Definition

wearable technology

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Wearable technology is any kind of electronic device designed to be worn on the user’s body. Such devices and can take many different forms, including jewelry, accessories, medical devices and clothing (or elements of clothing). The term wearable computing implies processing or communications capabilities, but in reality, the sophistication among wearables can vary.

While the most sophisticated examples of wearable technology include AI hearing aidsGoogle Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens, a holographic computer in the form of a VR headset. An example of a less complex form of wearable technology is a disposable skin patch with sensors that transmit patient data wirelessly to a nearby control device.

Common examples of wearable technology include:

  • Smart jewelry, such as rings, wristbands, watches and pins. Smaller devices typically work in coordination with a smartphone app for display and interaction.
  • Body-mounted sensors that monitor and transmit biological data for healthcare purposes.
  • Fitness trackers, often in the form of wristbands or straps, that monitor things like physical activity and vital signs. Trackers may connect wirelessly to an app for data storage, processing and reporting.
  • Smart clothing with built-in technology that can perform a variety of tasks including fitness or health monitoring, interacting with phones and other devices and changing fabric characteristics to suit the user’s preference, activity or environment.
  • Augmented reality (AR) headsets that integrate digital information into a display of the user’s environment and mixed reality (MR) headsets that integrate physical reality and digital content in a way that enables interaction with and among real-world and virtual objects. (VR headsets, at the far end of the virtuality continuum, entirely replace the user environment with digital information).
  • AI hearing aids that can filter out unwanted noises and automatically adapt for best performance in the user’s current environment. Such devices, sometimes referred to as hearables, can also incorporate capabilities such as fitness tracking, audio streaming and translation.
This was last updated in January 2019

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