It’s the Wearable Technology Show in London, England today and tomorrow, so GNC was in attendance to check out some of the latest developments in the space. I was last here in 2016, so it’s interesting to see what’s changed (and what hasn’t) in the last two years. The event isn’t anything like the size of CES and there are few household names, but there are plenty of entrepreneurs and startups. I’ll be posting full interviews later but for now, here’s a selection from day 1 (and 13,000 steps).
e-textiles were very much in evidence, with sensors and electronics embedding into fabrics by Nottingham Trent University.
There was a working fabric keyboard using silver based yarn from Statex.
Tinker Designs has developed a prototype smart shoe that incorporates artisan craft with modern electronics.
As expected, there were plenty of wrist-worn devices. WITgrip had a prototype wrist mount to hold a bigger screen in a more ergonomic position.
Laevo demonstrated an exoskeleton for workers who repeatedly have to bend over or kneel down. I tried it on and it works as advertised.
Also for workers is the ProGlove which incorporates a barcode scanner on the back of the glove to avoid repetitive picking up and putting down of scanners.
Returning to my interviews from this year’s Gadget Show Live and the Wearable Technology Show, I’m with Jeremy from Zappar. Their two dimensional Zapcodes generate a three dimensional augmented reality, bringing the printed page alive within the Zappar app.
A Zapcode is a printed symbol like the one on the right, which has 4 billion different combinations. It’s recognised by the Zappar app (available for Apple and Android) using the smartphone or tablet’s camera and then overlays animations and other content onto the real-world as seen through the camera. For example, a flat architect’s drawing shows a 3D model in the Zappar world or a comic book about planets whizzes with rockets and spinning worlds. Very cool.
Here’s what a Zappar augmented book looks like – the printed page is on the left with the app view on the right.
Here’s a quick demo of a building.
Zappar’s client list is impressive featuring brands like Asda, Coca-Cola, BBC Radio 1 and Mothercare. There are plenty of demo Zaps on the Zappar website, so download the app and try them out. The app works fine with computer screens so there’s no need to print anything out – just point the camera at the monitor.
Mio‘s range of heart rate and activity trackers compares well with the big names in the fitness space, but it’s perhaps not the best known brand, though it does have history behind it. At the Wearable Technology Show, Andrew chats with Michael about Mio’s products and the background to the company.
Specialising in heart rate tracking during activity, all the models in Mio’s range have optical sensors built into the wrist bands to measure the wearers pulse. Typically, the trackers are accurate to one beat per minute when compared with a medical grade EKG. There are four models, Link, Velo, Fuse and Alpha, with the Velo aimed at cyclists.
Communicating with smartphones is done via Bluetooth (what else?) and the Mio’s are compatible with a range of apps, ANT+ devices and bike computers (not Alpha). In addition to the heart rate, the trackers will give the usual fitness metrics like calories and steps.
All the trackers are available now, with prices from GB£75 to £120. A new model, the Slice, is expected out later in the year.
Chinese medical technology firm Biolight have developed a ranged of personal medical devices for home use, including a blood pressure monitor, blood oximeter, wireless thermometer for babies and foetal monitor. Andrew finds out more from Jeff at the Wearable Technology Show.
Biolight’s range of personal medical devices very much shows the on-going consumerisation of medical devices. These units are colourful and friendly; very different from the often austere machines of the hospital and health centre. Perhaps the most impressive thing revealed in the interview is how relatively inexpensive the products are. Obviously the prices are trade with some of the devices only a few dollars but to think that a foetal heart rate monitor costs around US$60 is incredible. It will undoubtedly sell well at three times the price. Listening to your baby before its born whenever you want? That’s a killer piece of hardware.
Atheer‘s AR smart glasses provide an interactive experience for industry, overlaying digital information for manufacturing, construction and medical uses. Andrew explores Atheer AiR and augmented reality with Theo from Atheer at the Wearable Technology Show.
Atheer has worked hard to develop a set of easy-to-use and self-contained augmented reality smart glasses with a familiar user interface. Simply, the glasses run Android with familiar apps and navigation, though Atheer have built additional features and apps, such as 3D depth. Atheer have used their experience in UI to ensure that the digital world doesn’t interfere with reality, positioning content on the periphery while keeping central vision clear. The built-in camera detects hand motion and gestures. Tap on a virtual icon and the app launches.
