While the history of wearables dates back to the late-1960s, today I’m going to concentrate on the story from the early-80s up to and including the present day since this is the period of time during which the most progress was made on wearable computing devices. Steve Mann, now called by some the ‘Father of Wearables’ had begun developing wearable computers in the 1970s when he was at the MIT, beginning with an experimental ‘photographer’s assistant’ system. In the early-1980s, Mann developed wearables which could be worn for longer periods of time and by the end of that decade, Mann was wearing his devices almost full time.
Mann was by no means the only person to work on wearables at this time. Thad Starner, also at MIT, was also part of the MIT Media Lab group working on wearable computers and has been wearing a wearable computer full time since 1993.
A number of other companies – such as Seiko, Philips and Sony – were working on head-mounted displays during the 1990s. Several displays were not produced for wearable computing but for activities such as watching DVDs on a portable player. Fast forwarding to the present, we are now witnessing a significant amount of work being done on next generation wearable devices including smart glasses and other head mounted displays. Some of the cutting edge next generation wearable devices include bionic contact lenses, smart shirts and wearable tattoos.
In my previous blog, I spoke about Google Project Glass and other strategic initiatives by other key influential players such as Apple and Sony.
Well now, as expected, another big player has joined the list: Microsoft. The company’s latest patent published shows an augmented reality heads-up display system that could overlay information on the real world for a user. However, the patent deals with live events and is intended for specific purposes rather than an all-day use promoted by Google Project Glass.
As noted in our latest research on smart wearables, new devices from these players, with the ability to overlay information, head-up displays and augmented reality will create a whole new world of experience, not to mention an attendant ecosystem. The entrance of the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google within the wearable market will not only provide a boost to growth (both from a product range and an educative/marketing perspective), but these players are capable of replicating the success they have enjoyed within the smartphone ecosystem.