10 cool and unusual wearables: Embedded tech in all shapes, sizes, locations, and functions

March 4, 2015 OpenSystems Media

Slide show

When we think of wearables, what comes to mind are probably the usual fitness bands, smart watches and glasses, and perhaps clothing with some of the typical smart capabilities added in. But wearables are cropping up in unusual places, with unusual designs and unusual capabilities. Here we highlight 10 wearables with some of the most interesting capabilities we’ve seen – some in normal wearable places, some not, some silly, some serious. What will they think of next?

1. Wearable heart rate banana
Have you ever thought that your banana should monitor your heart rate? Yeah… neither have we, but global fruit conglomerate Dole decided to give back to the marathon runners of Japan by making the first ever mostly edible wearable. In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t a magical banana (although that would be pretty sweet). Dole engineers actually took a couple of bananas, partially peeled them, stuffed them with an LED display and stitched them back up, leaving half of the banana in the peel. The banana is then attached to an outside device that monitors heart rate, time, and collects words of encouragement sent from family and friends through social media and the information displays on the banana peel itself. Dole gave two lucky marathon runners the delicious devices to use during the Tokyo Marathon 2015. After wearing a half open banana on their wrists for four-plus hours, the fortunate racers got to eat their free wearables too. Image: Heart rate banana (image courtesy of Engadget)

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2. Zepp Golf Motion Tracker
Private golfing lessons can cost a fortune; that’s why companies like Zepp are making wearable “coaches” instead. The company’s newest creation, the Golf Motion Track (2), gives golf coaches a run for their money by allowing users to better analyze their own swings against pro golfers in real-time. The device fits on top of a standard sporting glove (it can help baseball, softball, and tennis players improve their game too) and creates a 3D model of a user’s golf swing, including club speed, hip rotation, angle of the club and more. The model is then uploaded to the complimentary app, where users can watch their swing on repeat. The app comes in handy by allowing users to compare their game to pro golfers in specific terms, such as the ideal club angle. It tells golfers on what skill they should be working weekly and it comes preloaded with training videos for free. The sensor, glove clip, and charger retail at roughly $150. Image: Zepp Golf Motion Tracker and app interface (image courtesy of Zepp)

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3. Skin patch turns static electricity into useable energy
Why use clunky batteries to power wearables when you can use your skin? National University of Singapore researchers recently presented its newest alternative energy model – a skin patch that converts static electricity into usable energy. The research team presented their findings at the 2015 IEEE MEMS conference. Their device is two-sided sticky patch that uses silicon rubber pillars and gold film to convert the static energy produced by the body during daily tasks into energy that could potentially power wearables, or other devices. The research team was able to show that tapping on the patch while it was stuck to the forearm produced 90 volts of energy, enough to power lights or a small DC motor. The research team plans to continue to develop its technology, hoping to create huge patches that can collect more energy from seemingly otherwise mundane tasks. Image: National University of Singapore’s electricity wearable patch prototype (image courtesy of IEEE)

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4. Samsung works on wearable for early stroke detection
Samsung isn’t just making mobile phones, now it’s working with neurologists to help detect a patient’s potential for a stroke. After two years of development, Samsung has reached the R&D stage with its Early Detection Sensor and Algorithm Package (EDSAP), a device that monitors the electrical impulses of the brain for potential risk of stroke. When a patient puts on the headset, the wearable begins to collect info about that patient’s brainwave via smartphone or tablet, and within 60 seconds, can determine if that person is at risk of having a stroke. Doctors can take it from there to determine the best preventative method. Also, if the headset is worn for longer intervals of time, it can also analyze a person’s state of anxiety and stress and his or her sleeping habits. While neurologists are skeptical, Samsung is continuing to develop its EDSAP technology to monitor the heart too. It may prove to be a tool for helping doctors prevent heart attacks and strokes before they cause permanent damage, but only time will tell. Image: Samsung EDSAP and app interface (image courtesy of Samsung Tomorrow)

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5. Capture the narrative of your life with the wearable Clip 2
What if a camera could capture your every moment on film? Now it can. Meet Källström’s Narrative Clip 2, a clip-on camera that records your special moments and uploads them wirelessly to your devices via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The Narrative Clip 2 is an 8-megapixel, 90-degree camera that captures your photos so you don’t have to. While there is a Bluetooth-capable remote controller, the camera works hands-free and uploads your photos to the complimentary app or website wirelessly, so you can snap, share and save your photos on the go. The wearable is offered in black, white, and red for $199, and offers a number of different mounting options, including clothing, lapel, and tri-pod. It is available now on the Narrative site. Image: Narrative Clip 2 (image courtesy of Engadget)

