Surprisingly, wearable tech did not start with Fitbits, smartwatches, and fitness trackers alike. It took off in the 1980s, when the first digital hearing aids were released. In the last 40 years, wearable tech and its AI partner have grown into an entire industry aimed at aiding us to lead healthier and more efficient lives, becoming so intelligent that there is value in every interaction for users. This sector has been given the name ‘Wearable AI’.
Examples of wearables that exist in 2021
Fitness trackers and smartwatches are the most recognisable examples of Wearable AI, but the industry is so much larger. For example, intelligent clothing such as smart swimsuits by Neviano includes a waterproof UV sensor that communicates with your smartphone to tell you when UV levels are high, meaning you should apply more sunscreen.
If you want some smart sunglasses to go with your smart beachwear, you’re in luck. Snapchat Spectacles 2.0 come with a built-in camera that allows you to take photos and videos directly from your glasses. They link to your smartphone, so you can share your photos and videos via the Snapchat app.
So, where is the industry headed?
The demand for wearables is predicted to evolve into a seamless merger of humans and technology, along the lines of using your mind to update your Facebook status. We take a look at some of the biggest industry impacting predictions for the future of Wearable AI.
The first industry transformation will be the increased use of exoskeletons. These are robotic suits that humans wear, and they’re already in use by some manufacturers to help human workers perform better and lift heavier weights without injury. Hyundai Motor Group has been testing its Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton, to reduce pressure on factory workers’ necks and backs. The prediction is that similar exoskeletons will become standard in industrial settings around the world.
The second prediction encompasses a new wave of prosthetics and robotic limbs that are currently being developed and will revolutionise the healthcare industry. These are increasingly being designed to be more intelligent and intuitive, by responding to the human nervous system or brain signals. Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab is involved in a research project where robot prosthetics are being designed for ten volunteers, with the hope that these volunteers will be able to operate their prosthetics via their nervous systems. It is predicted that in the future, intelligent prosthetics will respond to the individual’s commands more intuitively and become the norm for special amputation surgery.
If we can create replacement limbs, why shouldn’t we create replacement organs? The third prediction for Wearable AI is one that researchers are already working on and involves the 3D bioprinting of viable human tissue. A team in Houston claims to have made a significant breakthrough, giving hope that it will be possible to print fully working replacement organs in the future. If research into this area continues, it could mean that if you need a heart transplant in the future you could be given a choice between a robotic heart and a lab-grown heart.
The final prediction would directly link AI and the human brain. Social media platforms such as Facebook are developing brain-computer interfaces that would, in theory, allow you to type your status update telepathically. On the healthcare side, Elon Musk’s company Neuralink is working on helping people with severe brain injuries and, in 2019, he predicted a future where humans would have the option of merging with AI.
The Challenges of Wearable AI
Alongside huge benefits to our lives, AI on a larger scale could have serious implications for data privacy and security breaches. Wearable technology already creates a huge amount of data on the wearer, so it follows suit that the more we embrace wearables, the more data will be available about us.
Of course, this begs the question of whether we want companies like Facebook to know more about us than they already do. Even if the majority of us are fine with handing over our data in exchange for improved AI, we would all need to become much savvier about what we are actually giving to the manufactures of wearable solutions and they, in turn, would need to make genuine strides in how seriously they take data privacy.
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