Wearable Computer

What Does Wearable Computer Mean?

A wearable computer is a digital device that is either strapped to or carried on a user’s body. It is used most often in research that focuses on behavioral modeling, health monitoring systems, IT and media development, where the person wearing the computer actually moves or is otherwise engaged with his or her surroundings.


Wearable computers provide constant computer and user interaction. In extreme cases, they serve much like a prosthetic, in that device use does not require users to cease other activities.

Techopedia Explains Wearable Computer

Wearable computers designed for commercial use may provide:

  • A unique user interface design
  • Augmented reality
  • Pattern recognition
  • Electronic textiles and fashion design

In 1961, mathematician Edward O. Thorp designed the first modern-day wearable computer as an analog computer used to predict roulette wheels. During the 1970s, other prototypes were created, including the CMOS 6502 microprocessor, which was a shoe computer used for radio communications between data gatherers and gamblers. A camera-to-tactile vest for the blind and Hewlett-Packard’s algebraic calculator watch were also invented during the 1970s.

The 1980s delivered bicycles with on-board computers. Later, electronic notebooks, keyboards and other belt-attached devices were developed. Over the years, many other wearable computing products have been marketed, but few have been adopted on a widespread level.

In 2002, Kevin Warwick’s Project Cyborg crossed the line of wearable into the realm of implanted devices, which monitored or were activated by the human nervous system.

Wearable technology has many benefits but raises some concerns, including:

  • Whether it is desirable to have users constantly plugged in
  • Privacy concerns over devices that continuously gather and log visual and other data
  • Technological dependence created by augmented reality and automatic processing

In addition, there are technological hurdles, including:

  • Power management and heat dissipation
  • Software architectures and interfaces
  • Management of wireless and personal area networks (PAN)
  • Security

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.