Wearable computing

Over the past couple of years I’ve included reference in some of my presentations to the idea of wearable computers as one of the future technologies we need to be watching for. On the ReadWriteWeb this morning is an article researched by Deane Rimerman that lists the ten smart clothes you’ll be wearing soon.

While some of these things still look a little ‘space-age’ and unlikely to appear on retail store shelves for a little while yet, some are already there – take the development of smart running shoes for example which you have been able to purchase in stores around the country for more than a year now.

The ten to watch out for are:

  • Motion detecting pants
  • Proximity sensing shirt, h
  • Heat sensing bra,
  • Smart running shoes
  • Networked jacket
  • Neuro Headset
  • Thought Helmet
  • Biosensor Underwear
  • iPod Watch
  • Nanofibers

On the surface of things this may not appear to be directly linked to education – but think about it, what if our students in the (not too distant) future were coming to school wearing items of clothing with built-in computing power that exceeds what we currently provide in the desktops we have? How might this affect the expectations we have about accessing information for research, the communications between and among students, the ability to gather real-time data – and… how we assess?? My eldest daughter laughed at me a few years back when I began to talk about this sort of thing at home. Still at high school at the time, and immersed in a culture where memorisation was still valued over knowledge, creativity and collaboration when it came to assessment, she declared; “Imagine what would happen at exam time – it’s bad enough now that they search us for our mobile phones – in the future we’d all have to sit in the room naked!” 🙂

The emergence of smart clothing is linked closely to another paradigmatic development we’ll see emerge in the next couple of years – the internet of things, a term for when real-world objects connect to the Internet. Predications have been made that in the very hear future there will be more “things” connected to the internet than people – and we’re already seeing this with the emergence of everything from household appliances and entertainment systems to vehicles, and parking meters and so on.

Reminds me of another book I read some years ago now called When things start to think by Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Physics and Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab. The book describes a future where the inbuilt intelligence that we will find in everyday objects will exhibit an ability to “think” for us. It contains an excellent chapter on Information and Educaiton in which Gershenfeld describes some of his research comparing traditional learning with learning that is enabled by ‘things that think’ – and the outcomes in terms of long term recall and knowledge development.

The big question remains – how ready is our education system for this? Does our future planning take account of these possible developments? How?

One thought on “Wearable computing

  1. Hi Derek,
    Wonderful stuff! I have been resisting the temptation to comment all day! Still resisting but may fail. Apologies if I crash 🙂
    Cheers from Kaunas.

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