As we turn the page on 2014, we’re taking a quick look back at some of our favorite wearables from the last 12 months. While analysts predict the market to experience an uptick heading into 2015, we can only wait and see what new products emerge!
In what may have been the most highly-anticipated Android Wear smartwatch to date, the Moto 360 is equipped with a bold round face, a MXT112S powered capacitive touch display, a heart rate monitor, an ambient light sensor, and is now being sold in both metal and leather models.
The popular GPS sports watch is equipped with a built-in heart rate monitor, a large monochrome LCD display and one-button control. In addition, the Atmel | SMART ATSAM4S8C based TomTom Runner is embedded with an accelerometer and sensors allowing it to work both outdoors, indoors and even on a treadmill, thus providing providing a user with the kind of data they’d expect to find on most sports watches — such as distance, pace, stride length, calories burned and lap times all in real-time.
The future, for anyone who wants to tell their own story, has never looked brighter. That is because of the Atmel | SMART SAM9G25 powered Narrative Clip — a tiny, automatic 5-megapixel camera paired with an app that offers users access to a “photographic memory” which is both searchable and shareable. Clip it onto your shirt and let it snap away, recording all your daily activities in 30-second increments. Kind of like a GoPro but less obtrusive, always on, and of course, interconnected.
GLOW MOTION has its sights set on revolutionizing the concert experience with their latest LED wristbands. Capable of being programmed with a range of light patterns emitting any of 16 million colors, the wearable device is enabling fans to become integrally involved in events. The devices not only receive signals from a centralized control module, but making this idea even ‘brighter’ is the fact that the wristbands can communicate with one another during a show.
Ever catch yourself drumming on your thighs? Your table? Your desk? Your steering wheel? Now, starting a one-man band is as simple as wearing this musical kit. DrumPants, dubbed by its creators as “the world’s industrial quality wearable musical instrument,” transforms your outfit into a full ensemble with 100+ built-in high-quality sounds. Its control box — which is powered by an Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-M3-based MCU — features an ultra-low latency Bluetooth 4.0 chip, a built-in sound engine for 1/8-inch headphone jack, 128 instrument sample banks and a Micro-USB for connection to a laptop or PC.
In an attempt to demonstrate that wearables don’t necessarily need to be confined to the wrist or face, two students at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) explored innovative ways fabric could be used with electronics. Using an [Atmel based] Arduino and an Arduino GSM shield, the pair designed what they call the “Smart Hoodie,” a hooded sweatshirt that can respond to various gestures — touching the hood, touching a sleeve and rolling up a sleeve, each of which send a different text message to a pre-programmed contact.
While a majority of the wearable space has been focused on tracking what’s inside our bodies such as activity and stress levels, a new kind of device is emerging, one in which monitors what’s going on outside of us — specifically in our environment. Unlike others on the market today, similar to the recently-unveiled AirBeam handset, TZOA is a gadget that measures air pollution and UV exposure in one’s immediate environment using advanced sensor technology.
Dutch designer Borre Akkersdijk recently launched a unique form of 3D-printed garments earlier this year: a onesie capable of turning its wearer into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. The first version of the suit — which made its debut back at SXSW — featured electrical threads woven into its fabric along with GPS and a musical library. A wearer’s location was displayed on Google Maps using the suit’s built-in GPS. Meanwhile, as a demo for the show’s music festival, the Maker collaborated with the online platform 22tracks to enable a wearer to upload songs. When musicians around the event located the BB.Suit, they had the ability to upload the tunes directly onto the suit. Talk about a ‘walkman!’
They say stories can come to life, and well, one group of MIT students have taken that idiom to an entirely new level. The team of Makers has recently created a wearable book that uses networked sensors and actuators to create a sort of cyberpunk-like Neverending Story, blurring the line between the bodies of a reader and protagonist. The current prototype is comprised of a vest that plugs into a computerized copy of Tiptree’s novella. The vest — controlled by an [Atmel based] Arduino board — swells, contracts, vibrates, heats up or cools down as the pages of the book are turned. 150 programmable LEDs are used to create ambient light based on changing setting and mood, the book/wearable support a number of outputs, including sound, a personal heating device to change skin temperature, vibration to influence heart rate, and a compression system to convey tightness or loosening through pressurized airbags.
