When we think of wearable technology, only futuristic comes to our minds. With the inventions of Google Glass and smartwatches; wearable tech. sounds like the NEW hot topic. But is it really? Do you remember watching the Jetsons and drooling over their high tech gadgets? The Jetsons were streaming live TV on their watches as early as 1962! Who would’ve thought that this would someday be possible? In The Terminator, certain scenes from the movie were shown in the cyborg’s point of view, showing computer displays over real life imagery; remind you of anything? Google Glass, maybe?
Considering this it’s possible that the seeds of wearable tech. were planted in our minds as early as the 80’s and 90’s. Think about it, many of our engineers today have grown up with these images etched into their subconscious, dreaming as little children of a world where all of this would one day be materialized. We could say, that the media and television shaped the culture of wearable technology today. The fad for it may be recent, but the idea of it began a long time ago.
Our perception of wearable technology in itself is flawed. Ask any new age kid what wearable technology is and the response will definitely be a product that is a child of computers and automation. However, if you break it down, technology is a collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures used by humans. Wearable is something you can wear on your body. By this definition wearable technology includes all watches, headphones and even eyeglasses. Never thought of it this way did you?
By the definition given above, the manufacturing of wearable technology dates back to to the 1500’s with the inventions of eyeglasses, pocket watches and wrist-watches. In computing the first invention of wearable technology would be in the 1960’s when MIT mathematics professor Edward Thorp had successfully created the first wearable computer to cheat at roulette. A more popular example would be the Calculator Wristwatch, the Pulsar, created in 1975. In 1980’s headphones were a wearable technology that picked up during the Walkman Boom. High-end wearables had come into picture in the medical field; by 1987 the first hearing aids were invented. By 2000, we had Bluetooth headsets and the Nike + iPod sport kit which gave rise to a new turf of health-tracking wearables.
The idea and invention of wearable technology is definitely not limited to the Google Glass and Apple Smartwatch, and neither is the idea a new one. What we see now are actually the first fruits of a cultural and social shift that began a long time ago. Today we have arrived at a point where years of research have paid off, and the hardware is advanced enough and economically feasible for visionaries’ ideas to be converted into reality. The budding engineers who drooled over the Jetsons as little children finally have the tools to make that world a reality.
We have seen wearables in ways that just until a few years ago were considered nothing more than science fiction. From watches to underwear, it seems that now almost anything can be connected to a smartphone or the cloud. There are many who have gladly incorporated this new cultural shift of wearing your technology in to their day-to-day lives. Yet, on the other hand, there are still those who are not convinced that these devices are anything more than a fad and an add on to their smart-phones. The next question now is, how much of wearable technology is just another fad, and how much of it will actually be carried on into the near future?