Tag Archives: wearable tech

Rewind: 100 wow-worthy wearables from 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, let’s take one more look at the wearable devices that caught our attention over the last 12 months.

At the moment, the wearables landscape is being dominated by brands like Fitbit, Apple, Motorola, Xiaomi, Samsung and a number of other tech giants. Total shipments are expected to reach 214.6 million units by 2019, reflecting a five-year CAGR of 28%. While today’s market may be limited to basic designs such as smartwatches and trackers, we’re on the brink of a wider wider proliferation of wearable gadgetry.

For instance, 2015 saw the rise of several attention-grabbing, homebrew devices and prototypes — some of which boast mainstream appeal, while others could potentially have a lasting impact on our world. Here’s a look back some of the wow-worthy wearables from the last 12 months. (Sorry if we forgot anyone… there were just so many!)

Crowdfunding Stars

Pebble Time







FUSAR Mohawk




Soundbrenner Pulse


Deus Ex Aria




OnCourse Goggles

Futuristic Prototypes











Key Bod


Health and Wellness


Tech Tats




Wearable Fluid Status Sensor



Virtual Reality










Sunu Band




For Our Furry Friends


Buddy Collar

Talking Bluetooth Dog Collar

Disco Dog

As You Sleep

Silent Partner


Pillow Talk


Young Makers

O Watch


TinyScreen Necklace


Bright Ideas

EasyJet Uniforms

Zac Posen Made With Code Dress


Firewalker 2.0 Sneakers


SMSsenger Bag

CAT Clutch

Anthrolume Trench Coat

Glowing LED Snow Fairy Dress

LED Matrix Bluetooth Snowflake Sweater

Wacky Yet Wonderful

Netflix Socks

JöLLY Tracker

Running Christmas Tree

The Toothbrush Machine

Wearable LEGO Exoskeleton

AJAX Exosuit

Belty Smart Belt

Auto-Drying Jacket

Self-Lacing Nike Mags

Environment Dress

Wearable Beacon


Personal Space Defense System


Subway Dress


Spring Hoodie

Geeky Timepieces

Apple II Watch


The Nerd Watch


Enigma Machine Wristwatch

Homemade Arduino Pedometer Watch

Supercapacitor LED Watch


Watchduino 2


Macetech LED Shades

Pedosa Glass


JöLLY Tracker is a shockingly awesome way to spread holiday spirit

This Santa-like beard uses sensors to gently zap your face as a reminder to turn that frown upside down.

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, the JöLLY Tracker is why. Truth be told, the holiday season can be a stressful one. Between deciding what to get loved ones to navigating your way through crowded malls, sometimes all that happiness can get lost in the hustle and bustle.


Developed by creative ad agency McKinney, the JöLLY Tracker is a wearable of a different kind. It’s not a fitness tracker. It’s not a smartwatch. It’s not even a hat. It’s an embedded Santa Claus beard that has one job, and one job only: to monitor how much you smile. Should you frown, it’ll emit a friendly little reminder in the form of an electric shock to your face. Ho, ho, how about that?

A team of creatives and hackers wanted to devise a wearable concept that would skip the normal metric tracking and go straight to helping spread some cheer.

“We wear devices on our wrists, pin them to our clothes, carry them in our pockets, each one sending us data about our well-being in hope of improving our lives,” McKinney’s ECD Peter Nicholson explains. “JöLLY is a spoof on our obsession with wearables and data. It is, simply, a joyful reminder that the holidays are the happiest time of the year.”


The setup is fairly simple, and resembles that of a recent project from our good pal Simone Giertz. A set of five electrodes are attached to the wearer’s face: two to monitor muscle movement, two to give off the shock, and most importantly, one for ground.

Hidden behind the white facial hair lies an Arduino, a Muscle SpikerShield, a battery pack and a TENS unit that gently jolts the nerves in your face. The JöLLY Tracker is controlled by an accompanying Android app that communicates with the beard over Bluetooth. It counts how many times a minute your smiling, measures the intensity of your smile and displays real-time changes in jolliness over preset intervals. If you’re too grumpy, JöLLY will send electric pulses to your cheeks and jaw. Safe to say, you’ll turn that frown upside down in no time — albeit nervously.


So in the words of Clark Griswold, just “press on and have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny ****** Kaye.”

[Images: Engadget]

This glowing LED dress is magical

One Maker has created a FLORA-powered, Disney-inspired dress that magically twinkles and changes colors as she twirls.

Like something straight out of a Disney tale, Erin St. Blaine has put together quite the magical fairy ensemble for her community’s recent electric lights parade.


