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VOLUME 10

ISSUE 11

YOUR HANDY GUIDE TO EVERYDAY

TECHNOLOGY

To

WEARABLES
A BRAVE NEW WORLD
THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES
INTERACTION REDEFINED
THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES
LETS TALK DEVICES
GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

A 9.9 Media Publication

FAST
TRACK
to

WEARABLES

powered by

CHAPTERS
WEARABLES
NOVEMBER 2015

06

A brave new world


Technology gadgets are entering an exciting evolutionary curve

PAGE

18
PAGE

32
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44
CREDITS

The people behind this book

PAGE

The evolution of wearables


In the last chapter we gave you a small glimpse into the history of
wearable technology. Heres the whole story.

Interaction redefined
The growth of wearables presents some very interesting
opportunities to design new interfaces. Heres how youll talk to
your wearables.

The war of the wearables


Analysing the current trend in wearables leads us to some unique
revelations like their role in the enterprise space

EDITORIAL
Executive Editor
Robert Sovereign-Smith
Managing Editor
Siddharth Parwatay

Dhinoj Dings
Elroy Desmond
Nikhil Punjabi

Associate
Art Director
Anil T

Copy Editing
Infancia Cardozo

Sr. Visualisers
Shigil Narayanan
Sristi Maurya

DESIGN

Technical Editor
Jayesh Shinde

Creative Director
Tharakaram G

Visualiser
Baiju NV

Writers
Anshumala Balu
Ashish Panigrahi

Sr. Art Director


Anil VK

Sr. Designer
Pradeep G Nair

CONTENTS

54
PAGE

72

Lets talk devices


By showcasing the multitude of devices out there, well help you
select the right wearable for you

Getting hands on with wearables


Creating apps for wearables is much easier than you think.

PAGE

80
PAGE

What does the future hold?


When we look at the future, we see the human-machine divide
disappearing. Will wearables be the catalyst in the dawn of that
future?

VOLUME 10

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editor@digit.in

A BRAVE NEW WORLD


THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES
INTERACTION REDEFINED
THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES
LETS TALK DEVICES
GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Free With Digit November 2015

Custom publishing

WEARABLES

11

A 9.9 Media Publication

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editor@digit.in with details

TECHNOLOGY

To

WEARABLES

November 2015

ISSUE 11

YOUR HANDY GUIDE TO EVERYDAY

NOVEMBER 2015

9.9 Mediaworx Pvt. Ltd.

INTRODUCTION

Truly
personal tech

earable technology has a lot of people talking. And


rightly so. We seem to be looking at the dawn of a new
era in tech that may reshape our lifestyles for the better.
From glasses that provide detailed contextual information about our surroundings to accessories that collect data on our daily
actions and habits, the potential of wearable devices is limited only by
our imagination.
In this Fast Track, we take a broad look at wearable technology and how
it has evolved over the years into formidable category of its own. We will
delve into the history of wearables, from its humble beginnings as calculator watches to the high-powered smartwatches and VR headset that look
to change the way we interact with technology and the world around us.
Discover how Science Fiction ideas inspired engineers to develop
innovative UIs for humans to better interact with not just wearables but
technology on a whole. We discover how the smartwatches and fitness
bands grew in popularity and how a slew of companies decided that this
market was a ripe one in which entrepreneurs should invest. We also take
a look at recent trends in the wearable market and analyze the potential
for wearables as daily driver devices.
We also discuss the applications of these devices and whether they are
suited for todays average consumer. This is followed by a small chapter
that explains the challenges faced by developers of wearable tech and
potential fixes for them.

INTRODUCTION

Finally, we discuss the what sort of future we have in store for us,
should this current trend of wearable technology see itself over the hump
of popularity it seems to be enjoying. Is it possible that this technology
becomes so ingrained in our daily lives, that we no longer look at wearables
devices as cumbersome electronics but instead see them as just an extension of our skin? We may have as well taken our first steps into becoming
real-world cyborgs.

CHAPTER #01

A BRAVE NEW
WORLD
Gadget evolution is truly exciting now
Wearable- An item that can be worn.
Wearable Technology- Electronics that can be worn on the body

he terms wearable technology, wearable devices, and wearables refer to electronics; gadgets or computers that are integrated
into clothing or accessories that can comfortably be worn on the
body. These wearable machines can perform some of the same
computing tasks as mobile phones and laptop computers and in some cases,
wearable technology can surprisingly surpass these devices entirely. Wearable technology, these days, tends to be more sophisticated than hand-held
technology on the market as it can provide atypical sensory and scanning
features that are not seen in mobile or laptops, like biofeedback and the
tracking of such things as physiological function. Not to mention how
they come in handy, pocketable sizes. One of the major features of wearable technology is its ability to connect to the Internet, enabling data to be
exchanged between a network and the device.
Much has changed since Atanasoff and Berry invented the first computer,
the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. Modern computers have
become smaller, more efficient, and more powerful while simultaneously
occupying much less space than ever before. Before ogling at the magnificent(?) Google Glass and looking forward to the future of wearable tech, let

A BRAVE NEW WORLD

us take a moment to look back at what it these geeky wearable devices that
our current generation is enjoying actually means for us.
We might be thinking James Bond or Minority Report, but the reality
is that weve been wearing technology for thousands of years- Armor,
Eyeglasses, and prosthetics are all examples of wearable tech. They are
extremely useful and everything, but theyre also steeped social symbolism.
They help us curate our identities offline by allowing us to establish our
normalcy and sense of community. For example, by putting on armor we
used to claim membership with a group and broadcast that to the general
public. We strengthen the ties of the group and enhance its overall fitness
through wearable technologies.
Wearable technology is usually thought of by the layman as dating back
before the 1900s but If we really want to get particular with it, in 1650,
Chinas Qing Dynasty invented the Abacus Ring, a miniscule example in
the history of wearable tech. the ring is a calculator that features a 1.2cm
long, 0.7cm wide abacus that sits on the finger. While the abacus ring may
not be able to make phone calls, it goes to show that wearable technology
might not be as radical a concept as one would think.

The Abacus Ring of yore

A BRAVE NEW WORLD

The first wearable watch, on the other hand, was worn in the 1500s as
is evident from records of Queen Elizabeth had a wristwatch in 1571.
But in the technical sense of the term wearable technology, glasses were
the first real wearables. Modern eyeglasses came about after 11th-century
scholars happen to come upon the fact that the written word could be magnified by convex lenses. Those early observations led to affixing pieces of
shaped, polished glass, namely lenses into two small frames so that someone
with vision problems could have a chance to enhance or correct their sight.
The handheld, temple-less design persisted until around the 1700s and
eventually this initial design was discarded for the modern eyeglasses, the
achievement of technology, that we cannot live without today.
The latest trends in technology lean toward gadgets that are built to
augment and make our lives better. From the introduction of the Google
Glass in 2012, to the buildup surrounding the Apple Watch; sleek, featureful
devices that you can wear on your head (like a pair of glasses) or strap onto
your wrist have become all the rage in tech jewellery.
Even more exhilarating are second-skin devices such as those that one
can embed into the body, ingest and hear using. These may include new
technologies that blend
into the skin, devices that are controlled using eyeball-motion sensors
and ear wearables that measure and even respond to our heart rate and who
knows what not. All of these contribute as a parts of the continuing journey
to create technology that is so intertwined with our lives that it becomes
almost imperceptible. The end results of this transition are bound to be
better usability and genuinely groundbreaking technology.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Wearables


With wearable technology, say hello to a time in which learning more about
yourself has become high-tech along with being real-time. From gadgets
and apps that help you track your heart and food consumption to devices
that are capable of monitoring your mood and even the surrounding air.
Now, the human body quantified, is a reality for the everyday person. We
can look forward to the time in the near future where we can learn about our
own health using our own self-tracking gadgets. Lets go as far as to imagine
using these very devices to quantify if our self-improvement endeavours
are actually paying off, all in real time.
One of the most critical elements of the adoption of new technology in
question is getting the users and consumers at hand to change their habits.

A BRAVE NEW WORLD

Wearables present an interesting situation where the goal is to some drastic


enhancement in life experience for the consumer with as little behavioral
changes as possible.
How can I get more accomplished and also live a better, more satisfied
life style? is the question that is on the rounds and wearable technology
has been changing peoples lives for many decades, some people we may
know and simply havent realize it, like anyone who works in security
management, is hearing impaired or someone who wears a prosthetic (a
limb for example). In that way, the setting up of a wearable market where
we can buy enhancing machines and gadgets in a way identical to how
we buy mobile phones or clothing accessories, changes the criterion for
the personal aspect of computing and our living experiences in some
thrilling ways.

The age of the wearables is upon us and its an exciting time ahead for the evolution of technology gadgets as we know it

All of these possibilities will be facilitated by the Internet of things (IoT),


providing rich and invaluable connections among people, process, data,
and things. And this is just the beginning. As new technology continues
to seem to be smaller, cheaper, and more powerful than ever before, and as
the amount of interconnected devices on the planet grows in the upcoming

10 A BRAVE NEW WORLD


decades, the true scale of possibilities may actually reach further than what
we imagine today.
Lets not forget that wearables face unique hindrances that will lead
them to have less of an immediate impact on the market as compared to
tablets or smartphones.
Especially since most of the devices, at the moment, need to be connected
with a smartphone or tablet for the utilization most of their functionality.
Another salient issue comes up when we talk about wearables. Privacy
campaigners have criticised that aspect of the technology, bringing to light
that surreptitious sound recordings and even footage can be uploaded
onto the cloud, that ending up being distributed and shared without the
persons knowledge and/or consent. Along with obvious privacy issues
relating to the general public, personalized information about the user of
these gadgets gives rise to more data protection issues. For instance, it is
known that certain health and fitness gadgets have GPS location features
and have the ability to capture a large quantity of data over time about
the users location, activity and even health. This personal data may then
be uploaded to the cloud and analysed by their technology provider. Of
course, this is fine if the technology provider is transparent about how all
the information is being utilized, shared and distributed, if at all the wearer
has given his or her pre informed consent about what is being done with
their data, and if the technology provider has put into place adequate and
sufficient security measures to safeguard it. Whether this is carried out in
practice is another matter entirely.
The more personal we get with our gadgets, the more information and
data we are capturing about ourselves and the more privacy we expect in
the long run.
Of course, there are always those tech wearables that we have mixed feelings about. Like Microsoft filing a new patent to completely revolutionize
the way that wearable devices send out signals or notifications to wearers.
Dubbed as wearable computer having a skin-stimulating interface, the
patents abstract went ahead and named things such as alarms, phone calls
and texts as some examples that people would literally be shocked about
by the device.

The Marketplace
The year 2014 was hailed by many experts in technology as the Year of the
Wearable, hence reflecting an explosion of new wearable products with

A BRAVE NEW WORLD 11


huge electronic businesses competing on a level with newborn, crowdfunded startups and a noticeably quick growth in its market compared
to previous years. All kinds of businesses, military forces and especially
medical professionals have been always been using this technology for years,
but the private consumer market place has only just started to feature items
such as smart glasses, smartwatches, hearables, fitness and health trackers
and even smart jewellery. The global market for wearables is expected to at
least reach to a value of 19 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, to easily cross more
than ten times of its value five years prior.
As of 2015, the most successful wearables on the market are, and are likely
to continue to be, those worn around the wrist, such as health and fitness
trackers and of course, smartwatches, which are surprisingly expected to
account for 9 in 10 of these gadgets bought globally. The among the most
important producers of smart watches are Samsung, Pebble, Fitbit, Apple,
Sony, Lenovo and LG. Although, the most successful fitness trackers so far
were produced by the likes of Nike, Fitbit and Jawbone.
As the wearable business is set to increases from $20 billion in 2015
to almost $70 billion in 2025, the dominant sector will be likely to remain
healthcare by which we mean a merge of medical, fitness and wellness. It is
seen to have the most number of big names like Apple, Accenture, Adidas,
Fujitsu, Nike, Philips, Reebok, Samsung, SAP and Roche spearheading the
most promising new developments.

Wrist Wearables are most successful so far

12 A BRAVE NEW WORLD

The Internet of Things


Our traditional connection to the internet has undergone a radical change
over the last couple of decades. We have progressed from simple terminals
and desktop PCs to many different kinds of mobile devices such as laptops,
tablets and of course, mobile phones. These devices however, are connected
to us externally and are a sharp contrast to the wave of revolution that is
the advent of wearable technology. We will soon be equipped with a network of wireless devices that possess the ability to communicate with no
interference from us humans. And so, gadgets including head mounted
displays and smartwatches are part of an array of technologies that will
revamp the way in which we communicate and share among ourselves
and the internet itself, ushering in The Internet of Things (IoT) becoming
a necessity rather than a luxury.
We can already track our exercise, monitor our heart rates and even
keep a track of the quality of our sleep. The wearables in question include
FItbit, Jawbone Up and the Nike Fuelband. These capabilities will grow in
the next few years, so much so that we can imagine a future in which well
be able to swallow a pill that can monitor our digestive function and send
intelligent and relevant information to doctors as the need arises and in the
context of what were doing at that point of time. Another example of the
uses of IoT would be a future in which expectant mothers will go around
wearing smart tattoos that lets them monitor the health and activity of the
babie(s) growing inside them and which are capable of alerting the doctor
early about the onset of labor.
As these wonderful devices get integrated into the large net that is The
Internet of Things, sharing of huge quantities of data generated by our
bodies, data related to the well being of physical and even mental state, our
mood, personal preferences and so on and so forth will become extremely
commonplace with health providers, retailers and businesses.
The question that now comes to mind is, how much longer do we have
to wait till we have this kind of connectivity in our homes? Imagine coming
home to your heart rate monitor unlocking the front door. Walk into your
living space to find a cool glass of water and the air conditioner already running at the optimum temperature, thanks to your smartband finding that
you were slightly dehydrated with a little higher body temperature than is
optimum. Even in retail, wearables and connectivity can be used for real
time data crunching to provide the best service while maximizing profits.
For example, Yelp provides a service which allows users to point their

A BRAVE NEW WORLD 13


phones in a direction in a particular locality and watch as their screen fills
up with options and locations of nearby restaurants along with user reviews.

