Wearable computing is the ultimate convergence arena. Stimulated of course by Google and Google Glass, excited by Apple’s still to be seen iWatch, in the past twelve months a wide range of Davids and Goliaths have made known their intent to compete for the wearables market. It’s the sheer range of companies that promises rapid progress as well as stunning new products to come.
Before 2013 was finished 11 competitors had already lined up against Google Glass, with Apple rumored to have a glass-like product in the works years ago. Glass is assailed from start-ups and established companies alike. But nobody is feeling the pressure like desktop PCs.
The fact is, as the computer goes distributed, the old ecosystem of OS, software and desktop hardware is disintegrating fast.
Meanwhile the smartphone is becoming the personal server. While Apple and Samsung slug it out in phones, no-one has monopoly rights on the body, not for the next couple of years anyway. Here are a few of those companies that want different parts of you.
Printer maker Epson has just announced a wrist-bound heart rate monitor with a calorie burn algorithm, due for launch in June, taking it into wearable computing and health and a long way from inkjet printers. Nike, a leader across many innovation categories, is already out in front in fitness tracking but Epson reckon they have the better interpretive software.
Nissan is also in that space, though its watch-like Nismo product will be used to integrate data from the car and to connect data to your Facebook page and Twitter.
French device maker Archos announced connected-self wrist wearables back in December.
Intel not only announced its new buds at CES It wants to go the whole hog into wearable and fashion. But it’s already there with glass – its Recon-invested glass maker has so far shipped 50,000 devices according to Venture Beat.
Intel is not the only company trying to shake off its “ingredient” status and get closer to the end consumer – and data. Qualcomm also used CES to announce more wearables but unveiled the Toq smartwatch back in September.
Camera maker Olympus is also rumored to be building a Glass-like product. Feed the page at the end of this link into Google translate to learn more.
That naturally brings us to Samsung, quick into wearables with Gear. Samsung has been working on smart glasses in the medical field specifically to allow disabled people to become more self-sufficient by hooking up to eye tracking devices. Samsung is promising a wider range of wearables this year.
Digitaltrends meanwhile did a run down of major companies exploring smart glasses – Sony and Microsoft headed that list and of course Sony is already out there with a gen 3 smartwatch.
In the background Motorola/Google are experimenting with wearable smart plastics, along with partner Flextronics.
That brings us to Vivitouch, part of the Bayer pharmaceuticals group. In its CES presentation this year, Intel promised biometric earbuds. Yes, listening devices that measure some aspects of your health, particularly your heartbeat. That must be music to the ears of executives at Bayer.
Their materials’ science group launched the Vivitouch haptic earphones last year at Mobile World Congress. They work by stimulating muscles around the ears – other applications include haptic touch for mobile phones. What chance medical applications of Vivitouch soon (this Sonitus wearable gives you your hearing back, through your teeth)?
The truth of wearables is they are the melting pot for industry over the next five years, bringing companies in from materials sciences, medical sciences, printed electronics, visual computing, IT and mobile. Nobody yet won the right to be called king of the pile.