Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Google Glass and Other 'Wearable' Technologies

We are taking more and more of our technology with us nowadays. It's generally called "wearable technology."

I wouldn't say smartphones are "wearable" because we really still carry them with us. But one of the most visible pieces of wearable technology is Google Glass (www.google.com/glass).

Google Glass works like a set of eyeglasses, although it doesn't replace glasses. Instead, it augments them, and you don't have to wear glasses to wear or use Google Glass.

Google Glass provides you with the ability to talk to and use the Internet (mainly Google) in your everyday life without having to find and touch your smartphone, laptop or desktop computer.

A friend of mine has one of the first releases of Google Glass and I was able to try it out recently.

Essentially, it looks like a pair of optical frames, but without the lenses. On the right side of the frame is what looks like a prism, which is a heads-up display, essentially projecting a screen in front of you that only you can see.

Interacting with Google Glass takes a couple of forms. First, you can touch it, much like a touch pad on a laptop computer or a tablet. One stroke turns it from idle to on. Another stroke serves as the "Next" or "Back" functions.

But when Google Glass is active, you simply say "OK Glass" and it waits for your next command. You can then ask a question, such as "What is the weather on Thursday" or you can say "take a picture" or "record a video." Glass will do what you say, within limits, of course.

Google Glass is probably not going to be a mainstream product as it exists now. As amazing as it is, it's quite limited in what it can do. But what it does demonstrate is how powerful, light and portable these technologies can be.

More technologies that truly become part of what we wear every day are becoming available. UnderArmour, the athletic-wear company, has some pretty exciting ideas in mind. Specifically, clothing that not only monitors your vital signs (heart, respiration, blood pressure and more), but can also change colors (a fashion aspect) and provide either heat or cooling, as needed.

The UnderArmour technologies still are mostly in the "visioning" stage, meaning they're not ready for consumer products yet, but they are certainly well within the reasonableness of future products.

Other companies already are providing wristbands that can monitor exercise and distance traveled, along with heart rate and blood pressure. These go into software that can not only keep track of your exercise regimen, but also track your progress. These are key ingredients to an effective training program.

The miniaturization and consumerization of technology are providing more and more opportunities for us to have technology become part of our daily lives — not just for sending messages to each other or being entertained. And most of us will like this newfound connection with technology and the value it provides.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 29 May 2013.

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