Popular Categories
Health and Fitness
Medical devices is a term that covers the variety of products that are generally worn on the body for a prolonged period of time and are able to capture
information about the patients physiological condition and then process
or calculate the correct medical procedure to be followed before obviously
notifying the patient.
The devices currently under development include vital sign monitors like
for the heart rate and respiratory rate. Apart from having a lot of medical
significance, these devices are also seen as having increasing roles in the
training and upkeep of athletes and general fitness enthusiasts.
As mentioned previously, developments in wearable medical devices
are also expected to enable remote monitoring, such that a patient does not
have to resort to reporting to the doctor in person or vice versa, they can be
monitored by the clinic while remaining comfortably at home while even
constantly reminding them to take their medication.
On the other hand, the most common fitness device connect to smartphones, tablets or laptops to track the users health status including such data
as BMI, blood alcohol level, heart rate and may even include a posture coach.
Another significant use of vital data tracking could be attachment of
small sensors in the body to follow the patients health records such as
ECG data, heart activity and breathing, allowing doctors to monitor their
patients without actually being present, all the need to do is regularly access
the information on their specialized cloud based portal.
A variation of sensors could be the ingestible kind which have the added
utility of being a quick, easy and cost effective way to provide real time data
of the efficacy of drugs and medication in the body.

Wrist Wearables
A large chunk of health and fitness wearables are wrist wearables. Fitness
bands and other wearables have clearly been embraced enthusiastically
by the the current market that caters the the more health conscious, tech
savvy consumer. The commercial viability of the wearables like the Nike
Fuelband and the Fitbit is what experts would call the tip of the iceberg.
Fitness trackers come in varying degrees of sophistication apart from

14 A BRAVE NEW WORLD

Wearable techs fitness benefits are most popular among consumer

varying in terms of shape and size themselves, but so far have usually been
bands and watches whos most common feature is make a count of how
many steps we take in a certain amount of time. The newest bands have the
additional features of continuous heart rate monitoring and calorific burn.
Smartwatches are mini-windows into your digital life at the turn of your
wrist. Apart from being able to tell the time, they can also show the user
their emails, messages and other aspects of their digital social life.

Head Mounted Displays


How does one deliver virtual information right to our eyes? Head mounted
displays are what well need. Some of them are designed to block out peripheral vision, i.e. the rest of the world. A computer generated virtual reality
could literally fool our brain into thinking its somewhere else entirely.
Oculus Rift is the big name in virtual reality although both Sony, with
its Project Morpheus, and HTCs Vive are causing much excitement.
Google Glass was released in 2013, the first product to combine voice
operation with a head mounted display. It also has hands free internet

A BRAVE NEW WORLD 15

WIll Head Mounted Displays really take off?

access and the ability to capture images. Although it was discontinued this
year but it deserves credit for bringing wearables into the general public
attention as opposed to just in specialized tech conferences.
In the meantime, Microsofts HoloLens is perhaps one of the most interesting AR device. It has generated a lot of hype for Microsoft and company
CEO Satya Nadella has strongly backed the companys investment in the
technology. In May, Nadella told The New York Times that HoloLens was
one of the reasons Microsoft bought Mojang, the parent company of the hit
virtual world-building game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion.
Microsoft seems to be looking to fund projects that use HoloLens as a
business analytics tool, making large amounts of data easier to analyze and
use. Its also interested in research teams that can create useful applications
for medical training, design education, interactive journalism, psychology
applications, and workplace communication.

Smart Clothing
Smart clothing is a broad term used for garments with electronic in a way
that would make them more interesting or fashionable. They would also
have additional functionality although the garment would appear essentially the same.

16 A BRAVE NEW WORLD

Wearables will speed up the advent of Exoskeletons and even Prosthetics

Implantables
Implantables are devices that are surgically attached someplace under
your skin. They are a type of wearable that one would have no choice but
to carry around everywhere. They can be used for medical purposes like
as insulin pumps, contraceptives or some of us just might enjoy sticking
magnets to our fingertips.
The idea might sound a little bit futuristic and maybe even far fetched,
but in reality, ingestible sensors and implantable chips are already in use
and even growing.

Wearable Robotics
How does one person carry loads that takes two people to lift? Upto 68 Kgs
even. The answer is wearable robotics. Wearable robotics lets us augment
and compensate for our natural abilities.
In the past, wearing prosthetics or wearable robotics has been stigmatized
but that is no longer true. It isnt just athletes wanting to be superhuman
using these high tech technology, its also the average Joe with a sense of
style and a preference among these new generation prosthetics. They are
stylish, sleek and designed for an all round high tech lifestyle.
Taking hearing as an example, a hearing aid is what would help a person
overcome a hearing deficiency. Wearing one in public would definitely mark
you somewhat unfairly as someone disabled.

A BRAVE NEW WORLD 17


Coming to the sense of sight on the other hand, Google Glass and Hololens
are at the forefront of new wearable technology capable of augmenting sight
but we would never think of these as being a form of prosthetic.
These wearables are also being used in rehab centers to help people
who need to recover from stroke or surgery. Initially, the development of
wearable robotics focused mainly on military and medical applications.
Is the wearable tech industry really the next big revolution, and all set
to boom in mainstream popularity, rather than fade away into tech-fad
obscurity? We certainly think so.

18

CHAPTER #02

THE
EVOLUTION OF
WEARABLES
In the last chapter we gave you a small
glimpse into the history of wearable
technology. Heres the whole story.

rom viewing computers as devices exclusively meant for highintensity computations to holding such computing powers in the
palm of your hand, the attitude towards computing devices has
changed in the past six decades or so. So much so that its common
enough these days to have devices with immense computational powers to
be worn as part of body attire-sometimes displacing ornaments and at other
times, complementing them. But wearables have a back story which goes
far back into the past-to centuries before Alan Turing conceived his Turing
machine which more or less laid the foundation for modern computers.
The story, when told in the narrative arc of wearables evolution is as
amusing as it is enlightening. Shedding light on not just the dominance
of human ingenuity down the ages but also the almost organic manner in
which one thing leads to the next, even when the next step in question is
highly removed from anything organic.
The first ever truly wearable tech product that man produced was the
humble eyeglasses. Though the identity of the inventor remains unknown,

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 19


its widely believed that the
invention was made the 13th
century in Venice. The earliest
users of the device were probably Christian monks since
during the period clergymen
and monks were the literate
class while lower classes
were limited to farming
activities and were generally
The first time the world saw wearables was
with a device of sight.
unlearned.
Glass blowing was an art
the Venetians were excelling during the time and reading glasses were a
result of the ingenious skills of the glass blowers who applied their acumen
to produce reading stones using solid glass. The evolution from these handheld single lens to the reading glasses set into bone or metal and balanced
on a monks nosebridge didnt take long. And in a painting by Tomasso
da Modena that the artist created in 1352, we have the very first artistic
representation of a pair of eyeglasses.
Time-keeping was an idea that was to revolutionise the way in which
humans engaged in wealth creating activities. The ability to mark time with
a high level of precision not only told employees when it was time to leave
work but also enabled employers to keep track of the amount of work done

A time-keeping device ahead of its time

20 THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES


by an employee in a given unit of time. This scenario meant that during the
early years after time keeping was introduced, devices to accurately mark
time became important.
Of these, the Nuremberg Egg was one that the owner could wear around
the neck. A predecessor of the pocket watch that was to become popular
in the later centuries, the Nuremberg Egg was in vogue during the early
16th century. The users were particularly impressed by the fact that these
devices made use of clockwork rather than weights like the preceding
moidels of time-keeping units.
The invention of the device is credited to German clockmaker, Peter
Heinlin.

The Abacus Ring- the calculating wearable machine of


the 17th century
Some people consider it the first ever wearable computer. Others see it
as a novelty item introduced in humanitys past. Whatever be the case,
there exists no doubt that the Abacus Ring-invented in China during the
16th century, was a major
evolutinary point in the
history of wearables.
The ring which was
developed during the
early years of the Qing
Dynasty(1644 to 1911)
was 1.2 cm long and 0.7 cm
wide and could be worn on
a finger.
Having seven rods with
Calculating with fingers, taken to another level
seven beads each, the ring
was mostly used by Chinese ladies who used hairpins to move the bead since the manuever was
impossible to make using a finger, owing to the diminutive size of the beads.
The users could make quick calculations using the Chinese abacus which
had a value of 10 or a multiple or sub multiple of the number ascribed to
each bead. For instance, all beads on a single rod could have the value of 1.
If thats the case and you have to represent, say the number 155, you should
separate five beads on a rod from the rest of them on the tens wire and also
separate a bead on the hundreds wire. The traditional Chinese abacus had

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 21


10 rods, so the abacus ring was
a variation of sorts.

The Victorian ingenuity


of the air conditioned
top hat in the 1800s
The Victorian era is generally
associated with vanity. Historians may or may not agree
with that view. However, if you
go by the fact that they came up
with an airconditioned top hat
to mimimize the sweat on the
scalp of many a high-browed
gentleman, you would side
with the vanity-view. The
invention remained in fashion
for just the briefest of times.

Some gentlemen apparently didnt think much of


the sweat of your brow idea

Electric Girl Lighting Company introducing dresses fitted


with bulbs and batteries to light up houses in the 1890s
The company in question was started in 1884 in America when the concept of electricity was, well..electrifying the entire nation. The correlation
between the human body and electricity was taken from its conceptual
cradle to materialistic reality by the company which aimed to give dresses
that were fitted with batteries and bulbs that can be worn by women. This
would help light up the home. In other words, a wife being the light of the
house was an idea that the company took to heart. As shown by subsequent
history, the people of America, or the rest of the world didnt find this an
electrifying idea.

The pigeon camera in 1907


Pigeons may be the emissaries of love as far as Bollywood is concerned
but the German photographer, Julius Neubronner had a different idea.
Neubronner-who lived more than a century ago used to be an apthecary
whose job entailed the use of carrier pigeons to deliver medications to
clients. However, when one of his pigeons returned four weeks later than
expected, Neubronner hit upon the idea of mounting a lightweight camera

22 THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES

Natural drones?

on the pigeons body so that he could observe what goes on in other parts
of the land.
The camera in question was usually made using wood and weighed
anywhere from 30 to 75 grams. Pigeons were given special training to
carry the load and they would fly at a height averaging 160 to 330 feet.
The cameras time delay mechanism was made possible by the pneumatic
system attached to it.

The Roulette shoe in 1961


One of the wackiest inventions ever made by mathematicians, the Roulette
shoe was essentially a a miniature computer that fitted inside a shoe. Its
purpose, as you may have guessed was to help the wearer win at a a game
of roulette. The device was invented by Edward O. Thorpe- a Mathematic
professor along with Prof. Claude Shannon- who is considered as the father
of information theory.
The idea was something which Thorp had been carrying around in his
head ever since he was young. However, it was only when he met Shannon in
his adult life that the plan came to fruition. The acquaintance with Shannon
not only gave Thorp the benefit of a highly scientific mind to help him but
also gave him access to the IBM 704- a machine which at the time was the
cutting-edge of technology.

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 23

Now, thats tapping to a winning rhythm!

The wearer of the device would have wires running down the length of
his body, concealed under his clothes, leading down to the leg where they
find their housing in the shoes where they are attached to switches. An
earpiece was also part of the contraption which would convey messages as
musical tomes- one each for the octants of the roulette wheel. Simple tapping of the foot were used to give inputs to the computer. The duo, even
though they covertly tested the device in Las Vegas casinos, never used it
for the purpose of gambling.

The Pulsar calculator


watch in 1975
These days, the Pulsar calculator
watch has a firm place in the list
of vintage devices. But when
it came out in 1975, the device
was considered as an ingenious
piece of technology. The first
ever wristwatch calculator, the
watch was introduced just before
Christmas of that year. The first
100 pieces were Limited edi-

One watch to calculate them all!

24 THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES


tion and was made in 18 kt gold and the price was a whopping $3,950.
However, people really did like the idea as all of them sold out and the
company followed it by introducing the stainless steel version for $550.
With red LED display of up to 6 digits, and the ability to perform calculations up to 12 digits, this one created quite a stir when it was introduced
for the first time in America.

