Wearable technology, wearables, fashionable technology, wearable devices, tech togs, or fashion electronics are clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features.
Wearable devices such as activity trackers are a good example of the Internet of Things, since they are part of the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable objects to exchange data with a manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices, without requiring human intervention.
Back in 2009, Sony Ericsson teamed up with the London College of Fashion for a contest to design digital clothing, and the winner was a cocktail dress with Bluetooth technology making it light up when a call is received, and Zach "Hoeken Smith" of MakerBot fame made keyboard pants during a "Fashion Hacking" workshop at a New York City creative collective.
More recently, fashion company CuteCircuit created costumes for singer Katy Perry featuring LED lighting so that the outfits would change color both during stage shows and appearances on the red carpet. In 2014, London-based CuteCircuit created the world’s first dress to feature Tweets, as worn by singer Nicole Scherzinger. Before that, graduate students from the Tisch School of Arts in New York designed a hoodie that sent pre-programmed text messages triggered by gesture movements. Around the same time, prototypes for digital eyewear with heads up display (HUD) began to appear. The US military employs headgear with displays for soldiers using a technology called holographic optics.
In 2010, Google started developing prototypes of its optical head-mounted display Google Glass, which went into customer beta in March 2013.
American company Adafruit Industries manufactures its own wearable electronics development platform, FLORA. They produce a weekly web show dedicated to DIY wearable electronics, hosted by Becky Stern.
Wearable technology usage can be categorized into two major categories;
- personal usage
- business usage
Whether for personal or business use, wearable tech gadgets are primarily used for any one of the following functions;
- As a fashion statement
- As a fitness tracker
- To synchronize data and communication from other gadgets
- For specific health issue monitoring
- As a gauge for alertness and energy levels
- As navigation tools
- As media devices
- As communication gadgets