The Maker’s fiber optic Snow Fairy Costume employs Adafruit’s Pixie 3W LEDs, which are around 20 times as bright as a NeoPixel — making them the perfect choice for a nighttime festivities.

The dress itself is equipped with a FLORA (ATmega32U4) for its brain and an accelerometer/compass module for enacting mode changes by spinning. Yes, it even twinkles and changes colors as she twirls, just like Cinderella.

Aside from the five Pixies lighting the fibers, the Maker included two more underneath her hoop skirt for an “underglow” effect. She also modded and connected a 60-LED LumiLabs Crystal Crown to round out the glowrious getup.


“I made a wreath headpiece that fits me out of some holiday floral junk from Michael’s, and then added a second concentric wire ring inside the first, and wired them together at each cardinal point,” St. Blaine explains. “The inner ring sits a couple inches above the main ring. I then took some ribbon and wove the crystal crown to the inner ring, and decorated the whole thing with lots more Michael’s holiday junk.”

Inspired by Disneyland’s Electric Light Parade fairies, the Maker ordered a cheap antenna book light that she wove into the crown with the two book lights pointing right down at her face. St. Blaine says that the battery pack was the perfect size to wedge between the two concentric circles of wire to hold them apart.


But why stop there? She went on to add little more magic to her costume, and by magic we mean a connector, so that the crown can change modes seamlessly along with the dress.

“I am still planning on adding some fiber optic lights to the wings as well,” she writes. “I’m thinking fiber optics are the answer here too, but I am a little unsure how to proceed without tearing the wings all apart and then re-covering them.”

So was it a hit? Umm… obviously! According to St. Blaine, “It was really well received. I couldn’t go more than a few steps without being stopped for photo ops and little girl hugs.” The Maker has provided a step-by-step tutorial of her build over on Adafruit, and shared a video of the fiber optic outfit in action below!


This dress can sense its surrounding environment

Talk about a fashion sense! This smart dress measures the aggressiveness of the environment to analyze how it affects the mood and behavior of individuals.

According to co-creator Marìa Castellanos’ website, her custom dress is “equipped with sensors to analyze questions such as variations in noise, temperature, atmospheric pressure, ultraviolet radiation or the amount of carbon monoxide present in our daily life. All this information will be transferred, via Bluetooth or open Wi-Fi networks, to a mobile phone connected to the Internet and it will generate a big database set up with the geolocated references collected.”


This may see like a lofty goal for Castellanos and fellow co-creator Alberto Valverde, but a very good prototype has already been made as seen in the video below featuring model Irene Arroyo in this futuristic (Matrix-esque even) ensemble. Giving this project further credence, the dress was the winning project for Next Things 2015Conducta, a Spainish art and technology challenge.

To accomplish environmental monitoring, sensor modules with 3D-printed housings take environmental data and displays this in other modules via an Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4). Interestingly, some of these modules use LED lights to interact with humans, while others use a servo to spin a dial in a clock-like display.

Intrigued? You can head over to the project’s page more information to learn more. The site is in Spanish, so depending on your linguistics skills, you may have to dust off your high school Español or use Google Translate to do the heavy lifting for you!

[h/t Adafruit]

These goggles will keep open water swimmers on course

Point. Click. Swim. 

Swimming from one end of a pool to the other in a straight line is fairly easy. Doing the same in an open body of water or lake, not so much. With the absence of lanes, swimmers and triathletes tend to find themselves zig-zagging through the water, wasting precious energy and ultimately diminishing their performance. Cognizant of this, one Atlanta-based startup has developed a pair of intelligent navigation goggles that enable a wearer to stay on course without deviating from its linear path.


Embedded with a high-precision compass, an accelerometer, an array of LEDs and an MCU, the OnCourse Goggles work by establishing a virtual swimming lane for its user. Simply look at a far-off target like abuoy to set your destination, lock it in by hitting the button along its side, and you’re ready to get going. From there, the goggles will provide real-time feedback during your swim through a small LED array in each eyepiece.


When you’re swimming in the proper direction, both lights will remain green. However, if you happen to veer too far, the LED will illuminate above your right or left eye. The lights will turn yellow and then to red, indicating that you need to get back on track. Upon reaching your desired checkpoint, you can set another target and proceed accordingly.


In terms of power, the goggles are equipped with a LiPo battery that can be recharged via USB either through your computer, an iPhone wall unit or its supplied automotive adapter. The OnCourse team just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, which garnered over $62,000. Want a pair of your own? Race over to its page here.