Aside from a time-travelling DeLorean DMC-12 and hoverboard, there is one other notable futuristic design from Back To The Future II that has left the world eagerly awaiting its inception: self-tying laces. While Nike has recently announced that it will be debuting these automated kicks in 2015, one Maker decided to take it upon himself to equip a pair of Air Mag sneakers with an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega168) along with several other electronic components.
If you’re like our team, then you are huge fans of late-night television. From the days of Johnny Carson to Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon, we love it all — which is why this recent project from a group of Olin College students certainly caught our attention. Inspired by The Tonight Show skit featuring Justin Timberlake, the Makers devised a new invention: Hashtag Gloves. Rather than having to pull out their smartphone and access its mobile app, Twitter users can simply tap their fingers twice using the “hashtag” symbol and speak loudly.
Led by Wake Forest University professors William Conner and Paul Pauca, a group of students created an Arduino LilyPad (ATmega168V) powered wrist-worn device, aptly named HELP (the Human Echo Location Partner), that would help those who are blind get around, serving as a supplement to commonplace aids like canes or guide dogs. Based on the e-textile Arduino platform, the wearable device runs JAVA-like code, and features sonar distance sensors responsible for measuring the distance of objects and relaying this data to two smartphone vibrating motors. The frequency of vibrations is proportional to the distance from the detected object. In other words, the closer the detected object, the faster the motors vibrate.
Designers Xuedi Chen and Pedro G. C. Oliveira recently debuted x.pose, a wearable data-driven sculpture that changes opacity to expose a person’s skin as a real-time reflection of outgoing data. Using an [Atmel based] Arduino and Bluetooth, the app communicates with a layer of reactive displays that reflect the volume of information generated by the wearer.
John De Cristofaro grabbed the attention of countless Makers when we shared his Steampunk-inspired wristwatch powered by an ATMega88 microcontroller (MCU) earlier this year. At the core of the wearable device lies an ATMega88 MCU, while the real-time clock is a Maxim DS3231. The VFD display is driven by a Maxim MAX6920 — a 12-bit shift register with high-voltage (up to 76V) outputs. In addition, the circuit itself is powered from three voltage rails, and there a few onboard sensors — one analog and two digital.
If your selfies weren’t awesome enough, you’re in luck. A team of Makers have set out to take photography to whole new heights… literally. Sure, smart watches bring smartphone features to wearers’ wrists, but can it fly freely and take video as it soars through the air? Stanford University researcher Christoph Kohstall, along with a team of engineers and designers, has formed a dream team to develop the Nixie. This wrist-mounded quadcopter hybrid just may hold the future of wearables, all while weighing less than a pound.
Tattoo Music Machine
Moscow-based artist Dmitry Morozov — commonly referred to as ::vtol:: — has created a unique sound controller to read musical scores implanted in tattoos. The scanning instrument is comprised of a metal railing, hand controllers and parallel black line sensors that move along the arm using a stepper motor. In addition, it is equipped with a Nintendo Wii remote control and an Open Sound Control to enhance the sound possibilities. A stepper motor guides the device along the inked lines, while the length of each bar coincides with the duration of an emitted sound. On the hardware side, key features of the musical creation include an Arduino Nano (ATmega328), a Nord Modular G2, a Symbolic Sound Kyma X, and a six-channel PVC pipe sound system.
Royal College of Art student Yen Chen Chang recently debuted the Knitgadget, a glove that allows users to control various devices, musical or otherwise. The wearable device is comprised of conductive yarn that’s 80% polyester and 20% stainless steel (and 100% pure awesomeness). Chang knit and crocheted a series of objects that control devices by rubbing, pulling and stroking. When manipulated, the overlap of the metal fiber causes the textile to change conductivity which is then measured by an [Atmel powered] Arduino and communicated to the gadgets.
Made of laser-cut leather, the Edge is a wearable light that snaps securely onto your clothing with the help of four strong neodymium magnets. You can wear it discreetly by day or brightly at night with your winter coat, cardigan, hood, scarf, handbag, collar, pocket, belt, or wherever you’d like a touch of light. According to project designer Angella Mackey, the Edge can also be worn for added visibility at night while cycling, jogging or walking. Indeed, traditional bike lights are often forgotten on the bike frame, leaving them vulnerable to theft. The Edge will stay with you, so you’re always prepared and visible. Perhaps most importantly, says Mackey, the Edge is designed to look good even when the lights are off.
