Material world: What future wearables will be made of

Wearable tech may be the future, but we’re still heavily reliant on the materials that we’ve been using for years in bigger devices like smartphones – largely metal and plastic. The problem is, these are simply too bulky for many wearable innovations. What we need is a whole new range of flexible smart textiles to get us to the next level.

From energy-harvesting copper yarn to fabrics inspired by electric eels, here are just a few of the next-gen materials that future wearables will be made of…

Ferroelectric material

Material world: What future wearables will be made of

One group of scientists has pinpointed a material that can harness kinetic energy, heat and sunlight – all at the same time. Known as KBNNO, the substance is a type of mineral called perovskite. The material is ferroelectric, and so can be used to generate electricity by applying heat or pressure. This could supplement the battery in wearable gadgets and eventually even replace batteries altogether.

The researchers, from the University of Oulu in Finland, hope to build a multi-energy-harvesting device within the next year, so it’s possible that KBNNO could be used in consumer gadgets by the end of the decade…

You can read the full article at Wareable (originally published 28 February 2017).

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How VR and AR could turn you into a bona fide space explorer

12444-c9a15545b69790cfe97a93810d1c1e12Mainstream virtual reality is still in its infancy but it’s been tackling the final frontier – space – for years. Now the latest hardware, such as the Oculus RiftHTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR headsets, combined with sophisticated 360-degree filming techniques, is finally bringing space exploration to the masses.

VR’s ability to produce large-scale 3D environments not only offers armchair astronauts a glimpse of what life is like in space, it is now also more helpful than ever at aiding real-life astronauts in their jobs both on Earth and out there. 

What’s more, augmented reality can offer spacemen and women a new perspective by merging the worlds of Earth and space. Compared to VR, though, augmented reality still has some way to go before we start to see smartglasses and AR helmets both on our faces and in our homes.

Training astronauts

While virtual reality has been relatively slow to catch on in the mainstream, NASA has been using it for more than 25 years because it’s simply one of the best ways to replicate space while remaining safely on home soil.

“Simulated environments have always been important in astronaut training,” explains Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division.

The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut crews all spent at least one third of their training time in simulators and contemporary crews use VR simulations to train for tasks on the International Space Station (ISS).

Early NASA headsets were improvised affairs – the first prototype of the Virtual Environment Workstation headset was built from a motorcycle helmet – and the American space agency has continued to update the tech involved. Astronauts now use NASA’s Virtual Reality Lab (VRL), located at the Johnson Space Center, to train for missions aboard the ISS. Using a headset, real-time graphics and motion simulators, astronauts train to carry out tasks during microgravity spacewalks.

A vital part of the training involves using their powered jetpack – the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) – which carries very limited fuel, to navigate their way back to the ISS should they get stranded in space. 

The ability to recreate a life-size 3D environment makes VR ideal for astronaut training and now NASA is looking at using augmented reality to keep reality in the frame.

You can read the full article at Wareable (originally published 20 April 2016).

The wearables from NASA that made it back to Earth

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What has spaceflight ever done for us? A hell of a lot, actually – and aside from trying to get humans to Mars, NASA’s technology has trickled down to a host of wearable gadgets.

NASA makes a huge investment in technology and each year it releases a report called Spinoff. This details all of the innovations that have been developed as a result of space travel, from Sony’s latest ‘magnetic fluid’ speakers to more realistic 3D mapping in video games like SSX.

NASA estimates that over the last decade or so, its spinoff innovations have saved 449,850 lives, created 18,888 jobs and created $5.2 billion of revenue.

From healthcare to aviation, sports and product manufacturing, the benefits of spaceflight have filtered down into almost every aspect of our lives, and there are several pieces of wearable kit that have been developed as a result of space exploration. Here are some of the best so far…

Zephyr Bioharness

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NASA was in need of a gadget with real-time sensors for astronauts to track their own physiological symptoms in order to prevent vomiting caused by microgravity.

Step forward Maryland-based Zephyr Technology which developed a product for the space programme, while also giving it the opportunity to improve its own technology. The Bioharness is now used for tracking health and fitness by the US military, firefighters and several pro sports teams in the NBA, NHL and NLB as well as numerous college teams.

Jockey Staycool

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Famous US underwear maker Jockey’s Staycool range was created using the ‘phase change materials’ that NASA developed for astronauts’ space gloves. The special material is designed to maintain a suitable temperature for optimum comfort. Basically, space pants.

