Known for launching tech startups into the mainstream, SXSW just wouldn’t seem complete this year without developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, especially wearable tech devices that aim to leverage personal data to help us all optimize ourselves.
At SXSW 2015 in Austin, TX, a new theme was debuted called Fashion & Wearable Tech, which showcased how technology can do more than just make people look good. What’s more, some wearable devices have been nominated for this year’s SXSW 2015 Interactive Innovation Awards.
What wearable devices made SXSW attendees’ heads turn?
Frog Design, Inc. came to SXSW with its concept for wearable drones that do more than just fly. They can also protect the user. Think of drones that can be worn as necklace but can act as a high-tech umbrella when it starts to drizzle. Picture a bracelet that can fly and show you the way when you have lost your bearings. Or imagine a shoulder pad that hovers in front of your face and filters out polluted air so you won’t inhale it. These are just two fantastic scenarios for thi compelling concept design.
Smartwatch for elder people
UnaliWear Inc. brought its UnaliWear Kanega smartwatch to SXSW that was designed specifically for independent seniors. The Kanega smartwatch offers an easy speech interface, supports Wi-Fi and cellular technology so it is always connected, and provides the user automatic medical updates without the need to type anything. The device monitors for falls, delivers medication reminders and acts as a guard against wandering.
Kanega is a waterproof, standalone device that doesn’t need a hub or smartphone to operate. It makes nightly connections to pharmacies to bring medication updates to the watch, aside from the continuous welfare check and fall detection.
“Statistics show that 80 percent of seniors don’t like the style of current assistive devices. What really makes the Kanega watch different is that it features a classical watch style without buttons, so there’s no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you. It helps extend a person’s independence with dignity,” said UnaliWear CEO Jean Anne Booth.
At the SXSW panel titled “Beyond Wearables: Future Fabrics and Fashion Design,” Billie Whitehouse, cofounder of Wearable Experiments, discussed smart fabrics and e-textiles. Wearable Experiments is a company that is integrating fashion and technology and believes that the next phase for wearable technology is smart textiles. In fact, we may be seeing a future where smartwatches and smart glasses will become obsolete as technology is woven into the very fabric of the clothes we wear. Smart textile will allow for more flexible technology, not to mention making wearable tech more fashion-forward.
Currently, smartwatches and fitness trackers tend to be an eye-sore. By incorporating technology to the garments we wear, we can stay in the loop without having to ditch looking good. Smart textile could give way to light coats that can control the temperature to help the wearer stay warm during cold days.
Expressive Wearable by Sangli Li has been nominated as one of SXSW 2015 Interactive Innovation Awards. Expressive Wearable is a machine that reacts to how people react to it — like a machine conversing with people but without saying anything.
The project, sponsored by Intel Corp., explores how people can playfully utilize the wearable device in communicating with others. The audience is open to interpret the device’s actions, engage with it or even play with it. Expressive Wearable looks like a very intricate hat with a matching intricate choker. It looks like a number of small Japanese fans were placed on it, and these fans open and close depending on the action of the audience.
ShotTracker and Free Wavz, two wearable devices that we have previously featured in our Smart World Series, were also nominated for the SXSW 2015 Interactive Innovation Awards. ShotTracker is a wearable device specific for basketball players so they can track attempts, makes and misses.
As for Free Wavz, it is a smart headset that wirelessly connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0. It allows users to listen to their favorite music, and it also serves as a heart rate monitor and fitness tracker.