Mobile trends come and go—some are cutting edge (iPod), some just a little too late (think Zune), but you never really know which idea will catch on or why. Some, such as the iPad, start an entirely new category. Others, like Wi-Fi for example, were once only conceptual, but, (like Wi-Fi) are now an ever-evolving necessity.
Wearable technology, while still in its infancy, is a mobile trend that is definitely coming, and one whose innovations remain untold. With more companies trying to take advantage of this space, ABI Research predicts that by 2015, 485 million wearable computing devices will be shipped annually.
This type of technology may seem highly futuristic, but last year the IEEE
held its 16th annual International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC), so the notion has been around a long time. "The soar of smartphones, unobtrusive sensors, and mobile user interfaces has been part of ISWC’s success and recognition over the past years," Oliver Amft, ISWC 2012 General Chair, said in an opening statement. "However, research around novel smart materials for sensing and responding functions is currently making great leaps and may lead into ISWC’s future."
To that end, here are five cool ideas, all in the beginning stages, most yet to be released, that have potential to change the mobile landscape:
1. Apple's iWatch
Based on patent applications filed by Apple, a possible iWatch could include a flexible screen, caller ID and apps currently used on the iPhone. However, that's all speculation, as it's hard to confirm when exactly the smartwatch will be released.
Brian Blair, a senior analyst with Wedge Partners, said in a March 4th interview on Bloomberg, that "Apple's been clearly working on this, but it doesn't mean it's going to come to market for sure. Apple has 75,000 employees; they work on a lot of things that never see the light of day. I think if we all believe there can be utility here, that it can be kind of an extra screen on your wrist, they can very well do this. But it's still not clear yet."
He predicts that if the iWatch does come to market, the price point is between $200 and $300.
2. Google Glass
It's not just eyewear, but a headset that can record video or take a picture upon verbal instruction, or offer directions as needed. The tech specs, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capable, will have a display above its line of sight, according to a member of the linkedin group Google Glass Developers.
Just as Android is an open source platform, the reality-augmented device appears to be a collaborative effort. Google recently solicited applications for its Google Glass Explorer program to attract developers and others interested in sharing ideas for the new technology. More than 8,000 applicants will be selected, each having to purchase the specs for $1,500 each, and travel to New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles in order to obtain a pair.
At a recent TED conference
, Sergey Brin took to the stage to show off the latest prototype. He explained the reason behind the glass, “When we started Google 15 years ago,” he said during his talk, “my vision was that information would come to you as you need it. You wouldn’t have to search query at all.” Of course, this is not exactly how it works, as we must look at a device to gain the info. He asked: “Is this the way you’re meant to interact with other people.”
Brin called his use of the smartphone a “nervous tic,” and said that working on the Google Glass project “opened my eyes to how much of my life I spent secluding myself away in email.” It’s his hope that this future of mobile technology will bring “more natural ways of interacting with one another digitally.”
3. Voodoo In the Air
Calin Popa, an acrobatic paraglider, decided to design and build his own strap-on computer to help with his aerial stunts. The VTR, which stands for Voodoo Trimbulind Robot, lets him know when to pull and when to release the control lines. Popa confirmed to Mobile Enterprise that World Champion Sebastian Borquin is slated to test the device this April, to learn the Rhythmic to Infinite moves.
"We have also programmed other maneuvers like SAT, Looping etc.., and we have already had three students learning those," Popa explained by email.
The components cost less than $100, but the device took almost four years to develop. Now patent pending, the VTR is likely to be sold this summer to acrobatic paragliding instructors, for $800.
Going forward, could the new device be developed for other uses? "Yes, the VTR could be used also with paratroopers, we would just need the training plan and particularities, and then adapt the programming according to the needs," Popa said.
4. 3D Garments
At a private runway show on March 4 in New York City, Dita Von Teese wore a revealing, body-conforming black dress, featuring several thousand links and more than 13,000 Swarovski crystal studs. It was unusual even for the world of fashion. Created by Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti, the nylon mesh design was printed by Shapeways, a 3D printer.
"The initial sketches were made by Michael on his iPad," Bitonti said via email. The final design was rendered using a combination of 3D modeling software and proprietary software developed by Bitonti and her team. The floor-length dress was then manufactured in layers through selective laser sintering.
It's a technology that originated several decades ago, yet has only recently come into more popular use. "It's a very exciting thing for me to be working on at the moment, the possibilities seem endless," Bitonti said of 3D printing as a whole. In addition to the gown, the private runway show featured 3D-printed jewelry pieces.
Shapeways currently prints in 30 different materials, including metals and ceramics. The company recently launched apps to make the process easier for designers to upload and print their creations.
"We are going to continue to see more flexible materials and as the resolution increases I predict we will be moving closer and closer to more traditional textiles. However, they will be more complex and adaptable," Bitonti said. "We will be able to develop textiles that change with the body and adapt localized needs across the body. It's all very exciting but hard to predict at the moment."
5. The Helmet of Justice
Jason Poindexter, a designer at Chaotic Moon, was hit by a vehicle when riding his bike one evening, coming home from dinner. He woke up in an ambulance bleeding and unable to recall what had just happened. Members of his team soon arrived at the hospital. With no recollection of the event, Poindexter was unable to identify the car or driver who hit him.
"We said, 'Hey, what if we developed a device?' A 'black box' for bicyclists,'" said Ben Lamm, CEO of Chaotic Moon, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise.
The Austin-based mobile studio was used to quickly developing apps for large entertainment companies, (they built for the user interface for American Idol, for example) so it wasn't long before they had "The Helmet of Justice." Ten days to be exact.
The initial helmet used seven cameras to capture an entire range of motion in a 360-degree view. The app allows real time data to be recorded and pulled from a USB card.
The company is currently in licensing talks with helmet manufactures to bring the idea to market. As the product develops, it will likely be able to send such real-time information to smartphones and other devices.
The future features and functionality of these technologies could have unimaginable effects on everyday work and life. Bill Gates started, not too long ago, with a dream of a computer on every desk and in every home. That was unfathomable at the time.
Now, we are at a stage where the number of connected mobile devices will outnumber people on earth. It might not be a stretch to say that one day, BYOD will become WYOD (wear your own device).
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