Jasper Systems compression wear

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NASA’s Ames Research Centre originally developed liquid-cooled garments to keep astronauts’ airtight spacesuits from becoming hot and humid. The technology has since been used by California-based Vasper Systems to produce compression garments which are designed for more efficient exercise by concentrating lactic acid buildup in the muscles.

You can read the rest of the article at Wareable (originally published 8 April 2015).

Super Bowl XLIX: How wearable tech is changing the NFL

Wearable tech in the NFL
Like most other major sports, the NFL is currently enjoying a wearable technology explosion that’s changing the game. As the players walk out to contest the 49th Superbowl on Sunday, their training, preparation, tactics and plans will have been influenced by technology like never before.

From on-field tracking to improved safety and tactical HUDs, wearables are ushering a new era of football. Not only does this help coaches to get the best out of the players by monitoring their stats on the field and in practice, it also offers fans unprecedented insights into the game.

The stat-heavy nature of American football is why NFL works so well as a fantasy league compared to other sports and one of the reasons why it’s important for fans to have access to this kind of in-game performance data.

On the eve of one of the world’s greatest sporting events, here are the wearables dominating football.

Catapult trackers

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Founded in Australia, Catapult Sports is one of the biggest suppliers of athletics tracking tech in the sports world. The company’s gadgetry is used by a quarter of all NFL franchises, along with 10 college football teams and is used primarily for preventing injuries.

GPS trackers around the size of a small mobile phone are worn by the player, usually on the back using a chest harness, although some teams have sewn special pockets into the back of training tops.

By monitoring key data, coaches can monitor players’ work rates and inform game rotations and practice schedules. The technology can also be used to safely rehabilitate injured players.

The NFL doesn’t currently allow use of GPS devices during games, but they’re fast becoming a must-have for training.

GoPro

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As NFL players wear helmets, the sport is well suited to player cams, which can be integrated into their head gear to help coaches with tactics and provide ‘player cam’ POV for the fans.

Several teams in the league, such as the Cincinnati Bengals, have already started using GoPro cameras in training, while New York Giants rookie Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jnr – and the man responsible for the most amazing one-handed catch we’ve ever seen – has also been spotted wearing a GoPro on a chest harness in a Pro Bowl practice session.

GoPro has just done its first major sports league deal, signing up as official partner to the NHL. Could the NFL be next on the list?

Reebok CheckLight

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Produced in conjunction with tech company MC10, Reebok’s concussion-busting skullcap was designed to tackle one of sport’s most dangerous problems. American Football has worryingly high concussion rates – not surprising, given the physical nature of the game.

CheckLight aims to keep players safe by using multiple sensors to capture head impact data during play. A green light indicates a low impact, yellow indicates a moderate hit, while a red light means a heavy impact – giving an indication of when a player needs a medical check before returning to the field.

You can read the rest of the article at Wareable (originally published 30 January 2015).

Calling the shots: 10 women leading the way in wearable tech

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Ayse Ildeniz, VP New Devices Group, Intel

A feature for wearable technology website Wareable on the ladies that are shaping the future:

Here at Wareable, we’ve already argued as to why we need more smartwatches designed for women, so it’s encouraging to see that an increasing number of female CEOs, designers and influencers setting the wearable agenda are female. Obviously it’s not just women that are emerging as the leaders of the wearables pack, but it does appear to be area of tech with a noticeably large number of females calling the shots. This is important, not just in terms of levelling the playing field in the traditionally male-dominated world of tech, but it also ensures that female consumers aren’t fobbed off with ‘unisex’ products that are clearly designed with only men in mind. So without further ado, we list the ladies flying the flag for wearable tech:

Isabelle Olsson Senior Industrial Designer, Google isabelle-olsson-2-1416486435-hKma-column-width-inline

While it has yet to hit the mass market, it’s fair to say that Google Glass is one of the most talked about products in the wearable tech sphere, perhaps the entire tech world. It was Isabelle Olsson who was tasked with the job of the making the original clunky Glass prototype both comfortable and attractive to look at, defining the look of the most recognisable wearable around. Olsson grew up in Sweden where she studied fine art and industrial design and also worked on Samsung TVs and the Nook Color ereader before joining Google.