Sony Walkman in 1979


Not even the Apples iconic
iPod has been able to bloat the
memory of the Sony Walkman.
At least, not among those who
have had a great time grooving
to music during the 80s and
90s, thanks to this extremely
portable music device. The fact
that a highly vibrant youth culture- features of which included
Move to the music while on the move
sexual exploration and individualism, existed in America when it was introduced helped make Sonys device
all the rage. Following their success with audio casette players, Sony made
the product innovation which enabled users to carry their music anywhere
they went. As for the quality of the cassette tape frequently getting tangled,
thats another story altogether

Seiko UC 2000 Wrist PC in 1981

A wristy, geeky affair

One of the earliest attempts at


creating a wearable computer,
Seikos Wrist PC looks like
small fish judging by present
day standards. 2K was all the
volume of date that you can feed
to the PC which would perform funtions like telling the
time or calculating sums for
you. Ambitious as the invention
was, it didnt go down well with
the audience- probably because

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 25


of the fact that computers were still mostly used by organizations rather
than individuals. It was not until three years later when Apple introduced theMacintosh in 1984 that the PC became a device of choice in
households. Maybe, if Seiko had waited that long, it would have been a
different story altogether.

Nelsonic Space Attacker Watch in 1984


Inroduced in 1984, the Nelsonic Space attacker watch coupled as a timetelling device as also a game playing unit. A collectible item for game enthusiats thsee days, the watch had a pretty large display that would display the
time along with information regarding the day, time, month, am/pm and the
alarm status all in one go. With a
simple push of a button, you can
change the display into a miniature game monitor- albeit the fact
that you could play just one game
in it- Space Attacker. The game
could be played using just two
front buttons in the watch- the
left button to move your turret
and the one on the right to shoot
at the attackers from outer-space.
The catch was that if the attackers
had you the first three times
around, the earth is lost!
Any time is good for a fight!
The fact that arcade games
were steadily gaining in popularity during the time in the U.S as well as
the widespread use of wristwataches- unlike the present day when we are
content with the time-telling abilities of our mobile phones meant that these
watches found their share of savvy users.

The head mounted screen- Private Eye in 1989


It seems that every contemporary piece of wearable technology has a predecessor. The Private Eye introduced by Reflection Technology was a prelude
to Google Glass. By scanning a vertical array of LEDs along a visual field
with a vibrating mirror, the head-mounted display would feed you visuals
the kind of which the world had never seen before. The diplay was 15- inch
long and was mounted at a distance of 18 inches.

26 THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES


A rather daring invention for its time, the invention probably had for
its inspiration the portable devices such as the Sony Walkman which had
already become an icon by then. The fact that television and movies had a
potentially wider audience than music might have been an influence too.

The sneaker phone in the 1990s


Looking like something that was born in the imagination of Ian Fleming
when he was super-drunk, the sneaker phone made a splash during the
1990s in America. However, the
product didnt casue any widespread ripples in the market,
possibly due to its clunky nature.
The fact that sneakers were THE
accessory of choice for the urban
young might have prompted
such an invention, though apparently even the experimental fashionistas of American cities found
Really, words fail
this one way over the top.

Levis ICD+ jacket in 2000


Levis- the brand thats single-handedly responsible for making the denim
the choice attire of the young was also the first to inculcate wearable tech
into their garment. The piece of
clothing in question is the Levis
ICD+ jacket which was introduced in summer 2000. Meant
for young professionals, the
jacket was created in collaboration with Philips and came in
four styles.
The basic idea was to have a
removable wired harness which
Cool looks with hot technology
one could connect to portable
electronic devices- including
mobile phones and MP3 players. All the devices would be connected to a
central control module using which the wearer could easily switch between
devices. Appealing both aesthetically and on a utilitarian front, Levis jacket

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 27


was testinmony to how much technology has literally become a part of
peoples lives by the turn of the millenium.

Bluetooth headset in 2002


We all know how it is- people talking as if mumbling to themselves, all
thanks to the hands-free luxury that the Bluetoot headset affords them.
And it all began in year 2002 when Nokia devised the first ever Bluetooth
headset- the Nokia HDW-1. Initially conceived as a concept program,
the product was later accepted
as a product program. Unfortunately though, the devicewhich was based on Nokias
proprietary chipset, LPRF
was scrapped before going
for mass production. But that
doesnt take the sheen away
from it since it served as the
basis for more advanced prodBlue is the new cool
ucts in the category.

Nike + in 2006
What would happen when two of the worlds biggest companies came
together to create a product? If the companies in question are Nike and Apple,
then the answer is a cutting-edge
wearable device that takes your
athletic performance to whole
new heights- the Nike Plus. Introduced in 2006, the product has
already gone through a few significant evolutionary steps and is
a favourite among runners.
A transmitter that can be
embedded in a shoe transmits
Just wear it
information to the activity
tracker- a Sportband or an iPod/
iPhone to which the transmitter is linked. The runner could get the exact
stats regarding the distance covered and the pace etc. Apart from athletes,
health-conscious individuals also find this a useful device for obvious

28 THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES


reason. What with a host of life-style induced ailments like obesity and
high levels of cholestrol making it inevitable for millions around the world
to exercise on a regular basis, Nikes introduction turned out to be timely
as well as innovative.

Fitbit classic in 2008


The company, Fitbit Inc. which is headquartered in San Francisco took the
wearables route to challenge Nike by introducing the Fitbit classic. It was
the first in the line of products that measure such statistics as the number of
steps that one take while walking, the quality of sleep and also the number of
steps climbed aside from other personal metrics. Having a more expansive
list of features than the Nike Plus, added with the fact that it has appeal to
a broder audience than the athletically-conscious, Fitbit is rather popular
and could have significant influence on the wearables to come.

The bits and bytes of fitness

Google Glass in 2013


Everyone saw the lines between science fiction and reality blur significantly when Google came out with their unique product, Glass. The idea
behind the product that comes with a head mounted display was to create
a ubiquitous computer. Part high-end toy, part utility, the Google Glass is
already put to good use in fields as disparate as healthcare and journalism.
Undoubtedly a significant leap in the evolution of wearables, the product-

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 29

No, honey, you arent hallucinating, thats how things look through GLASS

coming from such a widely recognised company has also made wearables
a common concept among the ordinary men and women.

Solar powered jackets in 2014


One of the major concerns that the world faces in the 21st century is the
depleting resources of the world. The clothing brand, Tommy Hilfiger
entered the wearables sector against this backdrop. Their product- solar

Wearing sunny side up?

30 THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES


powered jackets for both men and women was introduced as a limited
edition offering in 2014.
The jacket allows the wearer to charge cell phoes etc. using power from the
solar cells embedded in the jacket. The mechanism makes use of a chord in
the lining of the jacket that is connected to the solar panels which are found
on the back of the garment. The chord connects the panels to a removable
battery pack thats found in the front right pocket. The solar panels were
made using flexible silicon technology. If exposed to full sunlight, the cells
would enable the charging of a 1500 mAh mobile device for up to four times.
The presence of two USB ports in the pack means one can plug in multiple
devices simultaneously.

Apple Watch in 2015


As an unintentional nod to
one of the first wearables
ever the Nuremberg Egg
which helped keep time in
the 16th century Apple
came out with the Apple
Watch in 2015. But this
ones not just about telling
the time. Not by a long shot.
One watch. Any uses?
Using the product, one can
make or take calls as well as
text and is integrated with iOS aside from other Apple products and services.
And thats just the beginning of it.

Oculus Rift, slotted for 2016


The Oculus Rift is the latest in the series of wearables to enthrall the users.
Said to be the first really professional PC-based VR heasets the device is a
virtual reality head-mounted display devveloped by the company, Oculus
VR. Having a resolution of 1080 * 1200 per eye, the Rift comes with integrated headphones that provide spatialised audio. It also has full 6 degrees
of freedom in rotational and positional tracking. The product has come a
long way since it was first proposed in a Kickstarter campaign and is one
of the most anticipated tech releases.
From the humble beginnings as eyewear for monks to a head-mounted
VR device which takes the concept of contrived reality to another level,

THE EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES 31

The shape of things to come

the story of wearables is exciting to say the least. And along its evolution,
there has been inventions that didnt quite hit the mark as also the ones
which delighted the users. Judging by the rapid pace of innovation which
the world is seeing these days, many more along the same lines will hit the
market in more frequency than ever before.

32

CHAPTER #03

INTERACTION
REDEFINED
The growth of wearables presents
some very interesting opportunities
to design new interfaces. Heres how
youll talk to your wearables.

ne crucial challenge when designing any wearable device is the


medium of humancomputer interaction; in particular, how do
we as users talk and give commands to our wearables? We use
a User interface, of course.
A User Interface (or UI) commonly refers to a set of commands or menus
for human users to interact with a computer system or program. This can be
achieved via various mediums such as text, touch, voice, and so on (e.g. the
mouse and keyboard driven UI of a PC). Well-designed user interfaces allow
you to perform tasks efficiently and with minimal instructions or training.
While most examples of UIs would point to some visual/text-based
system, owing to their size and often unconventional design, these traditional
UI systems are often impractical for wearable tech. Imagine using a mouse
and keyboard to control a digital watch or headset! Yeah. Not happening.
Fortunately, it is not uncommon to see researchers develop new and
more intuitive ways of humanmachine interaction. Voice commands,
air gestures, and even neurological signals are being implemented as
means of communicating with digital systems. This spells great news

INTERACTION REDEFINED 33
for the field of wearables as it opens up a host of possibilities for easier,
more intuitive UI.
Lets take a look at some of the innovations in UI and how they can be
implemented towards wearables.

Gesture Interfaces
Gesture-based Interfaces rely on bodily motion for input, sometimes augmented by voice-based input. Probably one of the coolest looking ones, this
type of interface was best conceptualized in the 2002 Sci-fi hit, Minority
Report, in which Tom Cruise was shown to perform a number of complicated
computing tasks such as manipulating images and videos using his hands,
which are fitted with some futuristic gloves that seemingly act as sensors.
What seemed like far-fetched science fiction is now slowly becoming
reality, thanks in part to the popularity of mention-sensing game controllers such as those seen in the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation Move as well
as Microsofts patented Kinect Motion Sensor, which also recognized voiceactivated commands for a very seamless and intuitive user experience.
These devices use a collection of sensors to detect bodily motions when
are then translated to input signals that drive the UI. The Wiimote and
PlayStation Move controller use accelerometers and gyroscopes to translate
the motions made by the controller while the Kinect uses a motion-sensing
camera that is programmed to detect movements made by the users limbs
and head.
One can fathom the vast pool of possibilities and applications that
Gesture-based interfaces hold in terms of wearables. Technology users
have been for the longest time restricted to moving their point of interaction across a two-dimensional field. Think of running your mouse across
your monitor. Flat, isnt it? Now imagine how useful the addition of a third
dimension would be to what has traditionally been a flat interface. You could
pull an object towards you to open their contents or fling them across the
screen to archive or delete them. Bring two-handed gestures into the picture
and youve added another gamut of interaction types. You can stretch an
object to zoom in, clap across it to close, double tap on it to pausewe are
only restricted by our imagination.
Currently, gesture-based interfaces are extremely popular for wearables
that lack a screen. Also, wearables can double up as input devices in such
gesture-based systems. Take, for example, Flying Fingers Mouse, a device
that looks suspiciously like the glove worn by Tom Cruise in Minority

34 INTERACTION REDEFINED

Thank you Steven Spielberg for your futuristic vision

Report. It uses simple hand gestures to emulate pointer movement and has
buttons on the index and middle finger attachments for clicking; ideal for
those who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Augmented Reality Interface


In augmented reality (AR), digital objects are incorporated into the users
surroundings allowing them to interact with them in a contextual manner.
For example, bouncing a virtual ball off of a real-life wall, or using a virtual
gun (or a game controller) to shoot virtual enemies in a sort of interactive
digital playground.
There are a lot of real world examples of AR in action. It is a popular
tool for marketing and advertising campaigns, in particular, by using your
smartphone camera to scan your surroundings. A lot of apparel retailers

INTERACTION REDEFINED 35
have some fitting app where you can try out stuff from their catalog by
either uploading a picture of yourself or in real-time via your phones
front camera. IKEA even has an app that allows you to visualize how their
furniture would look in your home against surrounding objects.
AR and wearables go together like peanut butter and jam. In fact, the
first thing you think of when you think AR must surely be either Googles
Glass or Microsofts HoloLenstwo pioneering devices in the context of
making AR mainstream. Both devices enhance the users everyday visuals
by providing contextually important information on the wearable headmounted display. Glass was designed more towards the lines of a smartphone
supplement (much like wearable smartwatches), whereas the HoloLens is
more of a standalone device, although it can be paired with Windows smart
devices for better inter-device control.
This sort of an immersive user interface has numerous applications by
increasing productivity at work and home. The ease of use this interface
offers, not the mention the sheer novelty factor, has made the tech community extremely excited about its eventual assimilation into mainstream
computing. During a recent Windows 10 press conference, Microsoft teased
a video in which a HoloLens uses built a model UFO using virtual images
shifted around in midair. This idea could be expanded to build plans for
skyscrapers, vehicles and other feats of engineering in seconds using
virtual schematics.
The Think Tank Teamheaded by Pranav Mistry who is also the Director
of Research of Samsung Research Americais developing an AR based
wearable known as SixthSense. Similar to Hololens, SixthSense is focused
on integrating real-world objects with digital information and virtual
objects. The device is made up of a camera and projector pair, worn very
much like a tie, with the camera located at the neck region and the project
placed right around the region between the chest and stomach. The camera
is used to detect four colored rubber bands tied around the tip of your index
and middle fingers on each hand. The motion and gestures made by your
fingers in translated to input for the visual interface output by the projector
on a nearby surface.
This technology is perfectly exemplifies the capacity of AR and its
communion with wearables. Potential applications for SixthSense include
making the photograph gesture with your fingers to instantly capture an
image, scanning book covers and displaying relevant information melded
with the cover image and text, scanning boarding passes and displaying

36 INTERACTION REDEFINED

The new Pokmon game looks to integrate classic


Pokmon gameplay with augmented reality

information regarding flight time delays and in-flights meals, etc. Really,
your imagination is the limit with such a versatile tool.

