A short history of wearables

Wearable devices are all the rage today. They range from Bluetooth headsets and health and activity trackers to Google Glass that brings the digital age right before your eyes.

Some can work on their own, while others require a smartphone for the computing power to work. And, of course, everyone is wondering how and when wearables will flood into the corporate environment the way smartphones and tablets have.

We at FierceMobileIT have put together a short history of wearable devices to help you understand where they have come from and where they are going. Some devices, such as Google Glass, could revolutionize the way we live and work–if Glass is even allowed into the workplace and public places.

In a timeline of wearable devices, we could go all the way back to 1762 when John Harrison invented the pocket watch. But we’ve decided to start in 1975 when Hamilton Watch introduced the Pulsar calculator watch and set the men’s accessories world a flutter. Even then-President Gerald Ford wanted one!

1975: Hamilton Watch introduces a Pulsar calculator watch.

1977: CC Collins develops wearable unit for the blind with a head-mounted camera that converts images into a tactile grid on a vest.

1979: Sony introduces the Walkman, a commercially available wearable cassette player.

1981: Steve Mann designs a backpack-mounted computer with text, graphics and multimedia capabilities and a helmet-mounted display.

1984: Casio creates Casio Databank CD-40, one of the first digital watch to store information.

1989: Reflection Technology develops Private Eye head-mounted display.
— Magellan unveils for consumer hand-held GPS device.

1990: Olivetti unveils a name badge that transmits a unique ID to infrared receivers placed in buildings to track a person’s location.

1993: Columbia University researchers develop the KARMA augmented reality system, which includes a Private Eye head-mounted display and overlay wireframe schematics with instructions on how to make repairs.

1994: University of Toronto researchers develop a wrist computer with a keyboard and display strapped to the forearm.
— Steve Mann develops a wearable wireless webcam for “lifelogging.”

1998: Trekker, based on Mann’s work, is released for commercial purchase for a $10,000.

1999: Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) launches its first product, the RIM 850 two-way pager.

2000: The first Bluetooth headset is shipped.

2006: Nike teams with Apple to develop a wearable device the records the distance and pace of a walk or run through a show sensor and an iPod nano attached to the arm. Retails for $20.

2008: Fitbit releases its first health and fitness device, which is designed to be clipped onto clothing and track steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, activity intensity and sleep. Retails for $99.
— Looxie unveils a wearable camera that fits over the ear and records up to 10 hour of video per day. Retails for $200.

2010: Brother markets AiRScouter, a heads-up display that projects the equivalent of a 14-inch screen that appears about three feet in front of the user.
— Eurotech Group develops Zypad, is a small touch-screen computer that can be strap around the wrist.

2011: Jawbone unveils UP, a health-tracking bracelet that tracks sleep, movement and food consumption and links to a smartphone app. Retails for $130.

2012: Sony markets SmartWatch, which uses Bluetooth to connect to an Android smartphone. Retails for $150
— Pebble launches its Pebble Watch, which provides health and fitness tracking, internet access, voice navigation and, oh yes, the time using Bluetooth connectivity and a smartphone app. Retails for $250.

2013: Google unveils the beta version of Google Glass to a select group of users known as Explorers. Google Glass is an optical head-mounted display attacked to pair of glasses that is controlled by the user’s voice. It connects to the internet using Wi-Fi.
— Samsung, the largest maker of Android smartphones, launches Galaxy Gear, a smartwatch that uses Bluetooth to connect to an Android smartphone.
— Japanese auto maker Nissan unveils the Nismo smartwatch, which provides drivers with real-time information such as average speed of the vehicle, fuel consumption and the driver’s heart rate. Retails for $120.
— Misfit unveils Shine, a physical activity monitor that can be worn underwater.

2014: Rumors circulate about the coming of Apple’s iWatch, a smartwatch that would connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi.

(article by F.Donovan)


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