Wearable Technology

Why engage in wearable technology?

Wearable technology utilizes ubiquitous computing in connecting the Internet of Things (IoT) to textiles and accessories worn on or near the body. Embedded and immersive capabilities of wearable technology enable researchers and designers to use these connected networks of the IoT to expand options for data collection, sharing, and analysis. This connectivity can encourage collaborations across distances and disciplines. Textile designers and engineers, health scientists and music theorists may implement wearable technology in advancing research, augmenting users’ experiences, and enhancing classroom content.

Wearable technology can incorporate sensors for light, motion, temperature, sound, and touch and can transmit images and data from cameras, computers and other devices storing data locally or in the cloud. Researchers may use existing tools such as activity trackers commonly used for fitness and medical monitoring,  or they may develop their own tools to fit specific requirements of wearability and data collection. For example, compression clothing may be designed for use in space technology or medical applications and can benefit from cross-discipline collaborations among textile designers, engineers, and computer scientists. Data from these wearables may be analyzed by geographers, sociologists, and medical researchers with reported results incorporating multimedia formats such as interactive information visualizations and online galleries.

As technology improves with smaller and flexible components, as costs go down, and as the IoT becomes increasingly seamless in connectivity, wearable technology can expand scholarly and public interest and understanding in the fields of the humanities.

For any questions or assistance, please contact us (dash@umn.edu).

Exemplary Projects

3D printing on skin
(College of Science and Engineering, UMN)

Personal Microclimate Control
(University of Minnesota College of Design Wearable Technology Lab)

Global Initiative for Honey bee Health

Recommended Tools for Wearable Technology

Learn more about the following tools that can facilitate wearable technology exploration.

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi was originally designed as an educational tool to teach programming to young people. It is a fully functional computer the size of a credit card and, because of this small size and its low cost, has become a popular tool among maker communities.

Strength
The basic board is inexpensive, which makes it a useful tool for experimenting and prototyping, and the small size and low power requirements means it is easy to use for wearable technology projects.

Weakness
Most of the support is based on the original Linux platform and Python coding, though Windows 10 IoT is in the early stages of use within the Raspberry Pi community.

Prerequisite Knowledge
An understanding of programming and hardware is important for getting started with Raspberry Pi projects.

Support Guides & Tutorials
Tele2: How a Raspberry Pi Kit helps people to live the life of a complete stranger. Raspberry Pi.

LilyPad Arduino

LilyPad components are designed specifically for wearable technology projects. The small, round pieces have rounded, conductive tabs making it easy to sew the components onto fabric without snagging or otherwise damaging the textiles and threads.

Strength
LilyPad components are uniquely designed for textiles making them easy to incorporate into clothing for use in mobile computing.

Weakness
A knowledge of tools and concepts for designing electronic circuitry used in wearable projects is important for experimentation.

Prerequisite Knowledge
A general understanding of circuitry, coding and sewing will help the user get started in designing wearable technology.

Support Guides & Tutorials
Getting Started with the LilyPad Arduino. Arduino.
LilyPad Basics: E-Sewing. Sparkfun.

GoPro

GoPro cameras capture high-quality still photos and video recordings. They are small, lightweight, waterproof, shockproof and mountable and are popular among extreme sports enthusiasts. The cameras can be controlled remotely or configured to operate automatically.

Strength
GoPro offers users out-of-the-box capabilities in a variety of models including one with a GPS feature.

Weakness
The cameras and peripherals can be expensive depending on the model and user requirements.

Prerequisite Knowledge
Most users will have a basic knowledge of photography and video recording. Additional knowledge of video editing is useful.

Support Guides & Tutorials
GoPro Tutorial Videos. GoPro.

Guides on Data Visualization

Readings

Hartman, K. (2014). Make: Wearable Electronics: Tools and techniques for prototyping interactive wearables. Sebastopol: O’Reilly & Associates.

Resources

University of Minnesota College of Design Wearable Technology Lab

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