Voice User Interface (VUI)


Arguably, the most intuitive method of communication for any human
is voice. We learn to communicate using sounds from a very young age.
However, communication is more than just learning a language; it is also
catching slight nuances, understanding the variations in tone, pitch, and
even recognizing the differences in accents. Problems like these were what
plagued voice-recognition algorithms for years, and in turn, making it difficult for a real-world application of a voice-based user interface.
Fortunately, technology caught up, and we have more than capable
voice-recognition software commercially available with a variety of realworld applications. The most popular one, Google Now, is almost sentient
in its natureconstantly learning a users likes and dislikes, providing
suggestions with contextual informationits almost like a personal assis-

INTERACTION REDEFINED 37

The Hound app looks to compete with Google Now by


supporting more complex voice commands

tant. Similarly, we have Apples and Microsofts equivalent with Siri and
Cortana, respectively, both of which have taken a page (more like a sheaf)
out of Googles playbook.
In the context of wearables, a voice-based interface is such an obvious
choice. What better way to communicate with a device that has no screen
and is placed close enough that you can talk to it? Well, you talk to it. In
fact, Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens both support voice commands.
Furthermore, almost all flagship Android Wear devices support voice
input with Google Now integration. Now, making a note to pay the bills is
as easy as literally telling your watch make a note to pay the bills. What
a time to be alive.
Voice-based interfaces are essential for the continued development on
the concept of the Internet of Things. Soon, homes will be referred to as
smart homes that run on smart energy, use smart appliances and are controlled via smart devices. It is only natural that the most preferred method
of interaction is that which is most intuitive, i.e. voice. It is only a matter of

38 INTERACTION REDEFINED
time before our smart devices not just recognize what we say, but predict
what we are going to say and act on our thoughts before we do.

BrainComputer Interface
It is a known scientific fact that our brains generate electrical signals using
cells known as neurons. In fact, almost all of our thoughts have a unique
brainwave pattern, which are detected using a method known as Electroencephalography or EEG. This method uses (in most cases) non-invasive
electrodes placed strategically across the scalp that measure voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current within the neurons of the brain.
Scientists and doctors have used this method to map brain patterns with
specific commands and actions. This technology has tremendous potential
in terms of interacting with wearable devices, especially those designed to
augment accessibility for physically handicapped people.
Research programs dedicated to developing similar brain-controlled
interfaces have been accelerated of late with additional funding. One of the

Physically handicapped person using a brain-control interface headset to control


wheelchair movement

INTERACTION REDEFINED 39
latest and more path-breaking developments in this field was that of the
brain-controlled wheelchair designed to help paralyzed people gain mobility
by using nothing but their thoughts to control the wheelchairs movement.
Other examples of BrainComputer Interfaces include the Epoc headset
designed by Emotiv. Featured in numerous tech magazines and even on a
TEDx talk, the Epoc headset is a wearable that can detect EEG signals in
14 high-resolution channels and translate this raw data to commands that
can be passed to a software for applicative uses.
The potential for such technology when it comes to wearables is selfexplanatory. It is especially useful when you think of potential to connect
multiple smart devices to such an interface, allowing you to control items
like appliances and electronics to possibly even more complicated applications such as driving or translating thoughts to text. Envision a future
where you can operate a series on interconnected/interdependent devices
using thoughts alone.

Tangible User Interface (TUI)


Weve already talked about the interaction of real-world objects with virtually designed ones in the discussion of AR-based interfaces. However, the
digital objects in AR are not tangible and will always remain virtual. We
are but grasping at air, and it is a well-known fact that as humans we do
appreciate some feedback when it comes to handling objects. The answer
to this conundrum is the concept of a tangible user interface.
In essence, a TUI allows users to interact with a digital system by manipulating physical objects linked to the particular system with a certain set of
rules. For example, imagine a computer system in which the physical environment is seamlessly melded with the corresponding digital domain that
recognizes the manipulation of the real world object in real time. The most
primitive form of a TUI is the humble computer mouse. In fact, moving a
mouse across a flat surface to manipulate an on-screen pointer is the most
direct method of interacting with a digital system through the manipulation of a physical object.
In todays relatively more modern tech era, we have much more aweinspiring examples of TUI. Take a look at Microsoft Pixelsense, a computing
surface that allows multiple users to interact simultaneously with objects
placed on a large table-sized interactive surface. The platform can be programmed to sense the type of objects placed on the surface and carry out a
set of commands accordingly. For example, you could place your phone on

40 INTERACTION REDEFINED

Microsoft Pixelsense interacting with objects placed on it

the surface and then interact with content on the phone like view images
and movies, make video calls, or simply access files stored on the phone on
a much bigger interface for easy editing.
The earlier version of Pixelsense (aka Microsoft Surface 1.0; not to be
confused with Microsofts line of high-end laptop/tablet hybrids) used a
near-infrared, 850-nanometer-wavelength LED light source that would
react to changes near the surface by reflecting the light source to sensor
cameras. However, this camera-based system was ditched for a more accurate pressure touch-based platform that could recognize fingers, tags, blobs,
raw data, and objects placed on the screen. Microsoft rechristened this

INTERACTION REDEFINED 41

platform as Pixelsense and tied up with Samsung for manufacturing the


revised surface table, now called Samsung SUR40.

Sensor Network User Interface (SNUI)


Easily the most intriguing of interfaces on this list, SNUI deals with creating
a humancomputer interface by using networked objects that are designed
specifically to interact with each other. Not unlike TUIs, an SNUI requires
physical, tangible objects that are programmed to interact with each other,
preferably when they are nearby. These objects are all roughly the same
size and plenty in number.

42 INTERACTION REDEFINED

Siftables in action. Example of a game played using three siftables.

There are not too many examples of commercially viable SNUI implementations, but one does deserve a special mention for its sheer innovation
and practicality: Siftables. As described by its inventors David Merrill and
Jeevan Kalanithi, Siftables aims to enable people to interact with information and media in physical, natural ways that approach interactions with
physical objects in our everyday lives. Siftables are small electronic devices
with a display, and they are programmed in such a way as to intuitively
and wirelessly interact with other siftables to allow for a more dynamic
and natural computing experience.
For example, when one siftable is place next to another, the parts of
the displace that are in proximity can light up, or change depending on a
context. Think of siftables that display portraits of different people. Now
imagine these portraits dynamically turning to face one another as they
are placed close together. It makes for an almost human-like interaction.
Other potential uses for siftables includes puzzles and interactive learning
toys. SNUI-based systems like siftables are still in a type of prototype stage,
but they can be designed in such a way so as to take advantage of intuitive
human interactions for making computing easy and fun.

INTERACTION REDEFINED 43

Haptic-based Interfaces
Not unlike TUIs that weve just discussed, haptic interfaces rely on the user
receiving physical feedback to their input actions. Simply put, tangible
user interfaces require you to perform some sort of physical interaction
with the system, whereas haptic interfaces will provide you with a sort of
haptic feedback, be it in the form of a vibration, a compressionbasically
anything that you can physically feel.
Such interfaces can be used to enhance our gamut of senses by augmenting them in a way that we can perceive. This kind of technology is
implemented in devices for physically challenged people such as those
with visual impairments. An excellent example of a haptic interface in a
commercially available device is Lechal, smart footwear that guide you
towards your destination using gentle vibrations.
Lechal utilizes metallic sensors (or pods) that are clipped onto the side
of the shoe or placed in the insoles. The sensors are then paired to the
users smartphone via Bluetooth, who then uses the GPS-supported phone
application that can be also via voice commands. Using real-time location
tracking, the left or right pod will vibrate indicating the direction in which
the user should turn.
Another cool example of haptic feedback is the Alert Shirta piece of
apparel that aims to connect humans across vast distances by detecting the
tangible, physical manifestations of human emotions and transmitting it
for others to feel and share. The Alert Shirt was designed to let sports fans
feel the physical strain and emotional stress that players feel when they
are on the field. It does this using embedded haptic motors that respond to
actions in the games, such as tackles, kicks, and even nerves that a player
might feel when stepping up for a crucial kick. With the rise in popularity of
wearables, it seems only evident that most devices in the future incorporate
some sort of haptic feedback system.

44

CHAPTER #04

THE WAR
OF THE
WEARABLES
Analysing the current trend in
wearables leads us to some unique
revelations like their role in the
enterprise space

ver the past half decade, wearable technology has seen a great
surge in popularity as evidenced by its rising sales. From household brands like Fitbit and Android Wear to pioneering devices
like the Oculus Rift and Google Glass, wearables look very
much like they are here to stay. In the tech sense, wearables are electronic
devices or miniature computers that are integrated into or made to resemble
wearable objects such watches, headbands, bracelets, rings basically any
piece of apparel that can be worn without hassle.
Applications for wearables have encompassed a number of fields.
Weve seen headbands fitted with EEG sensors for tracking brain activity
and translating it into a format that can be used to drive peripheral hardware; in other words, using your brain to control pretty much anything
that can recognize electronic signals. In fact, wearables are also being

THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES 45

Wearable tech shows great promise in sports and fitness

used in sports, a prime example of which is the MYOVOLT, a strap-like


device that applies vibration energy directly to muscle, soft tissue and
joints for physiological benefits.
With such a versatile range of applicability, there seem to be few
markets that wearables are yet to penetrate. Finance analyst firm IHS
predicts that from 2013 to 2019, the worldwide market for sensors in
wearables will expand by 67 million units to a staggering 466 million
units. This translates to an estimated increase in the number of wearable
devices from 50 million to 135 million thats a 170% increase or nearly
2.5 times in 6 years.
These numbers are a testament to the success of wearables in the commercial market. People are slowly getting interested in these unobtrusive
devices that are slowing helping in making their daily lives just that
little bit easier. Of course, it helps that most of these wearable devices
are much more affordable than they were a few years ago. For instance,
a developer kit for Google Glass would set you back a staggering $1500.
Definitely not for the casual tech buyer. Compare this with the now less
than $5 Google Cardboard an almost primitive virtual reality headset
made using over-the-counter materials such as cardboard, optical lenses, a

46 THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES


magnet, and some rubber bands. Of course, in terms of features and specs,
the two are not even in the league. However, this just goes to illustrate
that wearables can transcend barriers of price; something smartphones
have successfully managed over the past five years or so.

The Birth of an Emerging Trend


The need for wearables arose from an old trend that has relented for centuries: mans need to make devices smaller and more convenient to use.
Before wristwatches were invented, timekeeping devices were clunky
and not known for their portability. Before you know it, wristwatches
were a thing and the rest is history.
Some might say the first true wearable was the humble Bluetooth
headset, devised and developed commercially around the turn of the 21st
century. Of course, we could go further into the past and argue that the
Pulsar Calculator Watch earned the title of the first wearable. It did qualify
as an electronic device that housed a mini computer capable of performing
simple calculations, while doubling up as a nifty looking wristwatch. And
before all of this was the infamous computerized timing device developed
by Mathematicians Edward O. Thorp, and Claude Shannon to help them
cheat in games of roulette.
Back then, there wasnt really a viable market for wearable computers.
In fact, the market for personal computers was slowly picking up, thanks to
the efforts of Microsoft and
IBM. At this point wearables were limited to calculator watches and camera
and photography-related
devices. One notable device
around the 80s would be
the backpack-mounted
wearable multimedia computer designed and built a
Steve Mann. It was capable
of displaying text, graphics,
and multimedia including
videos. Mann was an early
and active researcher in
A wearable MP3 player by LG
the wearables field, and

THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES 47


eventually went on to famously develop the worlds first Wearable
Wireless Webcam.
It wasnt until the late 2000s that wearables really began gaining some
traction in the technology market. A major contributor to this was the
rise in popularity of smartphones and the widespread adoption of Bluetooth. In fact, almost all of todays wearables owe much to this versatile
wireless standard. Bluetooth headsets were seen as a sort of indicator of
professionalism and success. It was also a wearable that greatly boosted
the wearers productivity as it left their hands free for other important
tasks, while also doing away with the hassle of wires.
Wearable music devices were also extremely popular, and the youth
demographic was always on the lookout for easier ways to consume
their media. Sony was known for its Walkman range of portable media
players, although most of them were peripheral devices that required a
set of earphones to use. Eventually, Sony decided to test the wearable
market by designing and fervently marketing a pair of headphones that
housed all the components of an MP3 player, making it the worlds first
wearable MP3 player.

