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A history of wearable devices: Some hits and misses

History of wearable computing is also a history of several misses and a few hits. ET traces this history and offers some glimpse of what one can expect in wearable computing

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 03, 2013, 06.05 AM IST
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First it was a roomful. Then it shrunk down to a desk top. And later it moved to our laps, palms and our attire.
First it was a roomful. Then it shrunk down to a desk top. And later it moved to our laps, palms and our attire.
First it was a roomful. Then it shrunk down to a desk top. And later it moved to our laps, palms and our attire. Now it’s over to Apple’s Cook and his team of tech evangelists to surprise us with what they have up their ‘sleeve’. But the history of wearable computing is also a history of several misses and a few hits. ET traces this history and offers some glimpse of what one can expect in wearable computing

1961 | Roulette predictor

Operation: A data-taker would use a cigarette pack-sized analogue computer with four push buttons to indicate the speed of the roulette wheel

Inventors: Mathematicians Edward O Thorp and Claude Shannon

1967 | Wearable lip-reading aid

Inventor: Hubert Upton, electronics research engineer at Bell Laboratories, USA
Operation: The eyeglass-mounted display of the analogue wearable computer helps user read lips better

1977 | Wearable camerato-tactile vest for the blind

Inventor: CC Collins
Operation: The head-mounted camera converts images into a 1024-point, 10-inch square tactile grid on a vest

1977 | Algebraic calculator watch

Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard

Operation: Of the 28 tiny keys on the watch face, four were raised for easy fi nger access and two were recessed but could still be operated with the fingers. The remaining keys were meant to be pressed with a stylus that snapped into the clasp of the bracelet

1981 | Backpack-mounted computer to control photographic equipment

Inventor: Steve Mann

Operation: This body-hugging device was actually a 6502 computer wired into a steel-frame backpack to control fl ash-bulbs, cameras and other photographic systems

1990 | Active Badge

Manufacturer: Olivetti Research, UK

Operation: It uses infrared signals from a small transmitter attached to the user’s clothing to locate the person in a building

1994 | First wrist computer

Inventors: Edgar Matias and Mike Ruicci of the University of Toronto

Operation: Built from a modifi ed HP 95LX palmtop computer, it has a half-QWERTY keyboard, wearable in the wrist

1997 | The fi rst ‘Smart Clothes’ fashion show

Centre: Pompidou Centre in Paris

Organisers: Students and faculty of Creapole Ecole de Creation, Paris, and Prof Alex Pentland of MIT, Boston, USA

2013* | Google Glass

Supposed to be launched by the end of 2013, this wearable computer has the ability to take photos and record 720p HD video The side of Google Glass is a touchpad, allowing users to control the device by swiping through a timeline-like interface displayed on the screen An eBay auction of a fake Google Glass was pulled out after bids went past $15,000, or Rs 8 lakh!

This yet-to-be-launched device is already facing bans in public places in some American states, owing to privacy concerns

iWatch

Tech bloggers swear that the much-talked-about gadget from Apple will be out late 2013 They describe it as a roll-up fl exible display wrist device that connects to your phone to relay alerts, function as a remote, and potentially much more Apple remains tight-lipped. “I don’t want to be more specifi c. We have some really great stuff coming in the fall and all across 2014,” said CEO Tim Cook in April this year
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