Wearable Technology: A History

Wearable Technology

You’re probably very familiar with today’s fitness and health technology advances, from simple step trackers to more complex devices that monitor and analyze biometrics such as resting heart rate, oxygen intake percentages, and depth, length and quality of sleep. Everyday fitness technology is becoming more and more advanced. But how did the relationship between fitness and technology begin?

Recent History of Wearables

In the early 80s Steve Mann, a researcher and inventor specializing in electronic photography, began his EyeTap project. Mann’s objective was to create a device that could record what the user was seeing through their right eye. The first versions were clunky and awkward looking but over the years the device has been transformed into a slender, simple headset. In the early 2010s prototypes for Oculus Rift and Google Glass were introduced.

In the late 2000s Nike collaborated with Apple on the Nike+iPod. The Nike+iPod was a tracker giving users their first abilities to combine their existing technology and their fitness. In 2009 the Fitbit was introduced. Working in a similar way as the Nike+iPod, it attached to a belt and used an accelerometer to measure steps taken.

In 2012 smartwatches hit the fitness market via Pebble’s Kickstarter. The Kickstarter campaign became the most successful campaign at that time, raising $10.2 million. This funding paved the way for today’s Android and Apple smartwatches.

Wearable devices such as Fitbit, Nike+ and Google Glass came out during the time period of 2006-2013. Trackers began growing in popularity in 2013-2014. The Apple Watch was also released during this time frame.

Wearable Technology: How It All Began

The timeline for wearable inventions goes back a lot further than you may think. Let’s look at a brief timeline for wearable tech.

1286 – Eyeglasses: first produced in Pisa, Italy

1510 – Nuremberg Egg: one of the first portable mechanical timekeeping devices; worn around the neck

1600 – Abacus Ring: the early calculator

1800s – Air Conditioned Top Hats

1907 – Pigeon Camera: this invention was exactly what it sounds like – cameras attached to pigeons; this was used during WW1 to capture aerial photos behind enemy lines

1961 – Roulette Shoe: a computer that was small enough to fit in a shoe; designed to help players win (cheat!) at roulette; t “told” the wearer what number to bet on based on the number of times the wearer tapped his shoes after observing the rotations of the roulette ball

1963 – TV Glasses: created by Hugo Gernsback; small portable TV screens strapped to the face

1975 – Pulsar Calculator Watch: one of the first widespread modern wearable devices; ranged in prices from $300 to $3950 according to what material was used to make it

1979 – Sony Walkman: the first inexpensive portable stereo

1981 – Seiko UC 2000 Wrist PC: users could tell the time, add, and input up to 2kb of data using a keyboard strapped to the arm

1984 – Nelsonic Space Attacker Watch: portable gaming with a basic space invaders arcade style game

1989 – Private Eye: an early Google Glass wannabe, this was a screen mounted to the wearer’s head and a handheld device with an 85mb hard drive and motorbike battery

1990s – Sneaker Phone: created by Sports Illustrated as a free promo in the early 90s; a shoe and corded phone in one device

2000 – Levi’s ICD+ Jacket: a conductible fabric harness that held a mobile phone; an MP3 player and headphones, all integrated into the harness

2002 – Bluetooth Headset: introduced by Nokia; allowed wearers to take calls hand free

2006 – Nike+: a fitness tracking kit, a tracker embedded in a shoe that showed time, distance, pace and calories burned during a workout on an iPod Nano screen

2008 – Fitbit Classic: many wearables are based on this device that lets the wearer track steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, activity intensity and sleep metrics

2013 – Google Glass: a combo of a smartphone and a head-mounted display

2014 – Activity Trackers: users can view steps taken, the speed of their walking, heart rate, sleeping patterns and can even monitor UV ray exposure

2014 – The Solar Powered Jacket: designed by Tommy Hilfiger; a jacket embedded with solar panels that let wearers charge their cell phones on the go

2015 – The Apple Watch: this watch enables the wearer to text, utilize fitness tracking, control their TV, store tickets and tell time

2015-2016 – Oculus Rift: this is a virtual reality tool that uses a motion sensing headset, headphones and built-in display, users can “step into” games and virtual worlds for a more realistic experience

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Future predictions for the fitness technology market see it becoming larger and more sophisticated by the year. It’s exciting to see what the future holds for our devices, but it’s just as interesting to look back at where it all began!

Image Credit: Gadfit.com

Post by Andrea Rogers