I tried out Atheer’s first generation smart glasses and I was surprised at the experience. While there’s a certain element of novelty, I could see how they’d be useful in a range of industries and beyond that, I don’t think it’ll be too long before AR is common in the office and at home.
For me, this was one of the highlights of the Wearable Technology Show. Bonnie Binary is a design consultancy offering creative skills and prototyping for e-textile and associated wearable technology products.
The team at Bonnie Binary have created impressive demonstrations of e-textiles, with lights sewn into the cloth responding to touch on other areas of the fabric.
Rather than explain what Bonnie Binary can do, here are two short videos demonstrating their e-textile capabilities and founder Annie Lywood tells me more in the interview.
It’s all too easy for both humans and dogs to get a little overweight with a few extra inches round the tummy. The PitPat activity tracker is designed to help dogs (and their owners) stay healthy and fit. Andrew from PitPat explains more.
Around the size of a matchbox, the lightweight PitPat attaches to the dog’s collar using Velcro and records the animal’s activity throughout the day. Given the breed and age of dog, the PitPat app (free download from the Apple and Google app stores) shows suitable activity goals.
Pressing the tracker’s orange button transmits the data to the owner’s smartphone and the app shows the owner what the dog has been doing and whether the goals have been met. Future enhancements to the app will let owners share the activity with friends and social media networks.
The PitPat is waterproof for splashing around (IP67) and the user-replaceable battery will last about a year.
The PitPat has been on sale since January and is available from pet shops and on-line for around GB£40. Cuddly toy not included.
Let’s say that you are a major manufacturer of sportswear and you need an activity tracker to keep up with the market. You’ve no experience in electronics or wearables, so what do you do? If you’re Adidas, you turn to Bittium and get the professionals on the job. Martti, Senior Specialist at Bittium, takes Andrew through the company’s offering.
Finnish firm Bittium are a technology design house, specialising in connectivity solutions, from 4G base stations to mobile phones, IoT and wearables. Bittium will take an idea for a product and develop it to a finished product, including physical design, hardware and software.
Here’s the tracker that Bittium did for Adidas, the MiCoach Smart Run. It’s a few years old now (2013) but it’s interesting to hear the development story.
TomTom are well know for their in-car navigation devices with over 75 million of them sold since 2004, including specialised variants for motorbikes and trucks. Building on their success with GPS, TomTom has launched wearable devices for runners and golfers. Tom tells Andrew all about the company’s latest developments.
Announced at the Wearable Technology Show, the new TomTom Golfer 2 is a GPS watch designed to help golfers improve their game by using automatic shot detection for detailed post-round analysis at the nineteenth hole. Incredibly, the Golfer 2 has knowledge of over 40,000 courses worldwide. It will cost 249 € when released in May.
Although not a brand-new product, I was impressed by the TomTom Bandit, an action cam with a killer feature. After a fast off-piste descent down a mountain, just shake the Bandit and it will assemble a highlight clip in minutes using sensor data to figure out the most exciting parts of skiing. As Tom mentions in the interview, the pain of video editing is one of the main reasons action cam owners don’t use their cameras. The Bandit costs from GB£269. I want one!
(Apologies to Tom – the last part of the interview didn’t record properly)
French startup Diota have been working since 2009 to bring augmented reality (AR) to industry and manufacturing. This isn’t easy as the factory floor is no place for fancy headsets or delicate glasses. Andrew hears more from Sebastian, Diota’s Head of R&D.
Diota have a range of AR products, but the one on show here uses a projective system to highlight work that needs done. Imagine that a fitter is working on the inside of an aircraft fuselage and that a series of steps needs to be followed exactly. Perhaps one set of bolts needs to go in before another and the order of insertion is crucial to the assembly. DiotaPlayer and its projective system is ideal for this problem.
Using the camera built into the system, the DiotaPlayer is able to identify the part of the fuselage in view, then project onto the surface clearly showing what areas need to be worked on first by the fitter. The projection shows the first set of the holes, highlighting them (in this instance) in blue-green, so the fitter can work on these and ignore all the other holes in the panel.
Diota have an impressive list of French industrial clients, including Renault, Dassault and SNCF. Price on application.