Napz is a biohacking device that lets you control your dreams

This wearable mask wants to make lucid dreams accessible to everyone. 

For many of us, getting a full night’s of shut-eye is quite the challenge. Between stress, late nights at the office, the kids or simply finding yourself unable to doze off makes getting the desired six to eight hours of sleep nearly impossible. But what if there was a wearable device that could help you get the most of out your limited time catching z’s?


That’s the idea behind Napz — an electronic, biohacking sleep mask designed to not only help you hit the hay but to induce a state of lucid dreams as well. This is the state where sleepers are aware that they are, in fact, dreaming and can control many elements of what happens during their nocturnal experience.

Developed by COCOLAB robotic engineer Octavio Martinez García, the prototype is meant to measure REM using LED lights that shine through the eyelids to stimulate you and bring you to the brink of consciousness where you can actually become mindful of the actions in your sleep. The wearable itself is comprised of infrared sensors, Adafruit NePixels and an Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328) for its brain.


“Napz is a wearable device intended to schedule lucid dreams and thus produce actual rest and better patterns of REM sleep. Its interface allows the programming, design, and analysis of dreams. As everybody is different the device needs to be calibrated to each individual,” Garcia explains.

Dream manipulation is a method commonly used to assist those who suffer insomnia, severe nightmares, PTSD and other sleep disorders. The idea is that, with Napz, users will be able to access controlled dreams much quicker and without the many hours of training typically required.

Napz was recently showcased at V&A’s Digital Design Weekend.

[Images: British Council Creative Economy]

Maker creates a FLORA-powered, light-up necklace dress

In her exploration of e-textiles, one N.C. State student has crafted an illuminating necklace dress powered by FLORA.

Victoria Rind, a Maker studying textile engineering at North Carolina State University, recently devised an interactive dress with one goal in mind: to stand out. How’d she do it, you ask? Using an Adafruit FLORA and NeoPixels to light up its attached necklace.


“People want to be able to customize their style and clothing,” Rind explains. “What’s more customizable than a programmable dress?”

The idea for the dress was first conceived after witnessing other garments with built-in necklaces. Channelling her inner DIY spirit, Rind went out and bought a basic shift dress pattern and beads to create the dress, along with an FLORA (ATmega32U4) wearable MCU, four RGB NeoPixels and some conductive thread.

Once satisfied with the NeoPixels output, the Maker sewed the circuit to the dress beginning with conductive thread, and finishing it off with normal fiber to prevent a short happening in between the wiring.

“Without the extra layer of thread, the lines of conductive thread would constantly touch, and the light pattern would be glitchy and inconsistent,” Rind adds.

So what’s next for the engineering student? In five years, she aspires to bring functionality to textiles.

“I would consider my work a success if I could create clothing that adapted to changes in the environment,” she concludes.

[h/t Adafruit via N.C. State]

NailO turns your thumb into a mini wireless trackpad

This wearable input device from MIT’s Media Lab is in the form of a commercialized nail art sticker.

You’ve been there before: Your arms are full and the phone rings. You put everything down only to find out that it was a telemarketer. Or, while in the middle of preparing dinner, you need to scroll down the recipe page on your tablet. With your hands a mess, you first have to wipe them off before proceeding with the instructions. Fortunately, situations like these may be a thing of the past thanks to a new project from MIT Media Lab. Led by Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a team of researchers have developed a new wearable device, called NailO, that turns a users thumbnail into a miniature wireless trackpad.


Resembling one of those stick-on nail accessories, NailO works as a shrunken-down trackpad that connects to a mobile device. This enables a wearer to perform various functions on a paired phone or PC through different gestures. And for the fashion-conscious, its creators envision a future with detachable decorative top membranes that are completely customizable to better coordinate with a wearer’s individual style.

Along with its use in hands-full activities like cooking or doing repairs, another potential application for the quarter-sized trackpad includes discreetly sending a quick text message in settings where whipping out a smartphone would be rude. After all, running a finger over a thumbnail is a natural occurrence, so a majority of folks would hardly notice this as a deliberate action to control a gadget.

“Fingernails are an easily accessible location, so they have great potential to serve as an additional input surface for mobile and wearable devices.”


Crammed within the small package of the NailO lie a LiPo battery, a matrix of sensing electrodes, a Bluetooth Low Energy module, a capacitive-sensing controller, and an ATmega328 MCU. With an average power consumption of 4.86 mA, the device can wirelessly transmit data for at least two hours — an ample amount of time for those in a meeting, in class, in a movie theater, or while working around the house.

