturing the data and analytics that is produced by the body and capturing or storing that as a means for personal logging. These somewhat hidden parametrics that we carry out in our daily lives are now being captured by a series of smart devices with built in sensors for tracking. Such technologies including heart rate monitors, pedometers, accelerometers and various other counters have been introduced which give the an augmented understanding and awareness of their daily activities. This feedback is then being used in numerous ways by the companies to create a motivational or monitoring mentality to its users, in which they hope to change habits and patterns promoting a healthier more active lifestyle. Furthermore at the professional level of sports this data is being utilized to improve performance and player welfare.

Nike Fuel Band

The Nike Fuel Band’s key function is the setting of a daily goal. The Fuel Band highlights the movement and activity of the body throughout the day that we don’t usually recognize. It provides visual feedback in the form of calories burned, steps taken and sleep patterns. Its key concept and driving force is the motivational or competitive psychology behind your created data which allows you to compare yourself with other sports enthusiasts or friends. It provides visual data through its phone and computer app to let you know when you are most active during each day, week, month and year and where you have been most active. It is in effect a sort of ‘Life logging’. Its further motivational features are called Streaks where these are badges earned for successive goals being reached. You must complete your daily goal or Fuel target to be able to continue your streak. Through connecting to your phone or computer you gain a deeper experience of your data, see what friends are doing and share your progress.


Jawbone Up

The Jawbone 'Up' is a further step in data tracking and life-logging. The 'Up' reveals patterns and habits throughout your daily routine which gives you the feedback to alter those hindering habits. This wearable tracks everything from your daily exercise, tracking your food through barcode scanning and even tracking your sleep patterns so you can notice what areas you can focus on for your benefit and improvement. it even notices when you are idle for too long . . . . . there is no escaping!


Catapult Sports

GPS tracking and biometric data feedback have crept their way into main stream sporting arenas combining sophisticated software and real time player analytics to provide key performance data. This data captures player performance to help with improving or maintaining levels of fitness or equally recognizing when a player is fatiguing or has a potential problem. The data can consist of distance traveled, speed, acceleration and heart rate but to name a few.





Radiate Athletics

Developing on from the data tracking sensors found on the market, the thermal dependent compression training apparel reacts to the thermal output of muscles which is dependent on muscle intensity and use. Special atoms within the fabric react with the application of heat which in turn changes the colour of the garment by the varying reflective light waves of the atoms in the apparel.


Thalmic Labs - Myo

The Myo armband is a gesture and motion control that taps into the physicality of our body to return feedback which allows various other digital devices to be connected and controlled with. Myo recognises gestures as well as the speed, direction and angle of your arm. Rather than the usual data feedback it




The health sector has now tapped into the wearable technology sector also and such features as the data feedback and communication can be very useful for health professionals to understand a more holistic view of the day to day health and activities of their patients. The patients can now perform more personal tracking and even take on a certain DIY check-up mentality to keep their well being at an optimum level and allow medical professionals to carry out remote diagnostics and consultations with logged feedback at their fingertips.

Google Contact Lens

Google’s "smart contact lens" prototype can generate a reading of a tear's glucose level every second, potentially replacing the need for people with diabetes to prick their fingers and test drops of blood throughout the day.



NuWave Hearing Glasses

The group of undergraduate from Virginia Tech produced non-prescription glasses that use a light indicator, portable battery, microphone for hearing aid function, bone conduction transducers and induction charging pad. The glasses use the combination of the hearing aid with bone conduction. The position of the glasses near the user's temporal bone lets sounds travel to the ear through vibrations.



Typically, fashion concerns itself with the innovative and avant-garde. With its latest marriage between clothing and technology, fashion has situated itself firmly in the future. Technology has become so central to our existence that it has gradually weaved itself into the ‘fabric’ of our daily lives. As with digital tools such as Facebook, clothing and personal style are intrinsic to the creation of self and into the maintenance of identity ‘digitising’ this area of our lives seems like a natural progression. Fashion, as technologically aware, was once deemed as futuristic and belonging to the domain of the sci-fi novel, yet it seems stylish smart clothing will soon become as standard as our own personal handheld computer, the mobile phone. Advancements in the digital sphere have mainly prioritized functionality, but as Apple demonstrates creating a meaningful dialogue between ourselves and our belongings means prizing aesthetic value along with its function. The importance of the union between fashion and technology is that the utility of an item will not see its aesthetics being compromised.


Perhaps one of the most thriving aspects between the technology and fashion union is illumination and the usage of led’s embedded within clothing. From fashion to experimental clothing, designers are utilizing the power of light in creating visually dynamic pieces.

Even make-up is being afforded the digital edge as seen here Digital eye shadow: http://dlulin.com/projects/digital-eyeshadow/


Questioning the norms of clothing and our interaction with clothing and our bodies has long been the domain of the avant-garde designer. Some Contemporary and established fashion designers are beginning to explore territory and fuse technological advancements with their own artistic endeavours. Designers such as Hussein chalayan, Iris van herpen and Anouk wipprecht are leading the field.

