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Innovation Lab: The Best of Wearables

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions; the Startup Showcase at our Mobile Marketing Summits gives a platform to those companies, and brings audiences one step closer to ideas and developments that are breaking new ground in the market.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas.

This week, we take a look back at some of the creations we've covered so far this year, with a focus on wearable technology that goes beyond just smartwatches, fitness trackers and Google Glass, and truly explores how we'll be integrating tech into our daily lives in the future.

Smart Hair Extensions Can Activate Apps with a Touch

Just as smart devices are sneaking into every aspect of our homes, wearable devices are getting more and more integrated into our daily life. However, you'll have to go pretty far to find a device more seamlessly placed into the everyday than Hairware, a set of smart hair extensions that can control electronics.

Created by Brazilian inventor Katia Vega, the extensions are actually plated with thin layers of conductive material that can detect when they are being touched, despite looking exactly like normal hair.

An Arduino micro-controller with a Bluetooth transmitter picks up the tiny changes in the extensions' electrical charge caused by touch, and relays this to your smartphone, which can use to input to send a pre-set message, record a conversation, share your location, take a photo or all manner of things, all without the user visably interacting with the phone.

Vega hopes Hairware can be commercialised as a personal security tool for women, but says there are also applications for behavioural scientists and even intelligence agencies. The software even includes an algorithm that can learn the difference between intentional and accidental hair stroking, so you don't unthinkingly send out an SOS message.

cur workoutSmart Plaster Eases Pain with Electricity
Chronic pain is a problem for around one in four people, so any device that can successfully alleviate suffering is bound to find an audience. The new health wearable Cur is hoping to be one such invention.

The smart device resembles a large plaster, and uses TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to relieve pain, sending out electrical currents that stimulate nerves, soothing acute or chronic pain.

While TENS' effectiveness varies from condition to condition, it's a popular alternative to painkillers, but most machines that can offer it are large, cumbersome and include wired electrodes that would be a challenge to take care of while out and about.

Cur aims to package the same effect in a much smaller form factor, with a smart module meaning the device automatically adjusts based on how the user's muscles react, as well as enabling owners to adjust the stimulation using an iOS or Android app.

AR Cycle Helmets Combine with Smart Cities for Navigation and Safety

The connected car has seen huge growth in the past few years, as manufacturers race to integrate mobile functionality and data into cars, but the connected bike has seen less money poured into it. Future Cities Catapult is hoping to address that with an AR helmet that provides cyclists with important information.

The helmet features a visor which can be flipped down to provide a heads-up display that can improve biker's spatial and contextual awareness, providing them with maps, warning about blind spots, and even steering cyclists away from areas with air pollution or heavy traffic.

The prototype helmet helps cyclists navigate London's often-complex system of cycle lanes by highlighting the next direction on a planned route without the need to check a phone. The system could also interact with smart city technology like beacons or geo-fenced areas to produce even more useful information.

"The Internet of Things will change the everyday experience of our streets just as technologies through history have changed how we move, navigate and map our street network," said Claire Mookerjee, project lead at Future Cities Catapult. "IoT will support increased interactivity with our surroundings. We'll be living in fully responsive streets."

edsap samsungSamsung Developing Wearable that Provides Early Warning System for Strokes
A group of Samsung engineers have developed a wearable device that uses brainwave detection to provide information on the probability of an oncoming stroke, creating an early warning system that could help avoid the worst consequences of stokes.

The device was created within Samsung's Creativity Lab, where employees have the opportunity to explore creative ideas and develop them into commercially viable products. When they first approached neurologists about the idea of detecting the onset of a stroke by monitoring brainwaves, many were dismissive, but the team was determined.

"Just look at the World Health Organisation statistics," said Se-hoon Lim, the project lead for the team. "15m people across the world suffer from stroke each year with roughly 66 per cent of those cases resulting in either death or permanent physical disabilities."

The Early Detection Sensor & Algorithm Package (EDSAP) monitors electrical impulses within the brain through sensors placed on a headset, transmitting the data to a mobile app which analyzes the patterns using a specially developed algorithm, providing feedback within 60 seconds. It can also provide data on other neurological health issues, such as stress, anxiety and sleep patterns.

Glasses Open Up the Spectrum to Colour Blind Wearers

Red-green colour blindness affects around 300m people worldwide (roughly eight per cent of men and 0.5 per cent of women with Northern European ancestry), turning both colours into a dull grey and warping the rest of the spectrum.

EnChroma glasses uses special corrective lenses to improve colour vision for those with colour blindness, actually filtering out a part of the visual spectrum to 'drive a wedge' between the signals for red and green and forcing the brain to differentiate between the two, which they are normally unable to.

As the above video shows, suddenly being able to see the world in full colour can be a powerful experience for people who have spent their lives missing out on a fundamental aspect of life the rest of us take for granted. The EnChroma glasses aren't perfect, working best in bright daylight and poorly with computer displays, but you're unlikely to hear complaints from those people seeing the true colour of their children's eyes for the first time.

booty drumBooty Drum Wearable Turns Twerks into Tunes
Danish audio equipment manufacturers Aiaiai and Dutch design firm Owow have teamed up with Portuguese DJ Branko and Youtube star TwerkQueen Louise to create a wearable that translates a user's booty shaking into music.

The Booty Drum uses accelerometers to measure the wearer's movements, assigning different beats and samples to individual moves, enabling the dancer to collaborate with the music they are dancing to.

"As every single movement sends out a unique set of values, the dancer is able to play around with sounds," said a spokesperson from Owow. The track created by the collaboration has been released on Soundcloud, so feel free to shake your own booty along to it.

'Wearable' Bananas Measure Your Heart Rate

Dole Japan has sponsored the Tokyo Marathon since 2008, handing out bananas to runners who need a mid-race energy burst. In the past, it's given out fruit with runners' times and stats printed on the peel, but this year, it's gone one step further with Wearable Bananas.

Two runners will be selected to wear the edible wearable, which will use an LED display to give them updates on their lap time and heart rate, as well as displaying messages from social media that well-wishers have sent.

What's more, after the race, the bananas are totally edible, and can be consumed as a pick me up. It's unclear if all the electronics involved impact the taste, but if you watched the marathon on 22 February, you may have seen some banana-wielding runners crossing the finish line.