The tech industry’s eyes were set firmly on London’s ExCel exhibition centre this week, as the second annual Wearable Technology show came to town. Sporting a who’s who of the technology industry, innovators such as Samsung, Intel were present alongside wearable specialists such as Jawbone and Misfit.
Armed with an excitable urge for new wearables, we headed down to London to see what was on offer.
Intel were, unsurprisingly, impressive in the foresight they displayed as an exhibitor. Paying particular interest to healthcare applications of wearables, we feasted on Intel’s 3D printed wearables. Included in which was a custom made smart cast. Designed by Turkish company Osteoid, the bespoke cast will slip onto any patients arm after a series of scans. Embedded in which is an Intel Edison processor. Data is collected from within the cast and onto the accompanying app. The cast is designed to improve recovery times for arm injuries, with Intel claiming a 38% improvement over traditional casts. Connected via Bluetooth, a low intensity pulsed ultrasound bone simulator can nurse the condition of internal injuries with just 20 minutes of treatment a day.
Similarly, Intel also proudly displayed a 3D printed prosthetic limb. Modelled by an amputee from birth, the arm came complete with two sensors attached to the users shoulder. Made from a flexible material, the arm contained a number of mechanics in the fingers which, at the twitch of a shoulder, could carry out a basic gripping action. We’ve covered a number of healthcare applications for 3D printers, and seeing a real world solution certainly opened my eyes to the concepts potential.
Not surprisingly, wrist-bound smart wearables were aplenty at the show, with Samsung no doubt eager to promote their new Gear S in the face of some new competition. And finally, a smartwatch manufacturer may have woken up and listened to the consumer. The Gear S not only comes with various straps, an interchangeable UI and a curved face (Samsung’s new favourite thing, it seems), but also the capability to be standalone. Using the nano-SIM slot, the Gear S can make and receive calls and messages without the need for a paired smartphone. Hopefully, the Gear S can set a new precedent in an uninspiring market.
Looking a little more leftfield, an ambitious project from Practechwear caught our eye. The UB does everything a standard smartwatch of today can do, acting as a display for your smartphones notifications and fitness capabilities. Throw in the inbuilt barcode scanner however, and something truly remarkable may be afoot. UB’s display contained a looping video featuring all the potential uses of their scanner-fitted smartwatch. For example then, you’re trudging through the supermarket. Up pops your shopping list, and as you gain each item, you scan the products bar code. Once you’re done, all the items can be paid for with a tap of the UB’s display, checkout free. Similar uses were found for barcode-filled restaurant menus and prescription drugs, as the UB logs your required intake and reminds you how often to take it. Even at work, the UB was in play as warehouse pickers could find and scan the correct product for a certain order. Built on Android, the UB’s screen can also be flipped into widescreen mode, allowing you take advantage of all Android’s apps with greater functionality.
UB’s challenge may come when trying to sell their visionary plans to the industries they hope to involve. Either way, we’ll be keeping a close eye on UB’s progress, with a Kickstarter campaign due to begin in Q3.
Another common destination for smart wearable devices is the face, and the Wearable Tech show took every opportunity to plonk something new on your noggin. Samsung once again stepped in with their Virtual Reality creation, Gear VR. Made complete by sliding in your Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the Gear VR is basically an accessory for your phone….that costs £180.
I had a go, and given I have now tried on a number of VR’s offerings, the Samsung fell firmly in the underwhelming category. Despite the Note 4 sporting a 1440×2560 super AMOLED display, the short theatre production I was treated to looked no better than OK. That the Gear VR was no more impressive in resolution than the £15 VISR headset we tested no so long ago, the £600 headset and phone combo may prove a hard sell.
Elsewhere, I got my first taste of Augmented Reality, with mixed results. AR software developers Infinity gave me a quick taste of their tech’s potential. I donned the Lumus DK-32 AR specs and went for a trial run. Various applications of the AR software were on display, all holographically beamed onto a table in front of me. One minute a cityscape appeared, allowing me to play the architect and envisage the perfect city. Surgeons could one day profit from 3D projections of bone scans. Even entertainment possibilities were on display. A wildlife programme played, paused and leaped out of the screen, as a 3D lion pranced around in front of me.
Again, some aspects of the tech were mightily impressive. Objects would follow your vision around the table, waiting for your return should they momentarily move out of shot. A spacecraft, hovering around in front of you, projected its own moving shadow onto the real life world. And some interaction with the objects was possible, as parts of a projected painting could be obscured from view when placing my hand over various areas.
With all the recent talk of AR however, I was still left with a significant prototype vibe. The technology is still clearly in development, and enhancing the interaction between real world objects and AR projections could be the key to unlocking the countless real world applications of Augmented Reality.
*Title Image- Wearable Technology Show