A wearable computer is a very personal computer. It should be worn like a piece of clothing, as unobtrusive as possible. A user should interact with the computer based upon context. It could be a communications device (immediate or store and forward), a recorder (visual, audio, other sensors) or a reference device (local or remote resources). There is also an evolving concept of “intimacy” where interpersonal relationships, health, and (virtual & physical) presence are enabled and monitored by wearable, always-on devices.
Andy’s Wearable Computing Notebook – I received a press release from a Canadian company, Neptune. The release states:
Neptune unveils the Neptune Pine: The World’s First Full-Feature Smartwatch: A smartwatch that can make phone calls, shoot video, take pictures, check email, browse the Internet, play music, and much more; all independently without the presence of a nearby smartphone.
I checked out the Neptune website and saw pictures of the “pine” (sometimes with a lower case and sometime with an upper case “p”). The site states, “With the finest materials and a trendy design, the Neptune Pine is truly a bold fashion statement.” What I saw was a watch-type device with a large (USB?) built-in connector, uninspired gray plastic-looking band and cheap-looking display and body.
The specifications are intriguing, however! Pine comes with Android 4.0 OS and, “Not only does the Neptune Pine feature all of the standard connectivity that comes with a smartphone such as quad-band GSM, 3G, 802.11 Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0; it also boasts a digital compass and a FM radio.”
I hope this device is real and delivers a great experience. You can pre-order a pine for $420 ($CAD). I’m not ready to put down any of my money yet but will be following developments
CNET - It could be more than a year before Google Glass is available to the public. But headset manufacturer Vuzix may have its own version on sale by mid-2013.
Vuzix has unveiled details of its wireless headset display, the Vuzix Smart Glasses M100. The headset projects a color display to the user’s field of vision, showing data generated by a smartphone. It also has an HD camera, a noise-canceling microphone, and an ear speaker.
The device is designed to work both indoors and outdoors. Information would come from an iPhone or Android phone that’s connected via Bluetooth. The projected image is described to be similar to holding a smartphone screen 14 inches away from one’s eye.
“It would feel like you’re looking at a screen the size of your phone, but the image floats out in space,” said Vuzix President and Chief Executive Paul Travers. “It’s a virtual image beamed to your eye.”
Travers said working prototypes will be on display during the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and that he hopes to be shipping the first devices by the middle of 2013. He said the Smart Glasses will be priced less than $500.
eWEEK - Microsoft made news recently when it was reported it has won a patent for glasses that can display a computer image before the user’s eyes, but so-called “wearable computers” have been in development for years.
They’re each taking slightly different approaches to the technology, but Microsoft, Google and Apple are among the latest technology companies developing what are called “wearable computers” that display digital images on eyeglass lenses.
The concept behind the glasses is to enable people to view data and images displayed on the special lenses and also look through the glasses to view the world around them.
The technology, for which each of the three tech companies has applied for their own patents, is not yet in production, but soon could be. If it comes to pass, computerized glasses could be the next big thing in personal computing, assuming that people find them useful and effective.
Microsoft became the latest entrant into the field as news came out in November that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved a patent for a device that, as the Los Angeles Times described it, “delivers information about live events to a person wearing a head-mounted display.” An illustration of the device in the application shows a view through the glasses of a baseball game while the display adds data like the names of the players at home plate, the pitcher’s mound and on base.
[Andy: I finally get to mention the way-cool, tiny, $35 Raspberry Pi computer. I have four!] liliputing - Is the $1500 price tag for Google’s Project Glass a little high for you? Instructables contributor meztek has a guide for building a wearable computer for just under $400. The secret sauce comes in two parts: a $35 (plus shipping) Raspberry Pi computer and a pair of the cheapest glasses you can find with a built-in monitor. In this case, that’d be the Vuzix Wrap 920, which are available from Amazon for about $200.
In a nutshell, the whole system consists of a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian Linux, the video glasses, a battery pack that runs on rechargeable AA batteries, a wireless thumb keyboard with a built-in touchpad, and a few cables. What you end up with is a portable computer that you can carry in your pocket and a monitor that you can slide up or wear like a necklace when you’re not using the display.
EE Times - by Sylvie Barak – If you think clothes are unnecessarily expensive now, just wait until 2014, a year Juniper research is calling “the watershed” for wearable devices. According to Juniper’s latest study, wearable computing, a market which includes smart glasses and other head-mounted displays, should come to over $1.5 billion in the next couple of years, largely driven by consumer spending on fitness, multi-functional devices, and healthcare.
Forget form fitting, wearable devices are the “future form factor,” says Juniper, with big players like Apple and Google already making “key strategic moves” in the sector.
This year, wearable devices already accounted for $800 million, as apps like Nike+ and the Fitbit Tracker took off, allowing users to work up a sweat, while the computer crunches their fitness data.
