There is a need in us humans, to improve ourselves. I am not talking about improving our natural good looks, I am talking about trying to go beyond our natural human capabilities. I recently watched Ghost in a Shell, and although it is ‘just a comic’, the idea behind such a future got me thinking. When it comes to advances in technology, will there come a time when boundaries will be crossed? Who will dictate those boundaries? Are cybernetic implants, and AI’s destined to re-shape what it means to be a human being? Ok, I digress. In order to understand where we are headed, let’s revisit the 10 of the most influential wearable devices of our time, starting with the Abacas ring.
ABACAS- The First Smart Ring
Labelled as the “first smart ring”, the Abacas ring is an ancient piece of wearable tech from the 17th century. The relic was made during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and is made of pure silver. Although the origin of the ring is unknown the Abacas features a 1.2 centimeter-long, 0.7 centimeters-wide abacus that, despite its small stature, is still a fully functional counting tool. Fun fact, it was primarily used by Chinese ladies to pick one from many hairpins.
PEBBLE – Record Breaking Wearable
The year when early adopters were introduced to Pebble was 2012. An E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android Pebble, it was the first watch built for the 21st century. Customizable, with downloadable watch faces and useful internet-connected apps, the Pebble alerted you with a silent vibration to incoming calls, emails and messages. There was an immediate demand for the minimalist smartwatch, that led to their Kickstarter campaign generating $10m in pledges – a record at the time. Following such success, the company eventually wound down and its assets were bought by fitness tracker-maker Fitbit.
GOOGLE’S GLASS- The Tech We Still Talk About
TIME magazine named Glass one of its best inventions of 2012, so it comes as no surprise that in 2017 people are still whispering its name. Love it, or hate it, Glass was a pioneering device. On the day they announced their invention to the world back in 2012, Project Glass shared, “We think technology should work for you — to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.” First launched in 2013 the US, the early-adopter prototype called the Explorer Edition costing $1,500 in 2013. As of 2014 the majority of people could purchase it. The UK version cost £1,000. Mainly due to the backlash from those around Glass wearers the innovative project was shelved in 2015.
PODOMETER- Will the Real Inventor Please Stand Up
Although Leonardo da Vinci is generally given credit for coming up with the original concept of the pedometer, it took a whole hole slew of people to perfect this invention. Besides da Vinci, the cast of characters included French craftsman Jean Fernel, third American president, Thomas Jefferson, English scientist Robert Hooke, Swiss Abraham-Louis Perrelet and Dr. Yoshiro Hatano. There has been some dispute that Hubert Sartonof Liège, France who invented the self-winding mechanism in 1778. Fun fact, English watchman from the Isle of Man, John Harwood, who was given the patent in 1924 by the Federal Office for Intellectual Property of the Swiss Confederation in Berne and who exhibited the world’s first self-winding watch at the 1926 Basel Trade Fair.
Exoskeleton- The ‘Real Iron Man’ Suit
Easily described as the ‘real iron man’ suit, the exoskeleton was nearly made possible in the 1960s by General Electric. Known as the Hardiman project, GE set out to build its own human exoskeleton. Defined as a machine that could move with a person, you can trace attempts back to the late 1800s. Although GE’s exoskeleton never made it into production, some of the 1960s-era “Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine” technology that went into Hardiman survives today, in the form of the Man-Mate industrial manipulator.
BLUETOOTH HEADSET- Pretentious tech?
Pretentious tech? Well, it depends who you ask. Bluetooth, a key component in making our lives easier, has transformed how we use technology. Started in 1998 by just 5 companies, they expanded on an original idea of creating a standard for a wireless headset. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the first mobile phone as well as the first wireless headset using Bluetooth was shipped. After that there was the printer, then mouse and keyboards, mp3 player, medical sensors, alarm clocks, tv and more recently smart phone.
DIGITAL WATCH- 18 Karat Gold Wearable
A mere 45 years ago, the world was introduced to the first digital watch. Hamilton, a luxury watch brand, partnered up with Electro/Data to put a digital display watch powered using electric batteries on the market. The year was 1972 and the Hamilton Pulsar P1 was priced $2,100. Today this amount equates to around $12,000 USD (£9,600). Overpriced? Definitely, but that was mainly due to the 18 karat gold rather than the technology, a 25-chip circuit producing the LED display.
GoPro- From An Analog To Dominance Of The Wearable
Founded by Nick Woodman, GoPro, once known by the name Woodman Labs, has come a long way since 2004. From an analog in a waterproof case to a device people in film industry use today the first prototype of a such a camera was made in 2004. The first GoPro action camera- Hero 35mm 0001 was analog and completely different to a GoPro we know today. It cost a purse friendly $20. The 2006, the digital version with 10-second video capability was the device that led to the GoPro’s dominance of the wearable video camera market.
GOOGLE CARDBOARD- VR On The Cheap
In 2014, Google Cardboard was released. VR on the cheap, it was designed so anyone could make one. Since then the Cardboard headset has been upgraded once, the software has improved and it’s become an ubiquitous medium for marketers and educators.
SPECTACLES- Enter The Cool ‘Videocam shades’
‘Videocam shades’ called Spectacles were the brainchild of Evan Spiegel, 26 year old CEO of former Snapchat, now Snap Inc. His entrance into the wearable tech space involved camera mounted on a set of sunglasses that take 10-second circular videos and sends them to your phone so you can send them to your Snapchat friends. Setting you back $130you can now buy them online in the US.