Wearable Technology

Today’s world offers several new wearable technology inventions that make our lives more organized and efficient, or provide health benefits from monitoring health to replacing body parts.  Here are some technologies that are changing the world.

Wearable Personal Trainer

Track steps, distance, calories burned; monitors sleep cycles.

Wearable pedometer with mobile phone communication technology now allows you to have a personal trainer follow you around throughout your day. Track your steps, distance, calories burned and monitor your sleep cycles. Your stats upload wirelessly to select mobile devices and to your computer.

This is one example of wearable technology that today’s modern, healthy consumer can take advantage of in their everyday life.

Your skin is the new touchscreen

The Cicret Bracelet is that technology, where you can make your skin your new touchscreen. Do everything from reading your mails, play your favorite games, answer your calls, check the weather, find your way around, Do whatever you usually do on your touchscreen phone, right from your arm. Check it out here:


Google Glass

The future promises the continued blending of technology and the eye (such as Google’s project glass) and other amazing emerging optical technologies on the very near horizon.

Google[x] started Project Glass to build a special kind of glasses, moving technology out of one’s way; “helping users explore and share the world, putting them back in the moment.”  This video released by Google on Wednesday, shows potential uses for Project Glass. A man wanders around the streets of New York City, communicating with friends, seeing maps and information, and snapping pictures. It concludes with him video-chatting with a girlfriend as the sun sets over the city. All of this is seen through the augmented-reality glasses.

Other Emerging Optical Technology

Blindness is one of the most debilitating conditions that can severely impact people’s ability to lead independent lives.

Bionic Vision Australia is a national consortium of researchers working together to develop a bionic eye that can help restore sight to people with particular forms of vision impairment. The aim is to restore the sense of vision to people living with blindness and low vision. Initially, this technology targets patients with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. With time and more research, it is possible in future that this technology can help patients with other vision impairment conditions.

The bionic vision system consists of a camera, attached to a pair of glasses, which transmits high-frequency radio signals to a microchip implanted into the retina. Electrodes on the implanted chip convert these signals into electrical impulses to stimulate cells in the retina that connect to the optic nerve. These impulses are then passed down along the optic nerve to the vision processing centres of the brain, where they are interpreted as an image.

To benefit from this technology, patients need to have a functional visual pathway from the retina to the brain along the optic nerve, as well as some intact retinal cells. As such, the two medical conditions that this technology aims to address are retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

A person using a retinal implant to see won’t experience vision in the same way that a person with a healthy eye does. It will be quite basic to start with and they will need training to adapt to the implant. With time, training and patience, people will be able to use this visual information so they can be more independent and mobile.

The retinal implant bionic eye works by stimulating the perception of light in a patient. A phosphene is a perceived spot of light in the visual field. What our technology aims to do is stimulate many of these phosphenes across the visual field in a way that enables the patient to put together a picture of what they’re looking at.

The more electrodes an implant contains, the more phosphenes are capable of being generated and the more detail a patient may be able to see. The first wide-view prototype device has 98 electrodes. The second High-Acuity device has more than 1024 electrodes.

A team of US and Finnish bioengineers have embedded an antenna, radio receiver, control circuitry, and LED into a wearable contact lens. The technology is currently being tested by rabbits, in their research lab at the University of Washington, Seattle.

The team, led by Babak Praviz, has successfully displayed a single, remotely-controlled pixel onto a contact lens worn by a rabbit. Power from an external battery is transmitted via RF to an antenna that runs around the edge of the contact lens (the gold ring that you see in the image below), so that the wearer’s vision isn’t obstructed. An integrated circuit harvests the energy, and then powers an LED (which emits a nice blue light, incidentally, and is focused by way of the entire contact lens being a Fresnel lens). The IC doesn’t do much else at the moment – it’s basically just a 450 picofarad storage capacitor built with a 130nm CMOS processor – but this is enough to discretely control an on-lens pixel from a remote radio source.

Limitations: The single-pixel contact lens display, because of its tiny antenna, has to have a power source within 10cm (it’s very similar to RFID/NFC in this regard). This problem could be overcome with a battery pack hooked over your ear, though (or if you’re a hardcore transhumanist, embedded into your scalp or spine). The other issue is that this is just a single pixel – but even there, you can imagine military uses (“missile lock!”) or perhaps just as a custom notification (“you have email!”)

These aside, this invention is significant because the rabbit was alive, and no damage to the rabbit’s eye was found after the lens was removed. The research team have already drawn up plans to project multiple pixels onto a single contact lens by using an array of micro-Fresnel lenses, too (see main image). Ultimately, our grasp of semiconductors and optics is now so advanced that we can shrink all of the necessary components for a computer display into a contact lens. Bionic vision really is just around the corner now.


Cyborg Suit

Japanese robotics wizard Yoshiyuki Sankai invented his science fiction-inspired robotic exoskeletons to help disabled people, but a new model aims to speed up the clean-up at Fukushima. On Monday, Sankai unveiled a new version for his suit, the Hybrid Assistive Limb (code-named HAL, of course), that is designed to provide better shield against radiation and to help carry some of the load for the underpaid and under-protected recovery workers.

The Japanese government expects the nuclear disaster at Fukushima to cost $30 billion over the next 30 years, in part because cleanup workers can only work so many hours in the radioactive environment and are weighed down by 132-pound tungsten anti-radiation vests when they do.

“This new type of HAL robot suit supports the weight of tungsten-made protective clothing and enables their wearers to work on the site without feeling the burden,” Sankai’s company Cyberdyne — which is also the name of the robot corporation in the Terminator movies — said in a statement. “It is hoped that this will reduce risks of working under harsh environments and contribute to early restoration operations by humans in the wake of disasters.”

As futuristic as HAL looks, it’s been in development since 1997. After founding Cyberdyne in 2004, Sankai gave the first public demo of HAL in 2005 and began mass producing the suits in 2009, a milestone that was met by an explosion of international media attention. Sankai isn’t just in it for the press clippings, however. At about $14,000 to $19,000 per suit, the commercial versions are now used in 113 hospitals and welfare centers, by AFP’s count. An earlier model is pictured above. You can see the new suit here.

Bionic Vision to Help the Blind See Again

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One comment

  1. Those contacts would be rad.

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