While the sporting industry seems to have gotten off to a running start with wearables, it isn’t the only market sector that can look forward to a huge boon.
“While fitness and entertainment will have the greatest demand from consumers, within an enterprise environment, the demand for wearable devices will be greatest from the aviation and warehouse sectors,” noted report author Nitin Bhas.
Grathio Labs – This is a project that Steve Hoefer calls “Tacit”. Says Steve: No, I didn’t bother making an awkward backronym for it, it just seemed like an appropriate name that’s a lot shorter (though less descriptive) than “Hand-Mounted Haptic Feedback Sonar Obstacle Avoidance Asstance Device”. It measures the distance to things and translates that into pressure on the wrist.
It’s wrist mounted and senses objects from about 1 inch (2 cm) to 10 feet (3.5m). It has generally fast response time (fractions of a second) to quickly navigate complex environments. It’s designed to help a vision impaired person to navigate complex environments. Mounted to the back of the hand, the force feedback means it doesn’t interfere with other assistance devices that mount elsewhere and use audio feedback cues. The learning curve is measured in seconds, everyone who has worn it has figured it out immediately.
The circuit and diagrams are released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Feel free to use, modify and distribute as long as you attribute it to Steve Hoefer.
display, health, research
Engadget – by Sharif Sakr – An LED display, camera, microphone, speaker and accelerometer all packaged into a t-shirt and controlled via your smartphone?
That’s the concept behind TshirtOS, a wearable platform for “self-expression” that currently only exists as a prototype. It can show off tweets, play music videos, capture belly-height photos and send them off to Instagram, and pretty much do anything except play percussion. CuteCircuit, which came up with the idea in cahoots (inexplicably) with Ballantine’s whisky, says it’s about to conduct product tests and will mass produce the smart-shirts if enough folks register interest. There’s no Kickstarter page, definite specs or pricing for any of this, but based on CuteCircuit’s history and the video after the break we’re inclined to believe TshirtOS is more than just viral marketing stunt for the sake of a dram — click onwards and judge for yourself.
CNET – by Jay Greene – It was an unseasonably warm June evening, the kind of day locals rave about because they come so rarely. At 6 p.m., I hopped on my bike for an evening spin.
My heart-rate quickly raced up to 157 beats per minute as I picked up my pace to 14 miles per hour up a gradual rise in the road. At the same time, my blood-glucose level dropped to 62 milligrams per deciliter, low, but not dangerously so for a non-diabetic. All in all, pretty solid data, given that the night before I slept six hours and 21 minutes, waking for brief periods 21 times during the night.
Welcome to my cyborg life. Google has generated tons of press in recent days with its Project Glass, computerized glasses that lets users take pictures and find information. But it’s hardly the only company pursuing wearable computing. And while Project Glass won’t be commercially available for another two years at the earliest, there are plenty of companies selling devices that consumers can slip into and strap on to collect reams of data about their daily lives. [...] To get a glimpse of that future, I strapped on a bunch of those gadgets [...]
The Verge – “How we’ve tried to become more than human” — by Paul Miller
In the decade or so that’s passed [...], the wearable computer has continually rode the crest of a “5 years out” wave, which in consumer electronics means “we have no idea how to do this, but maybe someone will figure it out by then.” In comparison, “10 years out” means never, so I was always hopeful. Unfortunately, the references to wearable computing have slowly faded since 1999-ish.
Perhaps it was the death of relentless optimism and monetization-be-damned after the dot-com bust. Maybe it was just the simple reality of immature technology — head-mounted displays have always seemed a few ounces overweight, or a few hundred dollars overly expensive. Or maybe the growing definition in the 21st century of a “computer” being something that’s constantly connected to the internet. A live, high-bandwidth internet connection has been very difficult to make portable, much less for 16 hours at a time.
And, of course, there was the rise of the smartphone. The smartphone fills almost every potential application for head mounted displays, by offering glanceable information that’s as convenient to pull out as your billfold. As obtrusive as the smartphone feels to many people, it’s a far cry from the vision of technology that sci-fi has been offering since the 80s. Why implant a chip in your head, or wear expensive computer goggles and VR gloves constantly, when a tiny little slab of carrier-subsidized technology can solve everything for you?
Maybe we are in another bubble, and when we finally face reality, Sergey and Larry will have to hide their toys away from the shareholders and get back to optimizing AdSense. But in the meantime, I think it’s worth looking at how we got here.
[Paul's] history lesson is presented in two parts:
1. This awesome video of Terminator heads up displays
2. The academic wearable computing research of the past few decades, primarily performed at MIT or by its alumni
[Andy's take - read this article as it provides a great history and thoughtful commentary on wearable computing!]