1. Body-adapted Wearable Electronics

From Google Glass to the Fitbit wristband, wearable technology has generated significant attention over the past year, with most existing devices helping people to better understand their personal health and fitness by monitoring exercise, heart rate, sleep patterns, and so on.

The sector is shifting beyond external wearables like wristbands or clip-on devices to “body-adapted” electronics that further push the ever-shifting boundary between humans and technology.

The new generation of wearables is designed to adapt to the human body’s shape at the place of deployment. These wearables are typically tiny, packed with a wide range of sensors and a feedback system, and camouflaged to make their use less intrusive and more socially acceptable.

These virtually invisible devices include earbuds that monitor heart rate, sensors worn under clothes to track posture, a temporary tattoo that tracks health vitals and haptic shoe soles that communicate GPS directions through vibration alerts felt by the feet.

The applications are many and varied: haptic shoes are currently proposed for helping blind people navigate, while Google Glass has already been worn by oncologists to assist in surgery via medical records and other visual information accessed by voice commands.

Technology analysts consider that success factors for wearable products include device size, non-invasiveness, and the ability to measure multiple parameters and provide real-time feedback that improves user behaviour. However, increased uptake also depends on social acceptability as regards privacy.

For example, concerns have been raised about wearable devices that use cameras for facial recognition and memory assistance. Assuming these challenges can be managed, analysts project hundreds of millions of devices in use by 2016.

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