If you are old enough to remember "The Six Million Dollar Man," a short-lived TV series from the 1970s, it's easy to wonder how the show’s main character, Steve Austin, would be depicted today (aside from the fact that thanks to inflation, he'd now be worth $31 million). The series was about a former astronaut who was made bionic when he was outfitted with mechanical and electrical body parts that gave him super-human abilities, allowing him to work for a fictional intelligence agency.
These days, if you have a pulse, a pet, an iPhone, or even just a Facebook account, there’s an ability-boosting device you can wear (and remove!) at will. Although they don’t provide super-human strength per se, they can tap into the Web 2.0 world with ease. Check out some of the coolest wearable devices around. Eat your heart out, Austin.
Track Your Pets
OK, so it’s not for humans, but if you're willing to buy your pet a Christmas sweater, you may as well throw in a GPS collar called Tagg. This technology allows you to track your pet's whereabouts – and even get notifications by email when Pookie wanders too far. Interestingly, Comfort Zone, a service put out by the Alzheimer’s Association, uses similar technology in a wrist strap used to track Alzheimer’s patients.
Source: Brad Hines
Show Some Love
With near field communications (NFC) technology, an NFC-enabled Android phone and an RFID chip planted in physical places, the LikeBelt is a campy but fun, open-source way to implement Facebook actions in the real world … with a pelvic thrust. Yes, you read that right. You literally engage the belt buckle with an RFID anywhere you place it by thrusting at it. Two users can could even thrust at each other to prompt a command such as friending on Facebook. (Just make sure you have a consenting partner.)
Keep Baby on Your Radar
Exmobaby by Exmovere is a set of biosensor-based baby pajamas that provide parents with text messages (SMS) and email alerts on their mobile phones, personal computers and other devices. This simple onesie is comfortable and safe for a baby to wear – and it can help parents keep track of of the little squirt's whereabouts and movements. These show up automatically in real time as the baby’s movements and vital signs change. And, for data loving (or obsessive) parents, Exmobaby can also track and record a baby's vitals over time, which, according to the company, can be used by a smart parent or caretaker to predict the baby's emotions and behavior in the future. (Now they just need to come up with one of those for teenagers!)
Record Your Life in HD
Have you ever wanted to record what you see as you walk down the street – and not with a ridiculous helmet camera? Pivothead is the maker of HD video recording sunglasses that you can use to film your life in real time. And, thanks to 17 available styles, you have a chance of looking pretty cool doing it.
The glasses can be operated via a mobile phone thanks to a Wi-Fi accessory, and they send the recorded video straight to the user's social networks. They also have a cool burst photo option that takes several photos consecutively. The functions are managed from the arm of the sunglasses.
Stay Comfortably Connected, Wherever You Are
OK, so we're still a long way off from being implanted with computer chips because as cool as that sounds, apparently there's some evidence they cause cancer. But California-based Plantronics, a maker of smart headphones, is doing the next best thing. Using various smart sensors, the ear piece in these babies is so small and comfortable, users will hardly be aware of it. Some of these devices, like the one shown below, are also smart enough to make on-the-fly adjustments, such as pausing your music when you remove the device from your ear, or accepting a ringing phone call by putting the device in your ear. The mouthpiece can also be used for various voice commands, like "answer" or "ignore".
Plantronics Voyager Legend
Regain the Ability to Walk
Perhaps the most inspiring wearable device is in a league of its own. ReWalk by Argo Medical Technologies is literally a wearable exoskeleton that can help physically impaired people to walk again. Using the ReWalk, people with some spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, and other problems may be able to walk again with its assistance. It even allows users to sit, stand turn and climb or descend stairs!
The device uses multiple technologies such as actuation motors, motion sensors and a sophisticated computer system. It looks a lot like a set of leg braces and crutches. Maybe it isn't quite a bionic set of legs, but it's a big step in the right direction for those who've been confined to a wheelchair.
The $6 Million Question
As wearable devices continue to be developed and improved, it'll be interesting to see whether most of them really add value to our lives, or just create another layer of electronic distraction.
"In a projected future world, your sneakers will tell the energy drink in the fridge that you need more protein today after your run, before the drink bottle tells the fridge how many are left so that the fridge can update your supermarket order. And all the while, your data is shared with your doctor, who will remotely monitor your health," said Oliver Stokes, principal of design and innovation at PDD Group, a product and service design innovation consultancy in the U.K.
The odds of becoming a superhuman cyborg are still looking pretty slim, but many of these devices provide a significant boost – or are worth a try just for fun. The best part is, you won’t need anywhere close to $6 million to feel just like Austin.