In order to get started, wearers must first power it up by maintaining finger contact with it for two or three seconds. From there, users can move their index finger up-and-down or left-and-right across its surface, guiding the mouse on its synced device. To select something onscreen, simply press down a finger as if it were a mouse or a touchscreen.

“As the site for a wearable input device, however, the thumbnail has other advantages: It’s a hard surface with no nerve endings, so a device affixed to it wouldn’t impair movement or cause discomfort. And it’s easily accessed by the other fingers — even when the user is holding something in his or her hand,” the team writes.


For their initial prototype, the researchers built their sensors by printing copper electrodes on sheets of flexible polyester, which allowed them to experiment with a range of different electrode layouts. But in future experiments, the team notes that they will be using off-the-shelf sheets of electrodes like those found in some trackpads.

The Media Lab crew has also been in discussion with many Shenzhen-based battery manufacturers and have identified a technology that they think could yield a battery that fits in the space of a thumbnail — yet is only 0.5mm thick. In order to further develop the size of a nail art sticker, the Media Lab worked with flexible PCB factories for a slimmer and bendable prototype, which could conform to the curvature of a fingernail.

We’ll have to go out on a limb and say it: looks like this project ’nailed’ it! Want to learn more? Head over to the project’s official page here, as well as read MIT Technology Review’s latest piece on finger-mounted input devices.

This LED t-shirt visualizes your body movements

Digi-Weirdo is a wearable project that explores the convergence of identity and guiding communication.

Zhen Liu just loves data. So much so that it has inspired several innovations, namely her latest project Digi-Weirdo. Created as part of a class assignment at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, the interactive t-shirt was designed as a way to give clothing other roles than merely covering your body and helping to establish your personal identity. Instead, the Maker hopes one day such garments can be used to convey real-time emotions and enhance communication between one another by visualizing body movements through an LED matrix.


Built around an Adafruit FLORA MCU (ATmega32U4), the t-shirt is fitted with a battery for power as well as an accelerometer for analyzing body motions and translating them into a series of illuminated patterns. The LED matrix is embedded inside an inverted triangle that is sewn on the front of the shirt.


As Adafruit puts it, what may be most interesting about this project is that through some simple programming, a wearer can create a visual language of their own. See it in action below!

Report: Smart clothing shipments to hit 10.2 million annually by 2020

Body sensor shipments will reach 3.1 million units annually by 2020, new report says.

In today’s Internet of Things (IoT) era, wearable technology will undoubtedly migrate from simple wrist-adorn devices to various biometric sensors embedded within our clothing. According to a new report from research firm Tractica, this change will take place over the next five years where more than 10 million items of smart clothing will be shipped annually. This increase will be driven by quantified self adoption, which includes the collection, measurement, tracking and analysis of body data to help wearers live healthier lives.

(Source: Polo Ralph Lauren)

(Source: Polo Ralph Lauren)

These latest figures follow in the footsteps of Garner’s recent study, which projects nearly 26 million e-textiles to be in use by 2016. This niche isn’t anything entirely new; in fact, athletes and avid sports enthusiasts have been using sensor-laden shirts, shorts, bras and socks for a little while now, all in an effort to acquire biometric information around muscle, breathing rate and heart activity. Over the next several years, the appearance of smart clothing is expected to change in appearance from high-tech athletic apparel to everyday street gear.

Meanwhile, the body sensor sector is also experience a transition as heart rate monitors decline in unit volume and newer devices like baby and pregnancy monitors, headbands, posture monitors and 3D trackers begin to build momentum. Tractica forecasts that shipments of embedded garments will jump from 140,000 units in 2013 to 10.2 million units by 2020, while body sensor shipments will decrease from 3.0 million units in 2013 to 1.2 million by 2017, before rising again to 3.1 million units in 2020.


“The ultimate wearable computer is a piece of smart clothing that one can wear as a garment or a body sensor that can track and measure specific vital signs,” says research director Aditya Kaul. “Both of these device categories are designed to seamlessly integrate with users’ daily lives.”

While we’ve already seen a number of major brands, ranging from Polo Ralph Lauren to adidas, take giant leaps into the smart clothing market, we can’t overlook the number of soft electronics DIY projects either. Inspired to create their very own e-textiles, Makers have already begun to embrace various easy-to-use wearable platform, including the Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328) and Adafruit’s FLORA (ATmega32U4), which can be easily daisy chained with various sensors for GPS, motion and light.

Want to learn more? You can find the entire Tractica report here.