Wearable Technologies

It seems that I  just missed the wearable technologies convention that took place in Europe last month (http://www.wearable-technologies.com/2013/09/call-for-speakers-wearable-technologies-conference-2014-europe/).  The conference emphasized the enormous business potential and economic growth rates, and drew in 600 participants from around the world.  The participants competed to be named the most innovative technology in categories such as gaming, health, medicine, etc… Noticeably (for me), there was no category that examined the educative possibilities that these “new” technologies present.

I put “new” in parenthesis, because by some definitions, wearable technologies have been around for centuries.   I would venture to say all readers of this post either have some, or know someone who owns them; I own glasses…not Google glass, but reading glasses that are a technology I use to improve my eyesight while reading.  However, I do acknowledge this line of thinking engages in the debate over how technology is defined more so than what a wearable technology is thought of today…

The organizers of the conference, as well as most real techies would expand on the definition to make sure that it incorporated the idea of ubiquitous computing, or computing that is seamlessly incorporated into everyday objects.  With that definition, I would say that you still have been exposed to it… if you know someone with a calculator watch, for example, which have been around since the 1980’s.

Today’s wearable technology, however, attempt to allow users to go above and beyond simple algebraic concepts, and into the world wear dreams are made, for a realistic, customized experience.  For example, Vivi-touch http://www.vivitouch.com/4d_sound_experience_amplify_it.html promotes an experience with its 4-d haptics and audio devices as “Pure, Unadulterated Feel-tainment”, as it purports to bring a “…new sensory dimension to gaming that lets you actually feel what you see and hear—explosions, crashes, aerial battles, the stretch of a slingshot or the smooth roll of a pinball”.  Heathrow airport is using Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches to deliver “up-to-the-minute information such as flight updates and destination”. In the future, they hope to use the technology to “communicate passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences to staff”, and even tie in discounts related to this data, that passengers can use once they reach their destination.

If applied to the education field, the potential is limitless in both miraculous and terrifying ways.  These tools and the related analytical data they are drawing from allow us to customize the student experience to every last detail. This is a good thing… if we stay mindful of the ethical and legal implications that come with access to such information.  Many of these tools are waiting for educators to re-purpose them for the classroom, or out-of-school educational practices… How do you see them being used in your field?

– Akesha Horton

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