Advances in wearables are gaining speed and it is now becoming clear just how much they will contribute to the future of computing and communication.
The latest announcements include a finger tracking device (more of an ecosystem) from researchers at Cornell University, a forthcoming announcement from Elon Musk’s Neuralink and Google is ploughing along on multiple fronts, including its intended purchase of Fitbit.
The finger tracking device from Cornell exemplifies how wearables have progressed from standalone devices that tell one user how they are doing on various levels to devices that hook into ecosystems and take advantage of – for instance – vast quantities of scientific data that is out there. Not to mention the new notion of creating communities of others who wear – for instance – running shoes that coach you and compare you with others, if you wish.
Cornell researchers believe that the FingerTrak device, a bracelet that can continuously monitor the hand in 3D is smaller, less intrusive and more connected than anything before it. The first and most promising application is in sign language translation, according to Chen Zang, assistant professor at Cornell’s SciFi Lab.
“Current sign language translation technology requires the user to either wear a glove or have a camera in the environment, both of which are cumbersome,” he said. “This could really push the current technology into new areas.”
The advances in wearables that are less intrusive and more connected than previous attempts will point the way for the future of computing itself. We have often said that we tend to see the future of computing involving increasingly skinnier screens balanced on top of sophisticated typewriters because that is what a computer is.
A device, whether it is sewn into your clothes, worn on your wrist or is nestling behind your ear is simply an interface. And as we get out of the habit of sitting in front of the typewriter, the future of computing – in the hands of mad, rich entrepreneurs – is a very different place.
Talking of which, Elon Musk is getting thoroughly over-excited about an announcement he will be making about his brain hacking startup NeuraLink. When asked whether it will be able to stream music directly to your brain, he replied ‘yes’. When asked whether it will be able to control the release of oxytocin and serotonin, again he replied ‘yes’.
Both Musk and the team at Cornell see an early application in a potential cure for Parkinson’s. The bracelet from Cornell could track the hands of older people and spot the early signs, while the Neuralink route seems to be about controlling drug release and managing disease that way.
Whatever the application, the advances in wearables, after something of a lull, are now showing us not only the future for many arenas such as healthcare but pointing the way for the future of ‘computing’ as we know it.