The Current Scene in the Wearable Market Space


Nowadays, wearables are much more than just portable MP3 players and
wireless headphones. The increase in the manufacture of microchip-sized
sensors has seen developers increasing experiment with prototypes of
innovative wearables. The more the tech barriers were brought down,
the more startup-scale developers were encouraged to try new things.
One company that knows this all too well is Fitbit. Founded in 2007,
this California-based startup is known for their fitness and health tracking
wearable bands. At the end of Q2 2015, Fitbit had 23.4% share of the
wearables market whilst enjoying a growth of 158% in market value.
However, it wasnt always smooth sailing for them, as cofounder and
CTO Eric Friedman claims there were more than a handful of times they
were close to calling it quits. Fortunately for them, the company had about
25,000 orders at their product launch in Christmas 2009. CEO James
Park says their success was down to the fact that it was the right product
at the right time at the right price point.
However, the biggest contributor to the sudden rise in development
of wearable technology is the success of crowdfunding. Websites like
Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been a massive boon for entrepreneurs

48 THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES

OUYA: Proof that not all successful Kickstarter projects end up as consumer favorites

and small-time engineers who want to see their revolutionary ideas


brought to life but do not have the requisite funds to make it happen. In
fact, Kickstarter has to be credited for bringing modern day wearables a
household name. Enter, the Pebble smartwatch.
Built with an e-paper screen and designed to run with compatible apps
on your iPhone or Android device, the Pebble smartwatch was arguably
the worlds first commercially successful smartwatch. For funding, Pebble
turned to crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and it was not disappointed.
In its first three days, the project attracted 18,867 backers and raised
$2,656,389 of their initial $100,000 target, which successfully put the
watch into production. The project eventually raised $3 million in 60
days making it a runaway success and a great example of the effectiveness of Kickstarter.
It didnt stop there, however; the successor to the Pebble, aka the Pebble
Time, also had its own Kickstarter campaign, which met its funding goal of
$500,000 in 17 minutes and crossed $1 million in about 49 minutes, a Kickstarter record. It ended up as the most funded Kickstarter campaign reaching
nearly $14 million while still having 21 days remaining in its campaign.

THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES 49

The Rise of Smart Bands and Smart Watches in


Mainstream Consumer Tech
Some argue that smartwatches and smartbands still have a while to go before
they achieve mainstream popularity in India. Most Indians view them as
an unnecessary piece of technology, and that their marketing strategy is
to simply create demand which does not exist. Arguable, who really needs
a fitness band or smartwatch? There are a number of fitness apps that use
your smartphones inbuilt sensors to track steps and calculate distance
travelled, thus leaving most consumers who buy a smartband with the
feeling that they have paid premium bucks for a device whose features
were already available in their pocket.
The sudden growth of startups and the widespread adoption of a
consumerist lifestyle, especially among the middle class, has arguably
led to a drastic deterioration in the average Indians health. It seems
that the market is ripe for products that can help improve failing fitness
levels by any means possible. According to the Connected Intelligent
Consumers and Wearables report by the NPD group, one in ten adults
in the United States owns a fitness tracker. As current trends imply, the
Indian market does not seem to be extremely thrilled about wearable, in
particular smartbands and smartwatches.
However, the adoption of new technology is always met with some
resistance. Before smartphones became not just a common sight but
also an essential part of everyday life, they were looked at as expensive
devices that could only be afforded by people from higher income blocks.
However, their immense potential and scalability were critical factors in
their eventual widespread adoption. So much so that smartphones are
affordable and available even for people in rural areas. Wearables are
slowly progressing to this stage of mainstream marketability.
Currently, wearables fall somewhere between the affordable and
expensive price brackets. Top brand smartwatches range between $80
(`5,600) to as high as $1,100 (`70,000). You can also get a cheaper
Chinese model smartwatch for as low as `1,500 if you know where to
look. Smartbands are generally more affordable. The Mi band is a very
popular fitness band, and retails for approximately `1,000. Fitbit bands
were recently released in India and cost between `5,590 and `10,390.
India also has its very own smartband offering in GOQii. This company is trying to bypass the technology stigma by offering customers a
complete fitness service that includes the assistance of a fitness coach

50 THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES

5 popular fitness app: (up left to bottom right) Sports Tracker, Adidas Micoach, Runkeeper,
Endomondo Sports Tracker

who helps you a personalized fitness plan along with daily guidance and
motivation. You can opt for a 3, 6, or 12-month subscription plans, all of
which come with a free GOQii Activity Tracker. Hopefully, services like
this may help acclimatize Indian consumers to the concept of wearbles.

The Potential of Wearables in the Enterprise Space


Wearables are an emerging technology and seem to have wasted little
time in flooding the already packed consumer tech market. Initially
seen as a niche market that was dominated by startups such as Fitbit
and Pebble, a number of major companies, such as Google, Samsung,
Sony, and Microsoft have also joined in the fray, churning out devices
on 6-month to yearly cycle. However, their high price tag seems to be the
biggest deterrent to their market success, besides the fact that most users
are hesitant in spluging a considerable amount of money on a product,
most of whose functions can be carried out by a normal smartphone
or tablet. Another factor is that there seems to be very little immediate
gain to buying a smartwatch or smartband that costs anywhere between
`5,000 to `20,000. If it is a question of fitness, the average Indian

THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES 51


would consider opting instead for a yearly gym subscription, which
costs just as much.
On the other hand, wearable seem to have much greater short-term
value for corporates and startups. In the case of service industries, wearables can boost employee efficiency by providing them to convenient access
to process data and instructions, while their hands are left free to handle
machinery and equipment. Wearables can also lead to extensive cost
savings in complicated and expensive enterprise processes. For example,
oil-drilling companies spend up to hundreds of millions in identifying
and exploring drilling sites. They could equip on-site workers with customized wearable devices to stream real-time data and information from
a control room. These can also monitor and control staff communicate
changes, and potentially highlight any gaps in communication, which is
often a common factor in process errors.
APX Labs, the creators of the Smartglass software for the Xbox One,
estimate the number of desk-less workers in the United States who could
benefit from implement wearables is about 40 million. This is across a
number of sectors including healthcare, retail or wholesale, manufacturing, government, transportation, construction, as well as resources
and utilities. After its initial demonstrations a a the recent Windows 10
conference, Microsofts HoloLens was hailed as being the next big thing
in the field of augmented reality, and for good reason.
The HoloLens features a transparent holographic display on which
the headset can project overlays of virtual images. These images can then
be manipulated by motion and gestures. This sort of technology is a Godsend in jobs and services that require complex spatial conceptualizations
such as architecture and city planning to name a few. Offsite trainers can
demonstrate complex tasks employees by projecting instructions over
existing real life projects. Collaboration can also be made easier; imagine
teams sharing design ideas in a three dimensional space. If properly
executed. HoloLens has the potential for wide commercial adoption in
the enterprise space.

The Future of Marketing


At present, the best means of gaining Marketing data is through online
interactions. The information that you share on social media, the posts you
like, the links you share, the websites that you visit, even the email you
read, are all valuable data that marketers thrive for. While the accuracy

52 THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES

of this data is often suspect considering the number of imposters and


fraudsters, there is no denying the results. The only drawback to this
system is that it cannot accurately predict consumer habits.
In this respect, wearable technology lends great promise to the future
of personalised advertising and marketing. Wearable technology devices
can potentially be used hundreds of times over the course of a day, more
people will engage with them than their traditional gadgets, meaning that
every minute is trackable and buying habits and personal preferences
can be easier tracked. While this sort of intrusive marketing is bound to
receive criticism, the average consumer may forever be unaware of it and

THE WAR OF THE WEARABLES 53

The HoloLens in action

how it affects their routine. For example, the fact that Google and Facebook
make use of your saved preferences to deliver specific ads targeted to your
specific demographic is surprisingly unknown to the average Internet
user. If consumers are prepared to enjoy such a personalized service at
the cost of their personal data, time will tell.

54

CHAPTER #05

LETS TALK
DEVICES
By showcasing the multitude of devices
out there, well help you select the right
wearable for you

udging by the name itself, wearable technology clearly refers to


gadgets that you wear. However, there is a critical distinction that
separates what qualifies as wearable tech and standard electronic
peripherals such as headphones or digital watches. Wearable
technology helps devices connect to a smart network to help play
a number of functions that would otherwise require multiple device. and
they do this using sensors and network connectivity. You can use them to
track your fitness, stay organized, and stay updated even when your away
from a phone or computer.
Wearables are wrist worn, clipped to your body, hung around the neck,
and even implanted under your skin. Some manufacturers are attempting
to integrate wearable technology with clothing and jewelery. So what are
the main kinds of wearables available in the market right now?

Smartwatches
In terms of functionality, few wearables can compete with the versatility
of smartwatches. All smartwatches come with a display, which can be

LETS TALK DEVICES 55


either monochrome or color, and have a digital watch face that is either
always on or can be woken up from sleep much like a smartphone display. To qualify as a smartwatch, however, they should ideally possess
secondary functions such a calculator, organizer and more complex ones
such as a note keeping app and fitness tracking capabilities. For this, most
high-end smartwatches include electronic sensors such as a heart rate
sensor, accelerometer, thermometer, altimeter, barometer, compass, and
chronograph. More expensive models are fitted with GPS chips making
them great devices for navigation.
Smartwatches fall into two categories: The first type referred to as
standalone smartwatches, do not require pairing with another device.
These smartwatches generally have a SIM card slot for Internet connectivity and are powered by faster processors. This means they are generally
more expensive and relatively heavier than the other the other type, aka
the pairable type. These smartwatches requires a connection to a primary
device, generally via Bluetooth. If used without another device, they have
limited functionality. On the plus side these watches, once synced with
your phone, can deliver notifications for quick viewing , allow you to
answer or reject call, reply to texts, and create calendar events, notes and
reminders, to name just a few features.
For a more detailed list of features, lets take a quick look at some of the
most popular smartwatches available in the market right now.

Pebble Watches
The device that started it all, the Pebble Watch is the currently the highest
selling smartwatch around the world. Compatible with iOS and Android
via their official apps, the watch is paired via Bluetooth and comes with its
own set of downloadable apps and customizable watchfaces. It is available
in three different variants: the Pebble Classic, Pebble Time, and Pebble
Time Steel. The Classic has an e-paper display, similar to that found in
the Kindle e-reader. This scratch-resistant display is easy to read even in
direct sunlight.
The successor to the Pebble Classic, the Pebble Time, features an
updated color e-paper display, as compared with the monochrome one
of the Pebble Classic. The Time boasts a couple of significant improvements, most notably an integrated microphone for replying to incoming
notifications or recording short voice notes. Pebble have added a smart
accessory port, to the Time, which they believe will allow developers to

56 LETS TALK DEVICES

Pebbles range of smartwatches

build sensors and smart straps that connect directly to the watch.
In terms of software, both offer excellent fitness tracking apps and also
support music and media playback via third-party software. Thanks to its
widespread popularity, the Pebble app store now features around 6,500
apps and watch faces for a truly individual experience. The latest iteration
of Pebble Time introduces a unique timeline interface in which users can
scroll through past and future notifications, allowing them to maintain
a productive schedule while staying informed of actions and events they
may have to encounter during a hectic work day.
Both Pebble watches have an estimated battery life of up to seven
days (thanks to the extremely power-efficient e-paper display) and can be

LETS TALK DEVICES 57

charged using the included USB cable. Each of them also come in more
expensive Steel variants, which feature an all-steel chassis and are available in brushed stainless and matte black.

Samsung Galaxy Gear series


Samsungs Gear line of smartwatches is are known for their excellent build
quality and focus on functionality. The original Galaxy Gear boasted top
of the line specs and was released alongside Samsungs flagship device of
that time, the Galaxy Note 3. The smartwatch a relatively discrete design
which was in stark contrast to its square design aesthetic. It featured a
petite 1.6-inch AMOLED display with a pixel density of ~277 ppi.

58 LETS TALK DEVICES


Following the somewhat lukewarm reception of the Galaxy Gear, Samsung released six more wearables, namely the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit
(which had more of smartband aesthetic), Gear Live (Samsungs first and
only Android Wear based smartwatch), the Gear 2 and finally, the Gear S2.
When compared with the initial Gear smartwatches, the Gear S2 is very
different in terms of design, featuring a circular display similar to that of
the Moto 360. This gave it a a reduced screen size of 1.2 inches as compared
to the more immersive 2-inch display seen on the Gear S. Furthermore, the
3G version of the Gear S2 features a nano-SIM card slot unlike the painfully less supported e-SIM slot in the original Gear S, albeit this comes
at the cost of the watch seeming bulkier. The Gear S2 also supports NFC,
which should add tremendous functionality, especially if services like
Android Pay and Samsung Pay pick up in popularity.
Both the Gear S and S2 house a 300 mAh battery that lends about
2 days of charge on average use. However, the Gear S does score some
brownie points here since it supports magnetic wireless charging, unlike
the original Gear S which required you to place the watch on a proprietary
portable charging dock. All watches are also protected by Corning Gorilla
Glass 3 and, as Samsung claims, also water-resistant up to a certain water
depth and duration.

Moto 360 series


Initially, Motorola was seen as a surprise entry in the emerging wearables
market, in particular, smartwatches. However, the success of the Moto
360 helped cement their position as a major player in the smartwatch
market. In fact, before its release, the Moto 360 was the biggest draw in a
number of technology conference and showcases, owing in particular to
its one distinguishing factor, its compact and very sleek circular display.
Also, Motorola managed to reduce the size of the bezel to a bare minimum
unlike the other clunkier smartwatches in the market. However, this
sleekness came at a cost, as Motorola had to house the driving hardware
for the display at the base, which left the watch with an annoying black
bar at the bottom of the watch face.
Motorola introduced significant upgrades in the 2015 edition of the
Moto 360, most notable of which was the new ambient mode display.
In this mode, the display of the watch face is always on, similar to other
smartwatches available in the market. In the original Moto 360, you could
only view the display either by physically lifting your wrist and looking

LETS TALK DEVICES 59

The Moto 360 stands out with its exquisite design

60 LETS TALK DEVICES


at the watch or by double tapping the screen. The new model also features
an upgraded processor, but sticks with the 512MB of RAM and 4GB of
internal storage found in the original.
Both models are available in two size variants: a mens version at 46mm
and one for women at 42 mm. Motorola has settled on three color variants,
including black, silver and gold, and the womens variant is also available
in Rose Gold. Both watches feature a crisp IPS LCD display, with a pixel
density of 205 to 233 ppi depending on your variant. They support wireless charging and are IP67 certified, which means they are dust proof and
water resistant up to 1 meter in in depth for 30 minutes. Finally, the battery
life is on par with other smartwatches in the market, with the original 360
providing up to 1 days worth of battery life on a single charge and the 360
2 giving up to 2 days. Both also support convenient wireless charging.

