Wearing the future – The next generation of wearable technology

The wearable technology market has been advancing at a rapid rate, now we understand what humans will or won’t wear! After the demise of Bluetooth earpieces and the launch of Google Glass, companies soon realised people didn’t want to be out and about with piece of technology strapped onto their faces. Now we have the much more subtle Apple Watch reigning supreme as the piece of wearable tech people don’t mind talking into on the bus, whether others like listening is another thing! As this high-tech market advances, Cadence looks into the latest wearable technology that is set to take the market by storm.

Vest that detects seizures
After witnessing an epileptic seizure two young engineers banded together to create an early warning system. The result was a vest that monitors heart rate variability and body temperature to alert the user and potentially a carer up to eight minutes before the event.

For anyone who has been in the vicinity of a person with epilepsy having a seizure, you will understand there is usually no pre-warning. This can make these events extremely dangerous with potential injuries, and the danger only increases if a sufferer is alone.

These inspirational young engineers took home the top prizes of The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineering Competition and well deserved it was too. We look forward to seeing what happens with their ground breaking invention.

Now any avid reader of the Cadence blog will know we do love a robot! So, one that you can wear, yes please! Not dissimilar from the Marvel hero Iron Man, the suit gives the wearer increased strength and endurance. Using hydraulics, motors and a battery-powered computers, these exoskeletons have been traditionally designed with military applications in mind, like the infamous Russian super soldier. More recently the technology is being used to solve problems facing industrial workers, preventing muscle fatigue and empowering the human workforce to be more productive. One exoskeleton manufacturer, SuitX, shows that muscle activity in the back, shoulders and knees is reduced to 50% as a result of their product. This means workers suffer less injuries, reduced insurance costs and fewer days off work.

In some regions exoskeletons are being deployed to help a common issue within manufacturing, the ageing workforce. And the solution is, let them carry on working! Japan has a rising retirement age, anywhere between 65 and 71, to allow those workers to remain efficient they are given access to exoskeletons that can be charged through a hand pump. This fills the ‘muscles’ on the suit with pressurised air which can be used to aid in lifting and support. Users report at the end of the day they are less exhausted and experience less back and shoulder pain.

It seems that deploying exoskeletons will be part of our future in one way or another, whether that is creating the world’s next super soldier or the strongest aging workforce ever seen, there is another cause driving innovation. Taking the technology to the peak of human machine communication, a mind-controlled exoskeleton allowed a paralysed man to walk. The user needed surgery to place two implants on the surface of the brain that cover movement, these signals are then interpreted and translated to movement within the machine. Described by the wearer as “feeling like the first man on the Moon” the technology could soon provide hope for those unable to walk all over the world.

Brain-computer interface
No blog on the future of technology can be complete without mention of tech superhero Elon Musk. Whether he is advancing the future of space travel or just making a flamethrower for the whole family, he is often at the forefront of technology and wearables are no different.

Well technically not a wearable, Elon has claimed that his brain microchip company Neuralink may be able to implant the first human chip later this year! In its current state the chip would allow the user to link to an app that allows control of a mobile device, but Elon’s goals are much higher. Having already proved the technology works by showing a monkey playing pong with its mind, the internal chips could provide treatment to suffers of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In true Elon fashion however it doesn’t stop there, the ultimate end goal is to allow humans to merge with artificial intelligence. Now no-one knows what form this will take or if it will be the end of humanity as we know it but as long as we don’t see an older Elon Musk travelling back in time to stop his younger self, we should be okay.

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