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What wearable computing is really all about

Mike Elgan | Aug. 19, 2013
Wearable computing gadgets aren't toys for lazy geeks or harbingers of a dystopian future. Here's why you're going to love wearable computing.

Health monitoring involves measuring things like heart rate and activity level from a wristwatch or chest strap and uploading that data to a central place where changes can be tracked over time. Fitness fans, doctors and patients are all highly motivated to embrace this kind of self-monitoring, and are therefore already willing to spend big for new devices.

Over time, however, fitness and health will take a backseat to personal information management and interaction with everything on the Internet through a voice-based virtual assistant.

Right now, people associate wearable computing with smartwatches, fitness bands and Google Glass. But wearable devices will be worn all over.

We'll see a wide variety of wearable devices that clip onto clothing. Sony, as an early example, will soon ship its Sony Smart Bluetooth Handset SBH52, a clip-on device that relays audio to and from any Bluetooth device. You can use it like a phone (as in hold it up to your ear and talk). It also has an FM radio. Think of this device as a halfway technology between a Bluetooth headset and a clip-on wearable device.

Some wearable devices will be built into clothing, including shirts, shoes, socks and hats. Under Armour even has a vision video showing what it looks like when clothes are wearable touch computers.

Under Armour's vision video on wearable devices.

Wearable devices will hang around the neck like necklaces.

Some wearable devices will wrap around various body parts, including the neck, arm or chest. One leading chest-wrapping fitness wearable is called the Armour39 from Under Armour. The device measures athletic performance, which you can view and use in the product's mobile app.

The Misfit Shine wearable fitness gadget is interesting because the device itself is a quarter-size disk. You pick the accessory that enables you to wear it on your wrist, around your neck or clipped to your clothing.

The Misfit Shine fitness disk is about the size of a quarter and can be worn like a necklace. (Photo: Misfit)

We'll also see "facetop" devices beyond Google Glass. Already glass-type wearables have been announced or shipped by Epiphany Eyewear, GlassUp, Oakley and Recon Instruments.

Of course, there will be wristwatches galore from companies large and small, including Acer, AGENT, Androidly, Apple, Cookoo, Dell, EmoPulse, Foxconn, GEAK, Google, Hyetis, I'm Watch, Intel, Kreyos, LG, Martian Metawatch, Microsoft, Pebble, PHTL Qualcomm Rearden Technology, Samsung, Sonostar, Sony, Toshiba, Vachen and others.

Giving wearable computing a voice
One of the biggest trends driving wearable computing is the rise of voice, and the age of interactive artificial intelligence virtual assistants. Siri and Google Now are early examples of what's possible.


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