LG G Watch series
LG holds the distinction of being the first manufacturer to manufacture
an Android-Wear compliant smartwatch. To this end the LG G Watch and
its round variant, the G Watch R, are pioneering devices and extremely
solid in terms of both build and performance. The G Watch features a more
function-oriented design, evident by its obvious gadget-like square design,
which is in stark contrast to the more stylish round design of the G Watch
R. It hence comes as no surprise that the G Watch has a larger display 1.65inch display while the G Watch R packs a compact and more watch-like
1.3-inch display. However, the G Watch R does have a more advance OLED
display, which is arguably more immersive and less battery-consuming
when compared with the LCD display of the G Watch.
Besides these, the two watches are almost identical. They both feature
a 1.2GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage
space. In terms of software, both are loaded with Android Wear OS and
can also be paired with iOS devices, albeit with limited functionality.
They connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 and are charged via
the proprietary connector dock. The only other difference is in the battery: the G Watch has a 400 mAh unit, which was marginally improved
upon in the G Watch R, which features a 410 mAh unit. Unfortunately,
neither magnetic wireless charging or any form of standalone network
connectivity such as WiFi or 3G.
In 2015, LG released the G Watch Urbane and Urbane LTE, which
hoped to address some shortcomings of last years G Watches. It features

LETS TALK DEVICES 61


a clean aesthetic, with a round display and metallic bezel with a matching
metallic strap. The display is the same as the G Watch R, as is the processor
and RAM. The LTE version of the Urbane supports a nano-SIM allowing
you to make calls and send texts directly from the phone.

Smartbands
For those with the money, smartwatches definitely seem like a good buy,
especially considering the host of features they provides, not to mention
how many of them double up as a classy fashion accessory. However, can
we say the same about smart fitness bands?
Smartbands were initially perceived as glorified pedometers. This was
however a gross misrepresentation and could not be further from the truth.
Considering the massive leaps in sensor technology over the past few years,
it is not uncommon for smartbands to feature advanced components such as
a heart rate sensor and GPS chip. These bands can also (and in some cases
have to) be paired with a smart device such a computer or smartphone to
help record and analyze the data collected by the sensors.
Unlink in the case of smartwatches, a display is not priority for smartband manufacturers. In fact, most users prefer that their smartband take
accurate sensor readings and have excellent battery life. The other crucial
factors include comfort for day-long wear and a non-intrusive design so
as to help the devices blend seamlessly with existing apparel. With this
in mind, lets take a look at some of the more popular smartbands available for purchase.

Fitbit
The earliest entry in the smartband market, Fitbit has four variants in
terms of activity tracker wristbands, namely the Fitbit Flex, Charge,
Charge HR, and Surge. They also have two belt-clip or carry-on activity
trackers: the Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One. It is important to note that all Fitbit
bands feature a display, although the size and type depend on the variant.
In terms of wristbands, the Fitbit Flex is the entry level variant
and includes the basic features you would expect in a smartband. The
accelerometer acts as a motion detector that can counts the number of
steps you take. This helps it calculate your total distance travelled and
subsequently, the amount of calories burned. It also features advanced
sleep tracking and helps you wake up feeling fresher thanks to its silent
vibrating alarm. The display of the Flex is limited to a series of LEDs

62 LETS TALK DEVICES

(left to right) The Fitbit Flex, Charge, and Charge HR

that light up depending on how close you are to completing you daily
fitness goal. The Flex has a battery life of up to five days, and can be
fully charged in up to 2 hours.
The Fitbit Charge features a more detailed OLED display that shows
a standard digital clock and also supports caller ID display, provided
your band is paired with your smartphone. It also automatically detects
when you fall asleep, and comes with the same sleep tracking features as
the Flex. The Charge also comes in a more expensive HR model, which
supports real-time heart rate monitoring. This version is obviously a bit
bulkier owing to the inclusion of the heart rate sensor.

LETS TALK DEVICES 63

Finally, we have the Fitbit Surge, the companys most expensive and
feature-packed wearable. Marketed as a sleek fitness super watch, the
Surge features a larger OLED display and includes all features available
in the lower Fitbit variants. It sets itself apart by including GPS tracking
and phone notification management. For example, you can see call notifications and control music on you phone using the display. GPS helps
you record run routes and elevation instead of just calculating the total
distance. It has a battery life of 7 days.
If you are not a fan of the band form factor, you may be interested in
the clip-on Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One. The Zip has step, calorie and distance

64 LETS TALK DEVICES


tracking as well as a digital display that doubles up as a digital clock or a
dynamic stat tracker. The One is slightly bigger in size and adds the auto
sleep tracking feature as seen in the Flex. All Fitbit variants are water
resistance, which is important considering they are aimed at fitness enthusiasts, which means it has to endure sweat and water on a daily basis. They
can be synced wirelessly to your computer using the provided dongle, or
you can opt to sync it with your smartphone via Bluetooth.

Garmin Vivofit
The Vivofits features and design greatly resemble that found in the Fitbit
Charge. It counts steps, tracks distance traveled, and shows estimated
calories burned. It also shows how many steps are left towards your
daily goal. It includes sleep tracking and can check continuous heart
rate if connected with an ANT+ wireless heart rate monitors. These can
be purchased separately or bought bundled in with a Vivofit at a overall
discounted rate.
The Vivofit has a very minimal design and features rubbery plastic
band that clip the band shut with little pegs. The LCD display is always
on and greatly resembles an old-school digital watch with its black background and grey digits. The user interface is controlled using a single
button, whose function differs depending on how long it is pressed down.
The main draw of the Vivofit, however, has to be its tremendous battery
life. Garmin promises up to a years worth of battery life on a single charge.
Its closest competition in this factor is the Fitbit flex, whose replaceable
battery lasts up to 6 months. Its only drawback in this aspect is that the
battery is not rechargeable and has to be replaced by unscrewing the back
housing, similar to that of a standard wristwatch.
The Vivofit syncs with your phone via its own app, which is available
for Android and iOS (sorry Windows phone users) and features a simple
interface that may not be packed with features but gets the basics done.
Garmin has also incorporated social features into the app, allowing you
compare your fitness stats with that of friends and other Vivofit users.
Unfortunately, the smartband is not compatible with other fitness apps
which may put off long-time users of apps like Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal.
The Vivofits successor, the Vivofit 2, includes some much needed
improvements that were lacking in the original. It adds back light allowing
you to check stats even in dimly lit conditions. This means the Vivofit 2 can
be considered a proper watch replacement. The original Vivofit included

LETS TALK DEVICES 65


an inactivity alert LED, which would light up after an hour of inactivity,
reminding you to take a spare minutes for a quick walk or exercise. This
feature has been augmented in the Vivofit 2 by adding an beeping sound
to the alert. It also comes with an activity stop watch timer, allowing you
to keep a check on your workout times. Despite all of these feature additions, Garmin still promises an incredible 1 year of battery use.

Jawbone Up
Jawbone looks to set itself apart from its competitors by focusing on
providing a clean design aesthetic. The Jawbone Up features medical
grade rubber casing which encloses a host of high-end sensors for fit-

Jawbone stands out with its minimalistic design

ness tracking. It is completely devoid clips and clasps and its flexible
form factor ensures it can fit a wide range of wrist sizes. Sleek in design,
it display-free design does not attract too much attention and is extremely
lightweight. For interaction, it features a single button on the tip of one
end, which if long-pressed switches between day and night modes. On
the other end of the band is the 3.5mm jack that the Jawbone Up uses for
communicating with your phone.
In terms of functionality, the Jawbone Up is a basic pedometer with
the sleep tracking functionality built-in using patented algorithms. It can
analyse how well you sleep by sensing movements, and lets you know
when you have had a poor nights sleep. Jawbone has developed an easy

66 LETS TALK DEVICES


to use app for data collection. The app also allows you to set specific fitness goals, the progress of which can be tracked using interesting graphs.
One function the Jawbone lacks is some form of wireless connectivity
such as Bluetooth or WiFi. The task of constantly connecting the band
to your phone via the headphone jack may seem cumbersome to some
people. You can charge the device via a USB to 3.5mm adaptor provided
with the box. It has an estimated battery life of about 10 days, which
means you do not have to use the adaptor as often as you would for other
similar smartbands.

Microsoft Band
Microsoft has delved into the fitness market by introducing the Microsoft
Health platform, which includes a set of apps and software designed to
improves a daily users overall fitness and lifestyle by implementing
technology-based solutions. On the forefront of this platform is Microsofts first smartband offering, not too subtly titled, the Microsoft Band.
In terms of design, the Microsoft Band strongly resembles a wristwatch with a condensed but sleek display. It is slightly bulkier than other
smartbands and may take some getting used to for most users. In fact, the
placement of the buttons forces you to wear the band on your dominant
hands wrist with the display on the inside, exposing it to potential damage
since it is very easy to accidentally bump it on a table while youre typing
or writing.
Internally, the Band houses a number of sensors, including some not
seen in other smartbands such as GPS and an ambient light sensor. The
Band also includes a UV sensor that can alert you when you need to apply
some sunscreen. The heart rate sensor can also detect changes in your
anxiety level, letting you know that you should take a deep breath breath
before you jump into a stressful work day. Battery life is below average
when compared with other smartbands in the market. It has about 2 days
of life on a single charge.
It pairs with your smartphone using Bluetooth, and requires the
Microsoft Health app installed for syncing sensor data. In case you were
wondering, yes the app is also available for iOS and Android devices, an
not just Windows phone. The advantage of using a Microsoft product does
shine in terms of software interconnectivity, since you can use Cortana
to communicate with the Microsoft Health app, which is also available
on Windows PC. The health app also includes some excellent workout

LETS TALK DEVICES 67


routines from sources like Golds Gym and Mens Fitness, making this
an excellent choice for fitness beginners.

VR Headsets
In the context of a wearable, VR headsets are arguably the future. The functions provided by fitness bands and smartwatches can also be delivered
by high-end smartwatches and other peripheral devices. However, VR
headsets are a unique type of hardware, and the experience they provide
is something that has to be understood first hand to truly appreciate.
VR headsets have yet to achieve mainstream popularity as nonewith
the exception of Samsungs Gear VR are actually available for end consumer purchase. Pioneering devices like the Oculus Rift and the HTC
Vive are available only as developers editions, which are very expensive
and still in an experimental state.
However, game developers and hardware engineers have identified the
potential of these devices, and this looks like it may as well be the landmark year for VR headset, with the much-anticipated consumer release
of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive slated for the end of the year. With that
in mind, lets take a closer look at some of the VR headsets that show some
promise for the future of virtual reality.

Oculus Rift
From what began as the successful result of a very popular Kickstarter
campaign, the Oculus Rift has undergone numerous transformations and
redesigns from its initial model the Developer Kit 1 (aka DK1). With an
intermediate iterations known as Crystal Cove and DK2, the final version
has been code named Crescent Bay and looks most likely to be the final
version in terms of hardware.
The device houses an ARM processor and a proprietary Adjacent
Reality Tracker, which is which in essence is collection of sensors used
for head tracking. The Rift uses an HDMI cable for input and USB 2.0 for
power. It can be interfaced with a PC for firmware updates and analyzing
sensor stats. The headset also includes a in microUSB port for added connectivity. It is strapped onto your head via vertical and horizontal straps,
and if fairly comfortable, although not for extended use.
When developing the Crescent Bay, Oculus effectively reduced the
overall weight and added an inbuilt audio processor and tracking LEDs
that allowed for 360-degree head tracking. It also supports high-speed

68 LETS TALK DEVICES

The default reaction of a first-time Oculus Rift user

movement tracking, while greatly reducing the effect of motion sickness


by increasing the frame rate. Playing FPS games on this headset is sure
to be a blast. Oculus is still tinkering with the headset, so consumers can
expect more improvements before the final version is released.

HTC Vive
Inspired to a great extent by the Oculus Rift, HTCs Vive hopes to achieve
success by implementing HTC years of experience in developing products
that excel in design while taking cues from Valve, a highly respected
brand in the gaming community and whom they are collaborating with
to design the headset.

LETS TALK DEVICES 69

The Vive features two 1200 x 1080p HD displays, both operating at a


refresh rate of 90 Hz. It features an integrated accelerometer, gyroscope and
laser positioning system, all of which collectively lend much more accurate
head tracking: up to one-tenth of a degree in any direction. The Vive will
also include native support for the Steam controller. contextually aware
controller that aims to allow users to intuitively move about and interact
with objects in the virtual world.
HTC plans to set itself apart from the competition by designing the
Vive with unprecedentedly low levels of latency and smooth 360-degree
tracking. They are also adding the ability to detect movements as the users
walks in a 15 x 15 square feet area. This promises a more immersive VR

70 LETS TALK DEVICES


experience with extremely intuitive maneuverability. HTC also claims
that the Vive will eliminate the problem of motion sickness, which a lot
of VR headset testers have complained about. In addition, their association with Valve means that the device will be powered by SteamVR, and
considering the 125 million strong user base of Steam, ensures that the
Vive will at the very least enjoy incredible coverage on the day of release.

