Wearable Computing

What is wearable computing?

Wearable computers are lightweight electronic devices worn by people while performing their routine activities. These computers are always ON devices, we don’t need to turn them ON or OFF. Prominent examples include iWatch (apple’s rumored smart watch), Meta’s Space Glasses and Google Glass.

Steve Mann, a professor at University of Toronto and chief scientist at Meta-view was hailed as father of wearable computing by moderator Woodward Yang of Harvard University (Cambridge press) on February 8, 2000. He invented wearable computing almost three decades ago.

Steve Mann at Augmented World Expo 2013. The ‘camera on helmet’ is where he started. He recalls that people were scared when he walked on the streets wearing this dangerous looking device. Today, that device has transformed into augmented reality glasses that he is wearing in the photo.

"My motivation for much of this comes from early childhood visions of being able to see better, e.g. starting with electric arc welding (trying to see clearly)."-Steve Mann

What applications are possible?

Wearable computing provides a very powerful interface for computers to interact with humans and the environment. Some example applications include:

  • Mediated Reality or augmented reality.
    • a. We can change how we see the world, can add or remove information by processing the images by using a computer. This is also referred to as Eyetap. More on this in ‘Mediated Reality’page
  • Taking feedback from body or environment to change the temperature of cloths
  • Recognize gesture to turn the lights off/on, increase/decrease volume of speakers

Is wearable computing just for nerds/geeks?

It is natural to be skeptical about new technologies. However, it is important to realize that google glass is not the only platform for this technology and wearable computing is not limited to glasses. We can dismiss a platform or an application, however, not wearable computing as a whole. Wearable computers will find use in lives of many people.