Visualizing Wearable Technology

Faith Hutchinson + Tim Meyers + Suhaib Syed

What's all the hubbub?

Wearable technologies are computing devices worn on the human body. "Wearables", as they are sometimes referred to, leverage the following three key engineering ingredients.


Convert physical signals to electrical/electronic signals.


Perform computation on the signals received from the sensors.


Make sense of the data.
Previous approaches toward enabling Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) imagined the human and computer as separate entities. However, wearable technology has transformed the computer as a second brain and its sensory modalities as additional senses, in which synthetic sensors merge with the wearer's senses.
Wearables then and now
Above: Computer Scientist Steve Mann's 1984 head-mounted computer and Google Glass. (Source)
The year 2014 is being hailed as the year of wearable technology, when wearable devices will finally come out of the confines of research labs and start-up incubators. A quick look at the google news trends and US patent applications reveals a sharp uptick in activity over the recent years in this domain.

Wearables in the News

January 2004 - May 2014

The chart above expresses the prevalence of wearables in the news over time. Values are relative to the height of discussion in the media, which occurred on January 5, 2014. Media flurry might be explained by the simultaneous occurrence of the Consumer Electronic Show, in which technology companies had the opportunity to debut their latest innovations.

Wearable Patents Filed in the US


Market data from Hanover Research, shows the increase in US patents for wearables from 2003 - 2013. According to Hanover, patent activity offers a significant forecast of potential developments in the consumer marketplace.

Why use wearables?

Wearables can assist, enhance, and comfort you. These three positive benefits can be roughly represented by the three following categories of usage.


  • Improve athletic skills

  • Detect deficiencies in athletes

  • Update training programs for desired outcomes


  • Secure applications with biometric signatures

  • Minimize interruptions with intelligent notification tools

  • Create augmented and virtual reality


  • Monitor patient’s treatment outcomes

  • Adapt to patient’s level of impairment

  • Assist in controlling emotional states

Where are we now in the industry?

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Product data from Vandrico.