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6. Prana wearable tracks breath and posture
Have you ever heard that deep breathing can help curb stress? Well, Prana took that information and ran with it, creating a small wearable device that analyzes breathing patterns and posture, encouraging users to belly breathe deep for a healthy mind. The makers at Prana developed the tiny device with meditative breathing techniques in mind, including Yoga Pranayama- and Tai Chi-based methods. Using a 3-axis accelerometer and complex algorithms, the device monitors breathing patterns and posture to give users real-time recommendations that can decrease back pain and stress long-term. Prana recommends the device be used long-term. It will retail in March at $150. Image: Prana’s wearable breath and posture tracker (image courtesy of Prana)

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7. Japanese robot feeds you tomatoes while you run
What’s more peculiar than an LED banana? How about a robot that feeds you tomatoes while you run? No, we’re not joking. Japanese company Kagome created the robot to help Toyko Marathon 2015 runners combat fatigue with tomatoes. The robot is named Tomatan and was created to rival Dole’s wearable banana by encouraging marathon runners to rely on tomato-based products (which Kagome produces) for endurance during the race. While the company didn’t give away tomatoes at the marathon (like Dole did with bananas), it did send one of its employees to race day wearing the clunky 8 lb device. It has since created a 3 kg mini tomato-giving robot titled Petit-Tomatan for logistical racing purposes, but we’ll just have to wait until next year to see how it fairs.

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8. Japan creates solar-powered wearable armband that takes your vitals
In the event that your doctor doesn’t have a thermometer to determine when you have a fever, the University of Tokyo created a printable, solar-powered wearable that sends an alert when your temperature gets too high. The flexible armband fits on the upper arm and functions on skin and through clothing. It was printed using organic electronics and is independently powered by solar cells that allegedly work even in dim lighting. The armband will beep when a patient’s temperature is too high. It is also relatively inexpensive and can be disposed of after use. The research team behind the armband presented its work at the 2015 IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference this week. After further development, the team expects that the armband will also be able to monitor vitals continuously. Image: Fever alarm armband in action (image courtesy of Phys.org)

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9. Akarsh Sanghi creates virtual Big Brother that sits on your shoulder and monitors your every move
Have you ever wished that someone could monitor your every move throughout the day? Neither have we, but in case you have, Akarsh Sanghi’s conceptual wearable, Grasp, is for you. It’s an all-in-one camera, microphone and laser pointer to help instructors help you from afar. The device is powered by the Arduino Yún board and sits perched on the shoulder, like a bird. The maker, Akarsh Sanghi, created the wearable to better allow instructors to coach you through a physical task, such as golf or coding. The nosy device won’t make it into mass production, but Sanghi offers the details on the design on his website. Image: User wearing Grasp (image courtesy of Akarsh Sanghi)

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10. Swiss start-up makes wearable chair so you never have to squat again
Have you ever been too lazy to bring a chair over to your workstation? If you have, noone‘s wearable Chairless Chair is for you. The aluminum and carbon fiber chair attaches to a user’s legs and becomes active with the click of a button. The device is intended to be invisible, but when the user squats down to sit, it redirects their body weight into their heels, using a battery-powered dampening system, to simulate the feeling of being seated without the silly need for a chair. While the Chairless Chair is still in prototype phase, noone expects it to be a big hit with factory line workers and other employees that stand for extended periods at work. BMW and Audi are scheduled to test out the device once it’s ready for trials. Image: noone wearable Chairless Chair (image courtesy of Engadget)

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Bonus wearable: Creating music through dancing
If you’re a dancer and wished that music moved to your beat, now it can. Headphone manufacturer AIAIAI created what it calls the Real Booty Music wearable that using body movement to create music. In the “lab” AIAIAI rounded up TwerkQueen Louise, OWOW, and Branko to create EDM (electronic dance music) using its new wearable contraption and soundboards. While the rump-shaking dancer prefers to utilize her assets on the dance floor, the device should be able to produce music through any body movement. If you’re wondering how the final track came out, you can download it on the AIAIAI website. Image: TwerkQueen Louise wearing AIAIAI’s Real Booty Music prototype

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Cabe Atwell
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