Galaxy Gear VR (200)


The Gear VR is currently the only commercially available VR headset on
the market. However, unlike other VR headsets the Gear VR does not have
a in-built display and requires a Galaxy Note 4 or Galaxy S6 smartphone
for output. As a result, the Gear VR has a maximum resolution of 2560
x 1440p, currently the highest resolution available on any VR headset.
The Gear VR is easy to setup and features an extremely comfortable
design, making it easy to wear even for prolonged periods of use. The

Snapping your smartphone to the front of the Gear VR is easy

LETS TALK DEVICES 71


smartphone can be easily inserted into the front slot of the headset, and
can be interacted with using easy to use touch controls on the side.
The Gear VR uses the Android phone for interfacing and includes
support for a variety of apps and games such as Temple Run VR and The
Room. The Gear VR also has a the Oculus Cinema app, where you can
watch 3D movies in a virtual movie theater. Samsungs Milk VR video
service features a curated collection of 360-degree videos, a service which
for now is available only in the US. Those outside the US can still access
the thousands of 360-degree videos available on YouTube.

Sony PlayStation VR
The PlayStation VR has the one major drawback in that it is only compatible with the PS4. Of course, this is also an advantage in that it makes the
PS4 the only console that currently supports VR. Interfacing the PSVR to
a PS4 requires an adaptor box that connects via USB and HDMI. It also
supports a secondary display output, in case you want to show off your
VR gaming session to your friends.
The PSVR has a 5.7-inch display that gives it a field of view of 100
degrees. The display is 1080p and is split for each eye for an effective 960
x 1080p resolution per eye. Where the PSVR excels, however, is with its
incredible refresh rate of 120 Hz, which should make for some life-like
animations. For 360-degree head tracking, the PSVR uses the Sony PlayStation Camera at a polling rate of 1,000 Hz. This combined with the high
frame rate is bound to reduce the problem of motion sickness.
For control and interfacing, the PSVR can use the standard PS4 controller, although for a truly immersive experience, Sony recommends
that you use the Move controller. This lends a new dimension to your
VR game play, allowing you to emulate gun mechanics and freedom of
arm movement.

72

CHAPTER #06

GETTING
HANDS ON WITH
WEARABLES
Creating apps for wearables is much
easier than you think.

n the previous chapter after introducing you to the host of devices


available in the wearables space, its now time to get down to some DIY.
Most often wearable devices work in sync with your smartphone.The
smartphones host the main application and the wearables serve as
an extension giving you timely information via notifications. They even let
you launch simple applications to do simple tasks. A recent Google study
found that we check our phones over 150 times a day and most of the time
the purpose is to get just quick information. But in doing so we often end up
getting distracted by those shiny apps. After a while you begin to wonder
where all that time went. The solution to this time-sapping blackhole is
Wearables. Therefore the apps that you eventually design should follow
that same guiding philosophy.
Lets first talk about developing applications for Android smartwatches.
Ideally you need an Android phone running Android 4.3 or later, and a
compatible Android wearable smartwatch paired with the phone. If you
dont have one of those prerequisites and were pretty sure its the watch

GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES 73


thats missing you can also use a wearable emulator instead of having a
wearable device actually connected but would require an android device
connected to the computer.

The Platform
On the software side to design applications for wearables, just like smartphones, phone operating systems provide a free platform for wearable
apps development.
On the hardware front, smartwatches come with Wi-Fi support and
with some like the Samsung Gear S, you get to add on a SIM card and use
3G data connection directly from the smartwatch instead of communicating
via the phone.
Android provides you the ready made platform to design apps known
as Android studio (https://developer.android.com/wear/index.html) and Apple
provides you with its WatchKit(https://developer.apple.com/watchkit/). They
come with complete guidelines on the website to provide you step by step
help. Third party applications like proto.io, pixate and Thinkapps also let
you make prototypes for your smartwatch. Justinmind provides you with

Create a new project

74 GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES


ready made templates for resolutions that are standard for popular devices
for you to get started quickly. The best part about using Justinmind is that
you do not need to know coding to use these. Simply, drag and drop elements!
Lets get you started with making the apps. The most basic and fundamental principle to design an app are discussed below. Before starting to
code, you need to have these points clarified: what is the purpose of the app?
What would it include? How would it work? Could it be interactive or just
a single screen app is better?

Interactive pattern
The wearables interact with you in two ways. Either they suggest something
that they assume you would be interested in and the second way is to accept
your commands. It is very necessary to correctly know what kind of an app
you want to build and the approach you want to take. The latter would let

Notifications to be pushed to wearable from the phone

the user control when to launch the application and give him full control
to choose the command whereas the notifications or suggestive cards could
be timely and are short, easy to read and require minimal interaction with
the user. Say notification cards like updates about IMs, mails, stockmarket/
scores/weather updates etc. The apps that execute a user initiated action
are mostly controlled via voice and could include commands like making
a call, setting a reminder, taking a note, sending a message etc.

Design principles and the look


You would have now decided what your app needs to do. In this section we

GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES 75


focus on the look and feel. Beauty may be only skin deep but its important.
An app which is just a notification card can have a background image and
the card floating on a part of the screen, preferably on the bottom. It generally has the app icon to state the card is pulled out by which application. It
has the notification title and the text. Keep in mind that the real estate you
are working with is pretty small.
There are some things you should keep in mind. Firstly, you should use
pop ups sparingly. The text usage should be frugal. These development
software also allow you to add multiple notifications cards, so if you want
to go ahead with that or just stick to one notification card is your choice.
Some other principles should be kept in mind: any command should be
completed in maximum of 5 or 7 seconds. For example, say setting up an
alarm would take one screen to let you set the alarm time that provides
you options of the numbers or the clock, the second one could be probably asking for the snooze time duration and the third one can be an auto
confirm screen.
You also need to decide your primary way of navigation. If you want to
give buttons which can be tapped to go to next screen, or a swipe would be
better or you could just do with the newest voice input. Again, it is indeed
important to keep as minimum screen navigation and minimum steps to

Using the SDK Manager for API download

get an action done. No one wants to go through 10 screens to set an alarm


when it can be done with just one or two simple voice commands.
Another interesting feature that can be used and integrated into apps
for wearables could be automatic launching of an app when it detects a
location or at a particular time everyday. If you commute at a specific time
daily, probably the app could launch and give you traffic update of your
possible route or probably every night at a specific time it could remind
you to make note of meetings of the following day.
Hardware is minimum and can vary on all wearables. The Apple Watch
gives you an advantage of scrolling using its digital crown whereas the

76 GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES


Samsung Gear S lets you navigate or scroll between apps using its radial
dial which is a rotational bezel around the screen. These wearables come
with a number of sensors built in. It is you who has to decide what sensors
you would want to use based on the nature of your app. For example, an
app related to fitness would be using the data provided by the heart rate
sensor built in.
A very important point that needs to be noted is that smartwatches
have tiny screen and low processing power. It is always advised to keep the
apps light in size and minimal in the content as well as design. It is what
you or rather your app can do in that minimum space and processor speed
provided is the main target. For example, Smartwatches do not, or rather
cannot feature a keyboard and it is just the voice command which is the
only primary input method.
As per the Google Wear Design Creative Vision section there are four
key things to keep in mind when designing Smart Wear experiences. These
Wear applications should:

Available gestures

Launch automatically: Wear devices are wearables and an extension to


the phone, and not a phone by themselves. The apps need not be started
by the user but launch automatically on being aware of the context, location time and activity and should be capable of inserting the relevant
card accordingly.
Be glanceable: These wearables serve the main purpose of notifying
you instantly without looking at your phone and thus need to be with
minimal information which could be read and be done with. Notification
cards just have the title, description- the notification text and the app icon.
Thats it! Keep it to a minimum- easy to read at a glance and relevant.
Effective Suggest and Demand: The Android Wear developer page
suggests, Android Wear is like a great personal assistant and it only inter-

GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES 77


rupts you when it is absolutely necessary, and its always reachable easily
to provide a ready answer. To deliver this efficiently, the developer should
accurately know when does the app need to suggest and when does it
demands users attention.
Interaction with the user: Owing to the small display size of these
wearables, it is very important to have an efficient as well as simple way to
interact with the user. Probably have tap or gestures, have voice command
as your primary input type and check out the automated confirmation way
to confirm an action rather than making the user need to tap on the Yes/No
button on the confirmation question
The Android Wear Design team has done a great job in documenting
how to effectively integrate their design philosophy when creating wearable extensions of your existing Android applications. Check out the design
section of Android Wear here: https://developer.android.com/design/wear/
principles.html

Square or Circle?
Wearables come in two shapes as of now. They are either circular or round
like the Moto 360 watch or square like the Apple Watch or the Samsung
Gear S. The square screen is 280 pixels x 280 pixels and the round screen
is 320 pixels x 320 pixels, both having a density of hdpi (240dpi). To get
your layout perfect on any devices you can either define specific layouts
for square as well as round devices and let the app automatically detect
the shape and choose the appropriate layout or the second way is that
you can also use a special layout for the round or the square watches
that would be included in the library itself. The layout applies different
window insets depending on the shape of the device screen. It is advisable
to go with the different layout option and often the most chosen way to
go ahead with. It would not take a long time as the assets and other files
would already be ready and just need to be placed in the additional layout.
You can also go ahead with the second option if you want to use a similar
layout on both screens without having the view cropped near the edges
of the round screens.
It is really easy tweaking your screen layouts for the shape that you
want to design it for. All you need to think of is the layout designs to fit in
your content.
As of now, Apple WatchKit allows you to design only on a rectangular
layout as their watch itself is rectangular in shape but the Android Wear

78 GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES


operating system is compatible with both the display shapes and thus the
platform gives you the option to choose the shape and the way you would
want to choose the code to load up differently depending on the shape or
just a special layout compatible with both.
In android studio, The WatchViewStub class included in the Wearable UI Library lets you specify different layout definitions for square and
round screens. This class detects the screen shape at runtime and gets you
the corresponding layout.
A WatchViewStub class depends on the reports/feedback from the on
ApplyWindowsInsets class. If the call is not delivered by initial measurements, the container will be assumed rectangle by default. To use this
class for handling different screen shapes in your app, you would need
to Add WatchViewStub as the main element of your activitys layout and
then specify a layout definition file for square screens with the rectLayout
attribute or specify a layout definition file for round screens with the
roundLayout attribute.
After defining these class and attributes create different layout definition
files for square and round screens. You define these layouts in the same
way that you create layouts for handheld apps, but taking into account the
constraints of wearable devices. The system inflates the correct layout at
runtime depending on the screen shape.
Another aspect that needs to be considered and well decided upon needs
to be navigation between screens of the app. If the app has more than one
screen, then would it be having buttons to navigate back and forth or would
it be a slide. This would greatly depend on the App structure. Read about the
Android wear app structures here (https://developer.android.com/design/wear/
structure.html#2DPicker) and for Apple WatchKit instructions refer: http://code.
tutsplus.com/tutorials/watchkit-navigation-transitions-and-contexts--cms-23938
These smartwatches light up only when they are raised to eye level which
is the interactive mode and the rest of the time hibernate in the ambient
mode. It is important to note that you need to define the app status, design
and structure in both the modes.
There are some other additional instructions mentioned by the Android
wear developers stated here: https://developer.android.com/design/wear/watchfaces.html

Developing the app


In this section we will have a look at the actual development of your app.

GETTING HANDS ON WITH WEARABLES 79


Now that all the planning is done so as how would your app look and function, it is now that it needs to be created. Since Android Wear being used by
more devices as of now, lets see a simple sample app built using Android
Studio here: http://goo.gl/nvY5yz

80

CHAPTER #07

WHAT DOES
THE FUTURE
HOLD?
When we look at the future, we see the
human-machine divide disappearing.
Will wearables be the catalyst in the
dawn of that future?

echnology is an amazing thing to have. We interact with numerous


tech-enabled devices on a daily basis, but how many of them
are smart enough to recognise your habits, usage patterns and
unique identifying features? Imagine a world where you could
touch your door and it recognises your touch to let you in.
Wearable tech has been the answer to some of our fantasies involving
tech interactivity for decades now since its advent. It has become a part of
everyday life due to the way humans interact with wearables, thus reducing
the gap between them and this tech.

Whats the future like?


Before discussing what wearables of the future will be like, lets just first

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 81

The data relationship between devices in 2014 due to IoT


Courtesy : Vandrico Solutions Inc

understand what the future could possibly hold. Will humans be merged
with technology to evolve into cybernetic organisms? Could this be the
ultimate version of our species? Or will the human-machine evolution
culminate with augmenting human ability such as by heightening our
memory and olfactory functions? Someone wise once said that you must
know your past to master your future. Lets do this by reflecting on the
chronology of wearable techs development.

