16.10.2014

Wearables? The future is the «invisibles»

Wearables? The future is the «invisibles»

Image | TimesNewGeek

Technology has very clearly infiltrated daily life for most of us. A few years ago it was normal to see people on the streets listening to music with a cassette player or teens with small videogame consoles, but smartphones have changed the rules of the game. And they are changed forever. Its success lies in its ability to improve our quality of life thanks to its versatility. We use them to communicate, access the Internet, have fun, read, get directions… This is precisely why we always carry them around. However, although mobiles are a little intrusive for their size and restrained weight, they are still specific devices that we have to pay explicit attention to. But that could change very soon.

Smart watches, which we already spoke of, are a good example of the latest devices designed to integrate into our daily lives in a completely transparent manner. Their physical characteristics are similar to regular watches, but their capacity to communicate with our smartphone allows unthinkable capacities for a normal watch. Interestingly, this is the way it looks that «personal» technology will continue in the immediate future.

Smart watches and augmented reality glasses, like Google Glass, are designed to form part of our clothing and offer a slightly «traumatic» use, but several research groups are working on new wearable devices, which will allow us to bring technology with us, but unlike smartphones or intelligent watches, it will be completely invisible to others.

This is what´s already here

The most effective way to carry technology so that it goes completely unnoticed is to implant it under the skin. Although it may seem science fiction, it is not, nor is it something that we will see for many years. Currently there are groups of people in the most developed countries that have chosen to implant small chips into their bodies that allows them to access certain technology without needing a computer, smartphone or other similar device. At the moment these tiny ingenuities cannot compete with the versatility of a computer, but its complexity continues to increase thanks to developments from nanotechnology and lithography (transistor integration technology).

A good example of the possibilities of this technology are the Circadia implants that Grindhouse Wetware are manufacturing, which allows the implant under the skin to monitor body temperature and transmit this information to an external device through Bluetooth. But even more impressive are the implants that Rich Lee carries, one of the gurus of this technology, and who is easily found in events related to these devices. Lee implanted magnets into his ears that allow him to listen to music without using headphones. The only thing he has to do is place a cable around his neck as a coil, that works to transmit sound into electromagnetic waves. And ready. We already have the first «internal» headphones. But that´s not all, hardly.

Rich Lee confessed in some of his papers that the small magnets he implanted inside his ears have given him several «special» capacities. Thanks to them, according to him, he is capable of perceiving heat as sound and detected magnetic fields and Wi Fi signals. That´s nothing. Best of all is these functions are not only interesting for technology gurus; they can also be very useful to help people who suffer from some kind of ailment or physical disability. These hearing implants, in particular, are being studied if they could be used for people with severe hearing disability to help orient themselves thanks to their ability to perceive signals and wireless networks.

The best of all: its medical application

Wearables? The future is the «invisibles»

Image | Light Warrior

Advances in nanotechnology are about to change drastically the way that we take care of our health, and also how some medical treatments arise. It´s likely that the implants that we just mentioned, and other similar ones, will achieve much greater relevance in the near future from a strictly medical point of view, but fortunately not all of them will have to be placed under our skin. It will also be possible to bring them in forms of patches, band-aids, tape or other similar objects, so that it would seem invisible when we are dressed, but serve its purpose: monitor our body.

Current technology already allows many types of sensors integrated in devices in a minimum size that we could all carry around, for example, to have our body temperature and heart rate under control. Bluetooth technology allows us to download this data in our smartphone or computer and send it to our family doctor, so that he can check if everything is going well quickly and take immediate decisions that can improve our health if necessary. This is only an example of what implants can do for our health, but really it´s only the tip of the iceberg. Little by little we discover many other applications that will help improve our quality of life.