Designer- Anouk wipprecht site: http://www.anoukwipprecht.nl/

Designer-Iris van herpen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd8edObtRkg

Ying GAO: http://www.fashioningtech.com/video/playtime-ying-gao


Conductive threads and embedded electronics are only some of the ways in which steps been taken towards integrating technology and fabric creating ‘smart textiles’ or E-textiles. These advancements will have numerous implications within both the fashion and interior design spheres. The aim of these textiles is to blend fibres and technology in a virtually seamless fashion. A fantastic book by Thames and Hudson is available here: http://www.thamesandhudson.com/Techno_Textiles_2/9780500286845


Just as fashionable clothing is merging with technology, so we see a similar convergence between jewellery and technology. One such example is Cuff, an American Jewellery brand that along with aesthetics, offers the wearer the ability to connect with their smart phones. A possible usage of this connectivity is if the wearer is in a potentially dangerous situation they can send out distress signals to reveal her location. http://cuff.io/gma_before.html

Other applications of this ‘smart jewellery’ are the ability of necklaces to project images or videos on to solid surfaces, as seen here: http://www.crunchwear.com/necklace-projectors-next-big-wearable-technology-thing/.


Coop Himmelblau Hard Space 1970


Sign Language Rings



Quantified Self

The new wave of wearable technologies have changed our outlook on how the body is viewed and indeed scrutinised. The data flow available from the multitude of products on the market today has created a growing culture of critiquing our daily routines and outputs with fields of numerical informatics. It has sparked a turn to technology in the search for understandable and comprehensible numerical feedback in the attempt to understand the intangible physiology of the human body. The question is that if we create a model of our living on this data alone, does that classify the human body as a controllable system or can we still foster a desire for the unpredictable and spontaneous?

Competitive Motivation

There is constant pressure and influence from so many of our sectors of society on our current lives. Increasing this practice into every sector of our lives may cause a n unwanted reminder to most people. How can we keep up with the constant competitive nature of every sector of our lives further turning our existence into a race rather than an experience?

Privacy and Ownership

With the new wave and sheer volume of data emanating from the increased sharing and communication between all our daily tasks and indeed personal informatics, does this throw the question up of how accessible this data is to the public, consumer or political realms. Will our data created through these wearables be mined and utilised like the current marketing and advertisement sectors or will this throw up a question of privacy and ownership since this data is quite a sensitive and personal collection? Will this lead to an increasing push of paranoid technology to keep our passwords and other sensitive information secret?

Cyborg Culture

Are we really ready to accept the augmented constructions that will be placed in or on the body? is our society ready for such an invasion? it will be interesting over the nest decade to see the progression of these technologies and how they will integrate 'harmoniously' in everyday life. Science Fiction will be coming to life and how will we feel when this is part of our routine and not a fantasy segregated field of folly.


Intel 'Make It Wearable' Challenge


Motorola Password Pill

Motorola have recently unveiled this project that is an ingestible password pill that powers itself with the acids found in the stomach. They have also revealed password tattoos along with this product in 2014.


Neil Harbisson - Ted Talk

Technology Futurist - Colour and Perception


Kevin Warwick

Implanting Technology in the Body


Cunning Communications - Pigeon Carriers


Dunne + Raby

Forager Wearable



These are list of websites in which wearable technology can be explored and experimented with including hacks, communities, future outlooks and trajectories.

Sport . Health

Arduino Feedback Sensing: http://www.mediamatic.net/12648/en/wearable-arduino

Health Tech: http://www.informationweek.com/mobile/10-wearable-health-tech-devices-to-watch/d/d-id/1107148?page_number=6

PSFK Wearable Healthcare: http://www.psfk.com/2014/02/wearable-tech-makes-wearer-frontline-healthcare-future-health.html#!xEA1s

Fashion . Aesthetics

Electrofoxy: http://www.electricfoxy.com/

Fashioning Tech: http://www.fashioningtech.com/

Making it your own: http://lilypadarduino.org/

MIT Research group: http://highlowtech.org/

Crunch wear: http://www.crunchwear.com/category/wearable-computing/

// VIDEOS //

Sports . Health: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqUBIyiHWuU Fashion . Aesthetics

Experimental-Kate Hartman: http://new.ted.com/talks/kate_hartman_the_art_of_wearable_communication#

Cadburys Joy jacket: http://vimeo.com/77000013

Protection-Helmet: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3920497.ece

Illuminate-Led beanies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq6VoxoX7X4

Clothing +: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCsV_rUjNSg&list=PLRU71e3aaDzgASXl7c6XvV81TJJ1xk7EF

// BLOGS //








Projection of wearable tech chart PSFK: http://www.slideshare.net/PSFK/psfk-future-of-wearable-technology-report

Report on wearable technology: http://www.slideshare.net/PSFK/psfk-future-of-wearable-technology-report

Smart Fashion and Learning about Digital Culture: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Re-Visioning the Interface: Technological Fashion: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/leon.2009.42.4.307

Intelligent textiles and clothing: http://www.woodhead-publishing.com/EN/book.aspx?bookID=894&printer=yes

Digital Jewellery as experience: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/1-84628-089-3_11#page-1

7 Predictions for the Future of Wearable Tech and Social Media Integration: http://socialmediatoday.com/rgbsocial/2054556/CES-2014-7-predictions-future-wearable-tech-and-social-media-integration

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