History of Wearable Technology

If you think of technology as consisting of tools and techniques, then it has been around since the beginning of human civilization! Of course, we will have to narrow that scope just a bit and talk about wearable tech in the modern sense of the term. It is extremely interesting to see how people talk about ‘wearables’ in the technological context. So when you say ‘wearable shirt’ or a ‘wearable wristwatch’ you are referring to a sophisticated technological device. All shirts and wristwatches are wearable otherwise!!

Within each category of wearable tech – clothes, wrist bands, glasses, head bands and so on – one can see a lot of interesting stuff. There was a time, maybe 2 decades or so ago, when people associated wearable technology with surreal, movie-like creations. Cyborgs, Terminator like machines and so on. Today’s world knows that wearable tech is actually something that anybody in the real world can use. Doctors, designers, scientists, the ‘common man’ (and woman), students, housewives and pretty much anybody at all.Wearables are pragmatic, useful and very real.

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Take clothes for instance. There is a certain element of ‘usefulness’ associated with wearable clothes. There are also clothes which use technology to simply add to the design element. In the former category, there are smart clothes and accessories such as ManusMachinae Gloves and haptic shoes or other smart clothes that certainly have their uses and practical applications. Back in time though, there was the rather atypical electric dress created by Atsuko Tanaka in 1956. The 1960s and 1970s also saw the use of electroluminescent panels in clothing.

Computing has also had its wave of ‘wearability’ since the 1960s. 1961 saw the creation of a wearable computer but perhaps the most significant portion of this wearable was the advent and development of Steve Mann’s wearable computer in the last of the 1970s. From a backpack based computer to today’s sleek and small computing devices, this wearable has come a long way too.

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Wrist based devices are probably the most active and visible of all wearable technology. Way back in 1975, the world was pretty excited with the debut of the Pulsar calculator watch. Today’s wrist devices come from brands such as Samsung, Pebble, Apple and many others. These devices can do so much more than calculating! The wrist based devices being the most ubiquitous of all wearables should actually come as no surprise since the wristwatch is probably one of the most enduring and successful examples of modern technology – modern wearable technology that is.

2014 is the year of the wearable. Anyone can see that, even without Google Glasses! Mindblowing technology, applications in essential industries and critical sectors and big brand names are just some of the reasons why wearable tech is an exciting world. From time immemorial, mankind has harnessed the power of tools and knowledge to create something powerful and improve society at large. And that is the legacy and continuing culture of wearable for us today too.

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