Fight it all you want, but we’re all becoming cyborgs. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as dystopian as it sounds — at the very least, it’ll be a heck of a lot easier to check text messages when we’re all walking around like Terminators with day jobs.
But the road to achieving perfect human-machine symbiosis is going to be a fairly bumpy one, littered with poorly designed smart watches and awkwardly-placed sensors. There’s already a “smart” device out there for every part of your body, and before the wearables race really shakes out, it’s only going to get worse.
So for the sake of embracing our inevitable robotic futures, let’s have a look at some of what’s out there and dig a bit deeper than the Google Glass and Pebble smartwatches. It’s a sometimes exciting, often strange place, where socks have become intelligent and tattoos know what’s in your sweat. The future has arrived — and honestly, it’s pretty weird.
Consider the ElectroZyme something of a gateway drug to cybernetic body modification. You don’t have to chop off a limb or risk the infection or biological rejection that often comes with implants (just because you think a forehead webcam would be cool, doesn’t mean your body does) and you’re able to upgrade a heck of a lot more often. The ElectroZyme is more akin to a temporary tattoo. It’s essentially a sensor that adheres to your skin for a limited window and feeds back sweat rate, muscle fatigue, and even muscle degradation as you exercise.
Fin Ring ($120)
As far as I can tell, Fin is the only company on this list that claims to “feel like magic” in its Indiegogo pitch video. And sure, maybe there’s something magical in being able control your various gadgets with the wave of a hand — but in this case the wand is a fairly bulky looking ring you wear on your finger. Lousy first-gen devices.
Still, the wearable can potentially let you do things like change channels, advance songs and snap photos just by moving your fingers in the air. You can also connect a single ring to multiple devices, switching between them by touching your thumb to one of your pinkies. Yep, sorry lower lifeforms, this one’s for primates only.
For those not quite ready for the commitment of a wearable engagement ring, there may be no better way to say “I love you, you giant nerd” than the $80 Bloom, a floral-patterned bit of geeky jewelry. It’s a necklace that can accept Misfit Wearables’ cookie-shaped Shine, which can track your fitness and sleep.Given that the Shine currently comes in nine different colors including “sea glass,” “wine” and “color,” smart outfit coordination shouldn’t be a problem.
OMSignal Shirts ($200)
We’re waiting on pins and needles for more information about Nokia’s Lumia charging pants, but at least we’ve got the top half of our future smart uniform figured out. OMSignal has a number of different bio-sensing shirts up for pre-order. The skintight affairs monitor heart rate, breathing, and calories burned, transmitting that information to your chosen device via a little black clip-on module. The $100 fitness model also promises to help keep you dry and to do something about that smell (we weren’t going to say anything, but since we’re on the subject…). And like all quality shirts, the OMSignal charges up with USB.
Sensoria Fitness Socks ($149)
In the not-so-distant future, biometric sensors will be inexpensive enough so as to be nearly ubiquitous. We’ll laugh at the notion that, once upon a time, we wore standalone heart rate monitors strapped to our chest and take for granted that our underwear knows exactly how much we’re sweating. In the meantime, however, that information arrives on our smartphones by way of big — and sometimes — awkward chunks of plastic. I mention all of this to point out that including Sensoria’s Fitness Socks on this list is actually a bit of a cheat.
They track plenty, including the standard step counting, calories burned and speed, as well as highly more specific data points like foot landing and cadence, but require a snap-on anklet to do their job. Really, it’s a bit like wearing a Fitbit on your foot. Oh and a pair of the things (along with said anklet) will run you $200. Still, there is, perhaps, something to be said for the potential for accuracy that comes with moving the sensors down to the body part that’s actually doing all of the work while you run. But unless you’re cool rewearing sweaty gym socks, or have several hundred bucks to drop on a couple pairs, you’re only going to be able to collect that data once per laundry cycle.
Zepp Golf Gloves ($150)
Here’s a highly specialized product from a highly specialized company. Zepp makes one sensor that’s bundled with different mounts: one for baseball bats, one tennis rackets and a glove mount for golf players. The fairly conspicuous sensor (the thing is roughly the size of a quarter and about as neon yellow as it gets) tracks speed, backswing position, hip rotation, tempo, swing plane, and alerts the authorities if Tiger Woods tries to get fresh with you. Well, not the last thing.
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