A collaboration between 360 Fashion Network CEO Anina Net, Polish couture designer Michal Starost and IT architect Bruce Bateman has led to world’s first robotic dress powered by Atmel MCUs. The dress made its catwalk debut at the “When Technology Meets Fashion” event held during Beijing Design Week. In addition, the robotic garment features 6 servo-controlled support arms comprised of fiberglass reinforced with aluminum, custom software and a high-powered battery pack. In what sounds like something out of Hunger Games, the arms lift in sync to convert the dress from a day dress to an evening gown.
Personal Space Dress
Maker Kathleen McDermott recently debuted the “Personal Space Dress,” an article of clothing that literally expands a wearer’s personal buffer zone. The dress is the second in a series of projects dubbed Urban Armor, which consists of playful, Arduino-powered pieces that help women assert control over their personal and public space. In the case of the Personal Space Dress, a pair of proximity sensors and a plastic armature allow the garment’s hemline to expand outward when a fellow individual comes too close to the wearer.
Building upon her existing ‘Beauty Technology’ prototypes, Katia Vega developed a new smart eyelash system, which transformed basic eye and facial movements into programmable actions. Think Google Glass, just without the Glass. The lashes are chemically metallized to mimic a natural, black color, and are capable of amplifying emotions that the wearer wants to communicate by presenting noticeable, exaggerated visual compositions. Impressively, Vega was able to levitate a small drone simply by blinking at it.
A pair of students at the University of Wyoming have developed 3DTouch, an intelligent device that enables wearers to interact three-dimensionally with their computers. Dating back to the 1960s, Doug Engelbert’s mouse has dominated the way in which humans have communicated with their PCs. Though 3DTouch has an optical flow sensor that measures movement against a two-dimensional surface similar to its ancestral device, the smart thimble will now let a wearer control an onscreen mouse with a wave, tap or poke of a finger. Even cooler? Having more than one 3DTouch on different fingers facilitates multi-touch interaction. Connected to an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) controller, the input device is equipped with a 3D accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope. This allows the data from each sensor to be compared and combined to produce a far more precise estimate of orientation than a single measurement alone.
Mel Li’s Exoskeleton
Cyberpunk films and novels are often set in post-industrial dystopias characterized by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original creators. As William Gibson noted in Burning Chrome, “The street finds its own uses for things.” Although Gibson wrote those words way back in 1981, they more than aptly describe the cyberpunk build designed by Maker Mel Li, Ph.D that was showcased at this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area. The rather impressive costume includes color changing LEDs on the spine and front that are controlled by Arduino boards with both AVR and Atmel | SMART MCUs and on-board RGB controllers (respectively) – powered by 16 AA batteries, 1 LiPo rechargeable battery, two 2032 coin cells and one 9-volt battery.
Embedded Ballet Shoes
Designed by Lesia Trubat, Electronic Traces (E-Traces for short) are a pair of embedded pointé shoes which allow ballerinas to recreate their movements into visual sensations using an accompanying mobile app. Equipped with LilyPad Arduino boards (ATmega168V), E-Trace records the pressure and motion of a ballet dancer’s feet and transmits the signals to an electronic device. The application enables the wearer to trace the data graphically, viewing the movements made in video form, extracting images and even printing them for later use. This can certainly come in handy for those ballerinas seeking to improve their choreography and hone their skills.
Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group, Skin Buttons are touch-sensitive projected icons made on a user’s skin. The prototype smartwatch contains four fixed-icon laser projectors along with accompanying infrared proximity sensors. These are connected to an ATmega328P based Femtoduino board, which communicates over USB with a host computer. Additionally, a 1.5-inch TFT LCD display is driven from a host computer. While the team used an external computer for prototyping, it appears that a commercial model would be self-contained.
What a year it’s been! As we reflect back on 2014, we can’t help but eagerly await CES 2015 — and the latest wearable tech that’ll surely ensue!