Mankind to machine: 14 computing devices you'll be wearing in the future

If you thought Google Glass was the "future" of wearable tech, think again. From e-tattoos to 3D printed clothes, ZDNet explores what we could be wearing in the very near future.
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Wearable tech: From mankind to machine

The past decade or so, humans have become increasingly transfixed by the notion of wearing our technology in some way, shape, or form. From earpieces to headphones, glasses and implants, ZDNet runs through some of the wearable technologies that we will all be wearing in tomorrow's world.

With so many focused on Google Glass as the next big thing in wearable technology, one DARPA-funded research project is plowing money and resources into vision enhancement for soldiers. The device, embedded on the eye as a contact lens just  over a millimeter thick, is equipped with tiny mirror magnifiers that enhance viewing over vast distances.

2 of 14 Wikimedia Commons

But it all started somewhere…

Steve Mann helped bring wearable technology into the 21st century. Of course, wrist watches and other wearable technology have been around for centuries, but none with the power of connectivity and electronics. Mann is credited with designing the first modern-day (albeit back in the early 1980s, during the infancy of the Internet) wearable computer and augmented reality system, dubbed EyeTap.

3 of 14 Vergence Labs

Eyewear evolved during the late-2000s

Google Glass may be at the tip of everyone's lips, but it's by far the first wearable eyewear. Vergence Labs' Epiphany Eyewear was released to developed in 2011 — final release is scheduled for 2013 for consumers — which embeds augmented reality and a head-mounted display, with photo snapping and video recording extras, in a pair of designer-like frames.

4 of 14 Foc.us Labs

Eyewear is where it began, and then it expanded to…

The wearable computing trend exploded during the early 2010's, particularly when used in conjunction with a third-party device, such as a smartphone or tablet. The Focus headset uses transcranial direct current stimulation — which basically 'zaps' the brain' — and can be used from gaming through to medical usage.

5 of 14 Microsoft

Skinput blends the 'real' from the 'unbelievable'

A Microsoft Research project, dubbed Skinput, is exactly that: an input device for the skin. It uses bio-acoustic sensing to determine finger taps on the skin, which is projected from a small pico-projector. The technology has been demonstrated in public numerous times, but is not expected to become commercially viable for the next few years.

6 of 14 John A. Rogers via CNET

Some wearable technologies get a little closer to the skin, though

Electronic tattoos could revolutionize the way we interact with technology and other devices as they can be applied directly to the skin. While still in early development, they could be used in medical situations such as EEGs and EMGs.

7 of 14 National Taiwan University

While some embed gadgets directly into the body

From wrist watches to eyeglasses and fitness bands, now teeth? One prototype tracker embeds on a molar tooth to detect oral activities, and can relay back health-based information. Over time, as electronics become more connected with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology, it's hoped that they can transmit data locally to smartphones and tablets.

8 of 14 Bryan Cera via CNET

A boom in 3D printed gadgetry…

3D printed technology remains at an infant state, but it is quickly taking off in niche circles. In many cases, these exoskeleton devices could be used to build up muscle strength, or revolutionizing the way we communicate with others — even if it is by holding your hand to your ear as though it's a phone.

9 of 14 Materialise

And 3D printed clothes could solve all manner of troubles

And as mentioned, some do not have hugely practical applications in a technology sense, but 3D printed clothes could solve a number of issues, such as creating perfectly fitting body armor for soldiers, or the most intricate of garments. Because the fashion industry still spends the big bucks…

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Some wearable technologies are becoming more mainstream

Fitness wrist bands are becoming all the rage. Ideally, for many who may be switched off by the ideas of "Terminator"-style cyborgs and human-interfaces can find a modest middle-ground with something they can relate to. In the case of the popular Nike FuelBand, it's not just a fitness tracking bracelet, but a platform that others' can build upon.

11 of 14 ZDNet

Google Glass is obviously a huge contender

The search-turned-"everything else"' giant is powering through from early eyeglass concepts into a fully-fledged consumer wearable computer. Google will likely release its Glass eyewear in 2014, but until then it has many others clambering to make their own versions of the popular gadget. Almost everyone has an idea for it: from the fashion industry to law enforcement.

12 of 14 CNET

But so are smart watches…

Next up we have smart watches, which are likely shaping up to be the next major hotly contested area in the technology market. From the point Apple was pegged to create one, Samsung jumped on board, as did Microsoft, and Google, according to reports. An estimated five million smart watches will ship next year, that is if the industry can get its act together and release something feasible first and foremost.

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Smart watches, considered the "next big thing," are getting better

But they're still not there yet. Smart watches are still in their infancy and battery life is generally poor. 

That said, considered to be the "next big thing" in technology circles, smart watches are getting better. The new Qualcomm Toq (pronounced "tock") comes with a simpler user interface than the Samsung Galaxy Gear, but it makes up for it with a week-long battery life. 

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And then there are the emerging "all-rounders" that go anywhere

And as smart watches get smarter (and last longer), tech giants are increasingly trying to slim down the technology even further. The emergance of "smart jewelry" could set to explode in 2014.

Take the Misfit Shine. It's a small pedometer device that looks like a small disc-shaped item that can be worn as a wristband, clip-on, or pendant with optional accessories. It's also waterproof so you don't have to take it off each time you take a shower (or a dive in the pool). And the battery lasts four months on a single charge.

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