Gadgets you can wear
Forget smartphones and tablets, the next generation could well be wearing its technology. As Google Glass makes waves, we take a look at other gadgets you can flaunt
It is not commercially available yet, but there’s every indication that Google Glass could well be one of the best tech products of the year. Not just because of what it does, but its sheer form factor and its ability to blend technology with something that we wear every day. The concept is certainly not new - anyone remember Batman’s utility belt or Iron Man’s gauntlets? If Google Glass does manage to make it big, we could see technology moving from devices we carry to objects we wear - from wristwatches and bracelets to shirts and shoes. In fact, we are almost there.
Glasses -- Making a spectacle
Putting tech on to your ears as a pair of glasses is what Google has been working on for the past few years. Google Glass might look like a regular -- well, slightly bulky --pair of sunglasses, but it lets you do a whole lot more than just see the world around you. You can send messages, take photographs, share on social networks, identify monuments -- all without taking your glasses off.
Making the magic happen are a stack of sensors and connectivity options that let you access all this information in a small display tucked away on a corner of the lenses -- incidentally, you can get those fitted to meet a prescription if need be, if rumours are to be believed. You can navigate using a small touchpad on the handles of the glasses themselves. Yes, there is a lot of concern about privacy (someone could take your pictures without you knowing) and radiation (all those transmitters and sensors right on your head), but this is easily one of the most talked about tech products of recent times, and is already inspiring a number of clones.
Interesting product: Google Glass (what else!)
(Not available in stores yet)
Watches -- The times are changin’
There have been attempts to infuse watches with technology since the days of James Bond, but by and large, most efforts have fallen flat because they were not user-friendly. Of course, that has not deterred manufacturers from trying to slap some connectivity on your wrist.
Sony and LG have come out with watches that can serve up mail and social network updates, Casio has watches that serve up updates from your iPhone over Bluetooth, and then there are brands like Burg that even let you make calls from them. Although none of these have really set the market on fire, analysts reckon it is only a matter of time before some manufacturer cracks the code and comes out with a wristwatch that actually doubles up as a computer effectively. Small wonder the world is so hoping that Apple is working on an iWatch that will let you run applications and make calls.
Interesting product: Sony Smartwatch (we are not considering the iWatch until we see it!)
(Available at Sony stores)
Bracelets -- Tech on your wrist
Wristwatches are all very fine but what if you are the type who wants to go in for something more ornamental and do so without comprom-ising on connectivity? A number of manufacturers have been looking at adding high-tech features to bracelets and wristbands.
Although none of these have been major commercial successes, some analysts feel they stand a greater chance of succeeding than smartwatches simply because, well, they look better. As of now, most bracelet-based tech seems to center around physical fitness with products from the likes of Nike, Basis and FitBit, recording information like distance covered, pulse rate, calories burned and so on and so forth. Most also tend to work in sync with a cell phone or computer, but that umblical cord could be cut in the coming days. The big challenge, of course, remains on how to place a display that can wrap around your wrist without affecting image quality.
Interesting product: Nike FuelBand
(Not available in India yet)
Gloves -- Technology gets hand-some
we have not yet come anywhere close to Iron Man’s blast emitting gauntlets yet, but there work is under way on making gloves that protect your hands.
Wi-fi and Bluetooth have been packed into them, as have special sensors that let you use them even on screens that otherwise do not respond to the touch of gloved fingers. Perhaps the most innovative blending of gloves and tech so far was seen in Hi-Call’s Bluetooth headset gloves which let you make and receive calls -- there is a speaker in the thumb and a microphone in the pinkie -- by making a calling gesture. You would need to pair them with a smartphone or tablet.
Interesting product: Hi-Call Bluetooth talking glove, available at http://store.hi-fun.com/en/store/5478-hi-fun/22112-hi-call
Clothing -- Donning tech
They might be almost ubiquitous, but shirts, t-shirts and trousers have proved to be particularly resistant when it comes to incorporating cutting edge technology. Some say it is because they have to be washed, others blame it on the fact that people are not comfortable having anything electronic close to the body.
However, there have been attempts to make clothing more tech-friendly -- we have seen shirts with LCD displays, jackets with special slots for iPod cables, and T-shirts that indicate if there is a Wi-Fi network in your vicinity. There are neat touches being woven into what you wear -- a the Chameleon Scarf which changes colour to blend in with what you are wearing using a blend of colour sensors and LED pixels.
Interesting product: Wi-Fi detector shirt, available at www.thinkgeek.com/product/991e/
Shoes -- Sole (tech) providers
Shoes and tech have always had a close relationship -- we have had iPods that could communicate with our Nike shoes (swapping fitness information) for a while. And now, there is every indication that shoes could get more tech-savvy with even talk of GPS sensors being built into them to give "hints” (light vibrations) as to the right path to take while going on a stroll or other sensors that serve up music that is in keeping with the speed at which you are walking.
Of course, as shoes do get some rough treatment, the challenge is to come up with something that is sturdy as well as effective. Most innovation here, as in wristbands, seems to revolve around fitness. For instance, Nike’s Nike+Basketball and Nike+Fitness, come with sensors that analyse your performance, compare it with those of others and also motivate you to work harder.
Interesting product: Nike+Experience range
(Not available in India yet)