Liz Bacelar Founder & CEO, Decoded Fashion liz-bacelar-copy-1416486484-AFnT-column-width-inline

Bacelar founded Decoded fashion back in 2011 with the goal of bringing together tech founders and ‘decision-makers’ in fashion beauty and retail through dedicated events. An Emmy-nominated CBS news producer, Bacelar was quick to spot the the natural correlation between fashion and technology and argues that designers need to embrace tech, not just from a design angle but also when it comes to mobile, commercial and social strategies. While not started as a women’s initiative, Decoded has become a popular platform for pitches from female-led tech startups.

Camille Toupet Designer, June camille-toupet-1416486986-wRQ8-column-width-inline

Independent french jewellery designer Camille Toupet was responsible for the look of June – a bracelet with a gem-like stone that incorporates a sensor to monitor sun exposure. The wearable was announced at CES 2014 by Neatatmo, better known for its smart thermostat. The wearable pairs with an iOS app to keep you posted on how much sun you’re getting, what SPF you should be wearing and when to don a hat or sunnies. With Toupet having previously collaborated with luxury fashion brands Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston, she has blazed a trail for high-end designer input into wearable design, something we’re likely to see even more of in 2015…

You can read the rest of the article at Wareable (originally published 20 November 2014).

Why we need more smartwatches designed for women

1128-4085d82021ac12c8436778dee217bb51While a lot of smartwatches claim to be unisex, most of them are clearly geared towards men – something that becomes obvious when you see how comically large they look when worn by women.

This isn’t a complete surprise, as smartwatch technology is still relatively new and men traditionally make up the bulk of early adopters.

However, according to Ofcom’s 2013 Omnibus Survey, a whopping 48% of smartphone users are female, so if smartwatch makers ignore them then they’re effectively ignoring almost half of their potential buyers.

And with recent Juniper Research data telling us that there will be 100 million smartwatch users worldwide by the end of 2019, brands need to take note.

Russell Feldman, YouGov’s director of technology and telecoms, explained: “Wearables are set to grow markedly over the next 18 months. Presently only early adopters own them but as the range of products expand, more consumers will come on board.

“The market will reach its first critical mass over the next year-or so, moving it from niche to more mainstream. So the next wave of wearable owners will be the key group for device manufacturers, retailers and ecosystem partners.”

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While smartwatches are tipped to take off in a big way in the near future, most of the products we’ve seen so far from major tech brands have been ugly as hell. They’re certainly improving – step forward Moto 360 and LG G Watch R – but there’s still some way to go.

What we need to see is more fashion brands and traditional watch makers like Casio, Swatch and Omega getting on board, with designs that look like watches and not what how tech brands thing they should look (usually, chunky, rectangular and absolutely massive). We’ve already seen a few nods in the smart direction, like Casio’s Bluetooth-enabled G-Shock, but not really any true smartwatches.

Obviously style is an important issue for 21st century gent, just as it is for the ladies, but with most tech products designed for men first, the makers need to address this…

You can read the rest of the article at Wareable (originally published 20 October 2014).

Wearables in space

Space selfie by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide

Space selfie by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide

From the famous Mercury Seven astronauts to the spacemen and women on the ISS, what these pioneers wear is absolutely critical when it comes to coping with life at Zero-G.

Much of the technology that Nasa develops for space flight eventually makes it into the products that we all use here on Earth, but what about wearables in space? We’ve pulled together some of the space-aged kit that astronauts wear in space and a few things they might wear in future…

Space watch

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While the first watch to make it into space was a Sturmanskie, worn by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the official watch of the Apollo moon landings was the Omega Speedmaster. But it was the Timex Datalink that was arguably the first smartwatch in space as it was also the very first watch capable of downloading information from a computer.

Made in conjunction with Microsoft, the watch has been approved by Nasa for space travel and has been worn by many astronauts since, but the Speedmaster remains the only watch certified for spacewalks.

Health monitoring

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Wearable health monitors have been a big part of human spaceflight from the start, with all of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts wearing biosensors ranging from a belt-like harness to a full biosuit comprising heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure monitors.

Nasa recently tested out Google Glass and Bluetooth heart rate monitors during simulated space walks on its Neemo (Nasa Extreme Environment Mission Operations) underwater facility for potential use on the ISS in future.

GoPro

Space selfie by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide

Space selfie by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide

Action cam specialist GoPro was named ‘official on-board camera of Nasa’ in 2011. Used by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), and famously by Felix Baumgartner in his epic space jump, the brand’s Hero 3 is compatible with a huge selection of mounts, ideal for keeping the action steady in zero gravity.

This spectacular selfie was above was snapped outside the ISS by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide…

You can read the rest of the article at Wareable (originally published 28 September 2014).