The Future of Entertainment series by iQ by Intel and PSFK Labs is highlighting the latest in entertainment innovation. Over the course of 10 weeks at iq.intel.com, we are showcasing new products, services and technologies, exploring the changing face of how we consume, share and create content and getting reactions from Intel experts.
The sci-fi future where the co-evolution of human and machine pushes us towards a singularity is nearly upon us, but before we step into the realm of the cyborg, we’re going to have to first get comfortable with the idea of wearable technology. We need look no further than Google Glass, which has occupied many a newspaper inch this past year, but the futuristic glasses are just the tip of the wearable tech iceberg. Analysts from research and analytics firm IHS predict that demand for wearable gadgets will go from 14 million to 200 million devices over the next two years.
Whether tracking our daily activities, providing us with at-a-glance information or controlling the other connected electronics in our lives, complex sensors and micro-displays are being integrated into a host of different devices, creating technologically advanced and fashion-forward accessories that guarantee will be plugged in at all times. As we roll out the final trend in the Future of Entertainment series, PSFK and iQ will be examining the phenomenon of Wearable Interfaces this week, with on focus on how engineers are creating novel experiences through the development of new technology form factors.
As people become more interested in quantifying nearly every aspect of their lives – from calories consumed to monitoring fertility cycles – wearable sensors are becoming the natural way to interact, and learn more about our bodies. Athletes have quantified and analyzed their physical data for years, enabling them to become better runners, bikers, and competitors. Swimming is the one sport that has been lacking in the data-tracking department, because of the complexities of using technology underwater and the need for swimmers to be as streamlined as possible. A new heads up display for swimmers, Instabeat, looks to change all that, providing real-time data while an athlete is in the pool, to ensure they are maximizing their workout.
Instabeat is an attachment that fits onto any model of goggles and reads a user’s heartbeat through their temporal artery. It then signals to the swimmer, through color codes reflected on their lenses, whether they are in the fat burning, fitness or maximum fitness zone of their workout. After their workout, the device connects to a computer, where a user can more fully analyze their exercise, seeing how many laps they did, the rate of flip-turns and calories burned. Instabeat adds to an already wide-ranging, and popular function for wearables – health tracking. A study on wearable technology from the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that 71 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Brits said that wearable tech has "improved their health and fitness."
Apart from health monitoring, we’re seeing wearables as an extension of our smartphones, further integrating technology into our lives by making it a wrist glance away. Quartz declared 2013 the ‘year of the smartwatch’ as major electronics manufacturers, such as Apple and Google are rumored to be working on models, while Samsung unveiled its smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear on September 4th. Smartwatches such as the Pebble already exist and are doing well, with over 85,000 sold (according to Pebble’s website) but analysts believe that major players entrance to the market could disrupt and catalyze the industry.
Speculating about the potential iWatch, ex-Apple employee Bruce Tognazzini wrote on his blog,“The iWatch will fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem. It will facilitate and coordinate not only the activities of all the other computers and devices we use, but a wide array of devices to come.” The same could be said for all smartwatches that will link to our smartphones, providing us with email notifications and other alerts with the potential to integrate fitness tracking technology as well. While the success of the coming smartwatch revolution remains to be seen, analyst firm IDC are already predicting that sales of tablets will decline with the rise of wearable tech.
Wearable interfaces are not only about quantification, but also about changing the way we create and consume entertainment. Mexican startup Machina has created a jacket, the MJ v1.0, which allows the wearer to compose music with just the piece of clothing, a MIDI controller and their own movements. The jacket (which is going into production after a successful Kickstarter campaign) is embedded with sensors, push buttons and accelerometer that measure how fast your arm moves, all of which affect the resulting sound. It is connected to a MIDI controller and an app, entirely customizable by the user to create different beats and samples.
The particularly unique thing about the jacket is that it doesn’t look like a fully loaded piece of tech. Judging on appearances alone, it looks like a slick piece of sportswear – the fact that it is also an instrument can be kept under wraps, until the wearer is ready to unleash its power. Fashionable and functional, the MJ v1.0 demonstrates that wearable tech does not need to have a gadgety gizmo aesthetic.
Throughout the week we will be assessing how Wearable Interfaces fits into our Everywhere Remote theme, seeing how the integration of advanced sensors into wearables is augmenting and enhancing people’s lives. Tune in tomorrow when PSFK and iQ take a look at the MYO armband that allows wearers to control their computers and other devices with a wave of their arm.
Stay tuned to iQ by Intel and PSFK or subscribe to the Future of Entertainment series on Flipboard to stay on top of the latest content.