Wearables of the past


Our inspiration for wearables started with Queen Jane Seymours arm
watch (as it was called at that time), followed by the Ming Dynastys Ring
Abacus. The Father of Modern Wearables, Steve Mann was the visionary
who brought forward the era of high-end programmable wearables such
as backpacks, helmets and eye glasses in the late 1980s itself.
Steve Mann questioned the rationale of buildings having more rights
than an individual, or of candy on a store shelf needing more surveillance
than an individual. The inspiration for the digital eye glasses concept came

82 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?


from Manns desire to help the human race protect itself with the same tech
were so diligently protecting non living entities with.
Another pioneer and visionary in the world of wearables is Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University. He laid the foundation for wearable implants by showing the world that we can streamline
our day-to-day activities by integrating tech into the human body. In 1998,
Warwick became the worlds first cyborg after implanting an RFID chip in
his arm. Now, regulated RFIDs are implanted into patients with medical
conditions, so that healthcare workers can easily access their medical history in case of emergencies and administer medication without having to
undergo a grueling amount of tests and other procedures, which can further
endanger the patients life.

Wearables of the present


At present, based on the targeted functional group, wearables are generally
categorised into two types:
1. Enterprise Solutions: Wearables that are just an add-on to existing
technology to facilitate your daily human-tech interaction are enterprise
solutions. Compared to the other category, enterprise solutions have seen
more development in recent times. Enterprise solutions today include
smartwatches and other similar product categories which allow real-time
tracking of events.
2. Medical Tech/Health Monitors: Though this is an upcoming category, weve all already seen many examples of healthcare wearables be
it prosthetics and exoskeletons for the handicapped or fitness trackers that
track your health and sleep habits.

Wearables of the future


As we move to the future of the wearables, we see the categories explode
into many more possible trajectories to travel on. Some we can categorise
on the basis of current market trends from the application point of view:

Activity Monitors: These are wearables that have direct contact with
the human body for data collection that helps monitor the functioning of
the body and track vital signs. These are some types of activity monitors:
Smart Clothes: Includes smart shirts, smart socks, smart footwear etc.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 83

The Gartner Hype cycle for the growth of various technology


Courtesy : Vandrico Solutions Inc

84 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Human Universal Load Carrier or HULC for military

Smart Bands: This is an exclusive category due to the wide array of


functionality provided by these bands. Nowadays, smartbands are much
more than just fitness trackers. They have yet to get into the sphere of
full-fledged personal fitness assistance. But going by the current trend,
it can be deduced that theyre getting there sooner than we imagined.
Medical Tech: Various vital signs and fitness measuring parameters
such as level of oxygen, glucose, cholesterol, etc can be easily calculated by
a single device, which could be in a smartband form factor or an entirely
different form factor. But the true potential of the device will be revealed
in its ability to let doctors tracking your data through the gadget contact
you to visit them because theres something wrong with your body.
Veillance Monitors: Veillance is a concept that includes surveillance
and sousveillance, both of which cover a similar set of tasks, but while

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 85


surveillance is shrouded by secrecy and centralised by authorities, sousveillance is distributed and open. Currently, our smartphones happen
to be veillance monitors, but in the coming generation wearables like
eye glasses will play an integral part in removing data corruption from
centralised surveillance systems.
Smart Watches: Smart watches need no introduction. The existing trend
with smartwatches is the attempt to bring your smartphone to your wrist
through them, but thats definitely not their final stage. Smartwatches
may eventually be an all-in-one device for activity monitoring, data
processing and obviously communication.
Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs): When HMDs are discussed, the first
thing that comes to mind is the Google Glass, which is an augmented
reality (AR) device. The Oculus Rift, on the other hand, is an example
of a virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display.
To understand the difference between AR and VR, lets first define
reality. Reality is the conjectured state of things as they actually exist,
rather than as they may appear or imagined to be. HMDs modify our reality
via two routes: Augmented reality and Virtual reality.
Augmented Reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect view of a physical,
real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video,
graphics or GPS data. Its related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer.
Virtual Reality (VR), often referred to as immersive multimedia or
computer-simulated life, virtually replicates a real world or imagined
environment and simulates the users physical presence in those places,
thus allowing you to interact with objects and people in that world. Virtual reality artificially creates sensory experiences, which can include
sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste and more.
The future of wearables isnt just limited to the above described categories. Its much more broader. For example, lets consider the exoskeletons,
which have on many occasions helped the physically handicapped in dayto-day activities.
But medical applications aside, exoskeletons are now shifting to other
sectors, like military. The Human Universal Load Carrier or HULC is an
un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton developed
by Professor H. Kazerooni and his team at Ekso Bionics. It is intended to

86 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Neil Harbisson playing music of colours of his tie

help soldiers in combat carry loads of up to 200 pounds at a top speed of


10 miles per hour for extended periods of time. After being under development at Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory since 2000,
the system was announced publicly at the AUSA Winter Symposium on
February 26, 2009 when an exclusive licensing agreement was reached
with Lockheed Martin.

Are we entering the era of cyborgism?


To answer this question, lets define a cyborg first: A cyborg (short for cybernetic organism) is a being with both, organic and bio-mechatronic parts.
The term cyborg isnt synonymous with bionic, biorobot or android
and applies to an organism that has restored function or enhanced abilities

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 87

due to the integration of some artificial component or technology, which


relies on some sort of feedback. While cyborgs are commonly thought of as
mammals, they might also conceivably be any kind of organism. The term
cybernetic organism has been applied to networks, such as road systems,
corporations and governments, which have been classed as such. The term
can also apply to micro-organisms which are modified to perform at higher
levels than their unmodified counterparts.
To enter a future in which cyborgism is prevalent, we need the desire to
explore the prospect of being a better human in the literal sense of the word.

The difference between cyborgs and wearables


At this point, you may be uncertain about the difference between wearables

88 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

and cybernetic extensions. To make it clear to you, lets consider a scenario


of two different pioneers in these two different spheres.
Neil Harbisson is popularly known as the first person to use a wearable
device to overcome chromatopsia, a condition that renders people colorblind. According to him, cyborgism is just an art. He learnt that light and
sound have one thing in common i.e. frequency. This was his inspiration

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 89

Kevin Warwick with his BrainGate implant in action

for developing his bone conduction earphones and the colour-to-frequency


camera extension antenna. What this antenna does is convert the colour
of an article to its frequency and transfer it to the headphone. Then, the
headphone converts the light frequency to sound frequency and conducts
it to his inner ear via bone conduction. His colleague, Moon Ribas, another
well known cyborg activist, wears a seismic sensor attached to her arm,

90 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?


which allows her to sense earthquakes anywhere on the planet.
How high is the possibility of plugging your brain into a network? Of
upgrading your brain? Is your brain functioning at its utmost capability?
Kevin Warwick answered some of these questions with his BrainGate
implant system (also called the Utah Array), which is a bi-directional
interface. The interface picks up the neuro signals of any body activity and
transmits it to another device to control it and vice-versa. In case of Kevin,
he transmitted his hand movements to a robot hand kept a continent away
via the internet.
So whats the basic difference between the two? While Neil used wearables to rectify his medical shortcoming and showed us the potential of
wearables from the application point of view, Kevin pointed us towards an
entirely new frontier of the human evolution. He not only brought forward
a new way to advance our prosthetics and medical tech, but also showed
us new ways to enhance our human abilities to a whole new level, such as
by enabling communication between two nervous systems, or in laymans
terms communication by thought alone. Kevin Warwick basically laid the
foundation stone for what we nowadays call biohacking.

Natural vs. Cyborgism vs. Wearables


Some people may argue that cyborgism is not natural. But can we really
define what is natural anymore? By its definition, the term natural can be
defined as something existing in nature and not made or caused by people
or have any extra substances, chemicals or artificial components.
That being said, are we really natural? If so, then what about all the
vaccines that are injected into an infant to improve immunity? The natural
course of action would be to not vaccinate, because thats the way we naturally exist. What about all the medical treatments we receive for the many
diseases, which would otherwise be incurable naturally (like cancer and TB).
So we can conclude that its the natural human tendency to try to evolve.
Cyborgism would be the ultimate evolution for the human species in the
near foreseeable future, whereas wearables are the catalyst to that future,
because the fusion between human and technology is the one-stop solution
to reach the pinnacle of intellect.

A day in the life of a wearable enthusiast


Are you a wearable enthusiast? Dont know if youre one or not? To figure
this out, lets look at a normal day of a wearable enthusiast. Our enthusiast is

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 91


a middle-aged family man, with a loving wife, son and daughter. The son is
10 years old, while the daughter is only 10 months old. He moved to his new
locality just now. So lets look into the daily habits and lifestyle of John Doe.

At 5 a.m. Johns smart band starts vibrating letting him know that its
time to wake up.

As soon as John wakes up and start stretching in preparation for his


workout, at 5:06 a.m. his smartwatch dictates the weather forecast to him.

At precisely 5:15 a.m. John is ready for his jog wearing his smart shirt,

smart pant, smart socks, smart shoes and smart glasses.


John jogs for 45 minutes. So, at 5:55 a.m. his smart watch again signals
him to start heading towards home.
While heading home, John almost twists his foot but his smart socks
detect his wrong foot movement and vibrate to signal to him that hes
running wrong. John immediately stops.
When John stops running, he notices that he doesnt recognises the area
and doesnt know how to get home. So he just asks his smart band to
take him home by giving his smart shoes and smart glasses the address
of his house.
While going home, hes about to take a wrong turn, but his smart shoes
start vibrating to stop him. He then turns to the right path after looking
at the glasses.
When he reaches home, he is notified by his smart band to take his juice
and vitamins at 6:15 a.m.
After a refreshing shower, John begins dressing for work when he
receives a notification about an important meeting. Accordingly, he
chooses a crisp white shirt and gray suit for the meeting and goes downstairs to have his breakfast.
But during breakfast, the juice decides to make its way onto Johns shirt.
So what does John when his band indicates that if he didnt leave in
five minutes hed be late for work? He goes out into the sun and stands
facing the sun so that his titanium dioxide nanocrystals coated shirt
can clean itself.
Now that John is ready to leave for his office, so he asks his band again
to guide him there. The directions to his workplace are then projected
onto his dashboard monitor.
After a rigorous day at office, John heads home and wants to contact his
wife to let her know hes heading home, but realises his communicator

92 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?


is out of power. So John just plugs his communicator to his suit and
continues moving down the stairs, because his suit can well produce
current. By the time he reaches his car, his communicator has enough
power to contact his wife.
On reaching home, John realises hes exhausted, so he puts on his Muse
band to relax him. After a few minutes of meditation, John feels good
enough and goes for dinner.
After dinner, his activity monitoring band tells him that he has consumed
more calories than usual, so he has to cut back in his next meal.
John heads to his bed for a nice nights sleep, when hes interrupted by
his activity monitoring band notifying him of his daughters crying. So
he heads downstairs to put her back to sleep.

Kurtzweils trajectory for exponential growth of technology

After putting his daughter to sleep John finally gets a good nights sleep
The next day, the cycle continues.
As you can see, wearables can make life so much easier at crucial moments
when any average person would have difficulty dealing with the situation.

Potential of wearables
Ray Kurzweil proposed The Law of Accelerating Returns, according to
which the rate of change in a wide variety of evolutionary systems (including,

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? 93


but not limited to, the growth of technologies) tends to increase exponentially.
Also Moores Law contends that as components get smaller, products gain
efficiency and become more powerful.
In other words, you can think of current wearables as a boombox on
your wrist. Conductive fabrics and sensor-clad smart garments will enable
wearables to intertwine so closely with fashion that we wont be able to tell
them apart.

Our expectations
We expect future wearables to be more concealed than they currently are.
This could probably be done by adding a thin film inside your favorite
jewelry, which could measure biometric data and activity levels, and alert
you when youve been typing at a keyboard for too long. Were excited to
see what happens when wearables converge with connected homes to drive
efficiencies without having to tap a button on a screen. Imagine approaching
your homes door with groceries in hand, and the heartbeat signature via
your wearable signals the doors smart lock to unlock.
While crossing your living room, a sensor on your wrist wearable notices
your core body temperature is above average and automatically interacts
with Nest thermostat to trigger the air conditioning. Your wearable also
includes a sensor to detect hydration levels, which notifies your smart
refrigerator to automatically pour you a glass of water as you enter the
kitchen to unload your groceries.

Business prospective
From wedding rings to braces, objects worn on the body 24/7 tend to be
personal. Unless the product addresses a critical medical need like a hearing
aid, its unlikely for a single wearable to be desirable enough to be worn all
the time. So with all signs pointing to wearable technology as the next big
thing, businesses should have a game plan in place to act on the competitive
opportunity, while taking note of the challenges. Among the considerations
to keep at the top of their mind are the following:
1. Envision How Wearables Can Create New Business Opportunities:
The rise of wearable devices will create new means for marketing, including
smarter, more robust customer data collection and stronger insights into
user interaction.
2. Keep Human-Centered Design at the Forefront of Your Strategy:
To effectively embrace wearable technology, businesses must put the user at

94 WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?


the center of the activity, reshaping an entire enterprise and its capabilities
system around the customer or user experience.
3. Instill Trust: As trust is a key concern with consumers in the wearables space, enterprises will need to be consistently transparent with what
they do with data and how they use it. Trust needs to be established early on.
4. Recognise that the Wearable Category Will Continue to Evolve:
As with any digital strategy, adopting wearable technology requires taking
the long term view into account.

Conclusion
According to The Law of Singularity, we may be at the pinnacle of the
mass adoption of a new lifestyle, which so happens to be wearables in
this generation. While its premature to predict specific features or form
factors that will prevail in the future, wearable tech presents a fascinating
field to study. Never before has computing been small enough to be worn
relatively comfortably around the clock on the body, presenting opportunities for breakthrough medical advancements (and unfortunately
marketing nuisances).

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96 NOTES