Wearable Technology – An Exploding Segment

by Dr Nick

I attended a Wearble Technology conference today in Pasadena California: Wearable Tech LA

There was a wide range of technologies and innovations – everything from the mind monitoring by IntraXon’sMuse headband. Here’s their online demo video

One of the more interesting concepts takes the challenge we have all faced mastering the mechanics of walking, exercise, running and in some cases rehabilitation by placing sensors in the sole of shoes – Plantiga who have taken force analysis for our feet to a whole new level

The technology takes the static Force Plate sensor and turns into a continuous assessment 3-D tool offering an opportunity to apply this in specific sports and to help rehabilitate people who have been injured or have mechanical challenges (the side effect of capturing all this data is actually creating more comfortable shoes as they now have built in suspension and springs).

Better than this concept!

It might take a while to arrive in healthcare but in the meantime may well show up as another input device for the X-box or PS3 for a more realistic interface.

There was sensors to be placed all over the body for respiration, heart rate, muscle movement, acceleration/deceleration and even some to be ingested

A major challenge highlighted by several speakers facing all of the wearables genre was the issue of battery life

(and ironically it was the same problem I faced as I tried to capture and post social media)

The opening keynote was from Nadeem Kassam – CEO of BioBeats (Founder of Basis which is now an Intel company). His journey was one of classic rise from poor neighborhood in South Africa where he started his entrepreneur sporty selling oranges

He focused on three lessons – the first an essential learning point for everyone especially those facing healthcare challenges

Nothing is stronger than habit

He also suggested that those looking to succeed with innovation should:

  • Look for innovation outside of your industry, and
  • Don’t throw a big team or money at innovation

His story behind this was a classic one of engineers told to build a product who came back with his wearable watch that was a huge device that weighed down his arm and had a velcro battery pack under the arm!

He ended up finding his greatest engineers on Craigslist who’s references and Resume was a cardboard box full of devices that he had built.

The new concept of “Adaptive Media” which is bridging the divide between human emotion, data and the media we consume and should adapt to our mood based on our emotion. His new company has done some interesting research programs including an experiment with machines designed to allow people to hear their own heartbeat and have it set to music in Australia. When people heard their heartbeat for the first time it created a deeply emotional experience and many were moved to share very personal life stories.

They took this a step further and worked to gather heartbeats worldwide – a clever BIGData gathering exercise that amassed large quantities of rate, rhythm and details of millions of people around the world.

His overriding point was

We have to make health fun and engaging – merging it with entertainment to help people achieve what we all want – long tail of healthy life

There was a fascinating blend of the Entertainment industry and Hollywood and a slew of companies taking different approaches to these devices:

Epihany Eyewear tries to make wearables fashionable as well as functional (I’d say it not so much as fashion but blending into society)

Optivent with  powerful wearable glass – but no mention of the interface
They probably had the most fun concept video

Les lunettes d’Optinvent voient plus grand que les Google glass from Rennes, Ville et Métropole on Vimeo.

Enlightened design had the most impressive on stage display with a jacket that had lapels that constantly changing color

Janet Hansen – Founder & Chief Fashion Engineer, Enlightened Designs

Sporting her jacket with lapels that constantly changed color

Sports and Wearable

Given the excitement over the last month wight he World Cup it was fascinating to hear from Stacey Burr from Adidas who revealed that most if not all the teams were using technology to help them train and track in extensive detail – she suggested that there is not a single team or sport that is not using wearable technology in some form or another.

You can see some of the gear below

GPS enabled ECG/EKG monitoring Units plug into the back around the neck area

Paired with watches to offer players feedback
Digital insides of a ball used to sense how well it is struck

These are the professional versions used by major teams but Adidas is releasing commercial versions that will be available to the general public but lack the GPS capability and the analysis tools they offer

Surprisingly the leaders from a sports and country standpoint are Rugby and Australia and New Zealand who are “light years ahead” of wearable tech in sports

They are ahead in Psyching out their opponents too!

Sensoria demonstrated an exciting interactive future for sports and wearables where we challenge ourselves, other people and are coached by virtual assistants


Sensoria Fitness Shirt with Heart Rate Sensors from Heapsylon on Vimeo.

One of the highlights:Seeing Dick Fosbury of the “Fosbury Flop” Olympic Gold Medal Winner from Mexico 1968 and it turns out he is a Cancer Survivor, has an aneurysm and fully engaged in the intersection between healthcare and wearable technology

Neil Harbisson – Co-Founder, Cyborg Foundation

who was born totally color blind was definitely at the edge of wearable technology. He has an implanted device that turns color into sound and this is directly fed into his brain. He described that it took 5 weeks for the headaches to stop with this sudden input of data and then 5 months before it just became part of him and he now sees in color.
Here’s his TED Talk: I listen in Color

He also has a permanent internet connection in his brain so people cane send him colors and images directly (he joked the address is private – but I did wonder given the ease with which spammers seem to find new addresses how he protects this destination from spam!)

I don’t wear technology I am technology, I can’t tell the difference between the software & my brain

The healthcare focused panel: Emerging Wearable 2.0 Health Platforms:

The furthest along and well know was probably Misfit wearables (Sonny Vu, CEO) who try and make sensors “disappear” but still simple sensors

OMSignal (Jesse Slade Shantz – Chief Medical Officer) was the most interesting as they are trying to change the monitoring from attached sensors to using fabric that can be loose fitting but can capture physiological information.

Breathometer (Charles Michael Yim – CEO) focus on analyzing your breath and have a range of products directed at health (over and above their simplistic alcohol breathalyzer available today) that assessed fat burning (using acetone) and asthma

NeuroSky (Stanley Yang – CEO) offer a system that other manufacturers can integrate into their wearables. Typically found in mobile phones or headsets

LUMO (Monisha Perkash – CEO & Co-founder) offering a discreet sensor that is designed to help improve your body posture and works as a tracker.

It’s an exciting future with some fascinating technology to come – one thing for sure – with ubiquitous technology comes ubiquitous complexity and your voice will become an essential tool for successfully managing and navigating. Dragon Assisatnt is one of several tools built to assist in using and navigating technology that is reinventing the relationship between people and technology


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