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The wild world of wearable computers

Are you ready for talking watches, singing shoes, ringing earrings and vibrating tattoos?

By Julie Sartain, Network World
August 20, 2012 12:06 AM ET

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Furthermore, according to Ghubril, augmented-reality, as opposed to virtual reality, is very much on the front burner. Imagine sightseeing around the city of Kiev just hours before the team you support is due to compete at the Olympic stadium for a place in the semi-finals. You come across a historical building and, suddenly, the information about that building appears on your glasses in encyclopedic detail. "That's because the on-board cameras linked a photo of that building to a repository of information (available on-line through the web) and then displayed that information, in anticipation, based on the calculated context," adds Ghubril.

"The eyeglasses are really cool, but they're just too far out there for a lot of people to grab any time soon," says Forrester analyst Frank Gillette. "It's a less familiar technology, plus the news on Google Glass today was $1,500, but only for developers. I think the wrist gadgets are most likely to grow soon, especially the watches that link to phones — MetaWatch and Sony Smartwatch — in addition to the Pebble and the WiMM, and also including the fitness monitor gadgets. But, these devices have to be more than just jogger's strapping on their smartphones to use with running apps such as MapMyRun or Runkeeper."

"The watches, headbands, armbands/bracelets, and shoe items are the most likely devices we'll see for the next couple of years. We've seen less of the jewelry and clothing ideas, but I think more of these will come as the low power radios get figured out," adds Gillette.

"Novero's video goggles are better than squinting in front of a seven-inch display on a plane (or whatever size it is), but it doesn't really add the kind of value augmented reality brings," says Ghubril. "And the WiMM, well, it just doesn't meet any of the above criteria (unobstructive, natural feeling, or stylish), it doesn't enable anything more, and its looks are underwhelming — so just because there can be an Android watch, it doesn't mean one should have one."

"However, the Motorola wearable PC is an interesting proposition in that it enables field-workers," says Ghubril. "So, not really a consumer device, but it does begin to address an unmet need because, right now, field technicians and operatives have a whole slew of devices hanging off them whenever they're trying to get anything done. Motorola's hands-free solution is a step in the right direction," says Ghubril.

Hands Free Options

According to Darren Koffer, director of warehousing product solutions at Motorola Solutions,

Motorola's hands-free portfolio provides a flexible product line that supports text-only, voice-only, and combination voice and text-based applications, which empower workers who are scanning, picking, and sorting in high volumes to achieve new levels of efficiency and accuracy.

"In applications that demand the constant use of hands, wearable systems give workers the hands-free convenience to handle more tasks, while keeping the technology needed to further improve productivity and accuracy right at their fingertips — including bar code scanning and mobile computing," adds Koffer. "But to realize the full potential of wearable computing, companies need to consider the ergonomics, performance, reliability, flexibility, and manageability of the overall solution."

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