Recently, Samsung introduced a wearable computing device with a wristwatch form factor as part of their Galaxy Gear. Like Google Glass, the Samsung watch device is proprietary—it requires a same-brand handheld/phone to work—for now. Wearable technology isn’t a new idea. Dick Tracy, the crime fighting comic detective, has been wearing a wrist communication device forever. Tracy’s communicator was less conspicuous, and probably more functional than the real ones we’re seeing today. It’s possible that very few of us have wrist real estate to handle the new Samsung watch comfortably. And if you’re out of the Samsung Eco-system, some of the fun functionality won’t happen on the watch—yet—without ownership of another Samsung device. This is not new either, or exclusive to any one company.
Beyond the Dick Tracy style wearable, we’ve been interested in and using wearables for a long time. Any smartphone attached to your body in some ways might be considered a wearable. Possibly you remember when headphones were first attached to small, battery-operated radios. That had us all walking and jogging with music. If you’ve ever done a variety of sport-related events, you may have used wearable devices—from a chip in your running shoe, to a heart monitor, or wristband collecting personalized exercise data. And what about that great walk ruined we call “golf”? A talking GPS device on a hat or wristwatch during a golf game now takes the guesswork out of how far the next golf shot needs to travel. Wearables currently have a significant battery drawback, though. Did Dick Tracy ever have a problem in the comics with battery drain? Reality is a bit different.
There has been wearable technology progress, and fortunately this seems to be something that didn’t go away, and is a hot prospect today. The reality is that we’ve gone from wearables heavy enough to need a backpack for much smaller options, which may still be considered clunky or conspicuous, like an over-sized watch device, or science-fiction style glasses. While it may not be a shirt, or woven into clothing, yet, it is good that developers continue to work on wearables—and that we continue to be intrigued by them.
For educators, there continue to be many possibilities for use with students. In our hearts, we know that this type of technology, used as assistive technology, would even the playing field for special needs students—especially those who are hearing or sight impaired. A wearable, for instance, could make it possible for a student without a voice to have one. Beyond the consumer or classroom space, the thought of a child who can’t speak saying something to his/her parents for the first time… or even ordering something for the first time at a fast food establishment would be enough to keep wearables on the engineering forefront.
For now, the clunky proprietary devices, while not perfect, give us technology hope. We’d like to walk into a classroom, boardroom, space of any kind wearing technology—have the user wearing it recognized, and then be enveloped by personalized tools, data, and essential needs for learning, work, and play. We truly believe that ubiquitous and non-proprietary wearables will happen.