Wearable Tech: Happiness is a Warm Hug Shirt

Written by Joy Ma

Wearable tech is now here. But it’s been a long-time dream of gadget enthusiasts dating back to the 1970s.

aNewDomain.net – Google Glass isn’t the first attempt at wearable tech — its inspiration can be traced back to the earliest forays into wearable computing. The origins of Google Glass can be seen in 1994, when MIT student Thad Starner strapped a bulky (but wearable) computer to his head so he could take better notes in class. At the time, Starner told The Boston Globe that he developed the device because he was spending $20,000 on an education and not remembering a lot of it.

But wearable computing – where tech becomes a part of our person, leaving our hands free – dates back even further, having been the long-time dreams of gadget enthusiasts dating back to the 1970s. Pulsar and Hamilton Watch, for example, sold a handful of calculator watches in the late ’70s. Later, in 1985, Casio’s Databank calculator watch was the market leader. It was not only a calculator, but stored appointments, names, addresses and phone numbers. An upgrade to eData had even-greater memory than the original Casio and could store passwords.

Nearly 30 years later, the Pebble watch – started as a Kickstarter project – performs many of the same functions found in that early Casio eData watch. Strapped to your wrist, the Pebble is mainly a small screen that wirelessly connects to your smart phone to receive emails, reminders and much more.

These days, most wearable computing integrates with the smartphone, which provides the network infrastructure and takes the burden off the device – so designers don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Want to give a hug from across the globe? The hug shirt lets you give someone a squeeze with a few swipes on your smartphone. The shirt is embedded with sensors that “feel the strength of the touch, the skin warmth and the heartbeat rate of the sender and actuators that recreate the sensation of touch, warmth and emotion of the hug to the shirt of the distant loved one.” If it seems trivial and even a waste of resources, remember that the Internet was designed to distribute essential U.S. data in multiple locations in the event of a thermonuclear attack. So using the hug shirt to give someone a hug and a squeeze isn’t the worst you can do with it.

Gopad Wearable Computing

Image credit: GoPad

Finally, there are the low-tech straps, mounts and pockets.

The GoPad mounts a tablet to your belly so you can input data with both hands.

Think no pocket is large enough for a Dell XPS 10 Tablet? This suit by Mohan’s has a breast pocket large enough for even the largest portable gadget.

big pocket in sports jacket

Image credit: Mohan’s

A lot has changed since 1994. For example, $20,000 will only cover half a year of education at MIT, not including room and board. And wearable computing is closer to a reality for most tech junkies.

Thad Starner, btw, is now a professor at Georgia Tech and a leader in the Google Glass project.

Based in New York, Dino Londis is a senior commentator at aNewDomain.net. He’s also an IT Pro alum at National Lampoon and teamBYTE. Email him at Dino@aNewDomain.net.