Wearable technology can seem, at first glance, to be a recent development – we might think of the fictional spy gadgets of James Bond, or the smart watches that are currently flooding the market. Despite this, wearable tech has been around for longer than we might think, and is helping shape the future of fashion.
How wearable technology has evolved throughout the decades:
Wearable tech began very differently from today’s recognisable devices, with Sony’s first transistor radio making its debut in 1955. “The Sony TR-55 served as the template for portable gadgets we use today. Everything from the iPod to the Game Boy can trace its basic handheld design to the TR-55's form factor.”- Wired Magazine
In 1961, Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon created their own version of wearable technology – a computer small enough to fit into a shoe. Designed to help them cheat at a game of roulette, the computer was a timing device to predict where the ball would land.
Wearable tech went mainstream in 1975, as the first calculator wristwatch was released. Worn by Sting on the cover of The Police’s Wrapped Around Your Finger, and by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, it became an icon of the 70s and 80s.
The Walkman, launched in 1979, became our go-to music device throughout the 1980s. A revolution in music and wearable technology, the Walkman was so popular it sold over 200 million units. “Don't you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea!" Sony Chairman, Akio Morita. In 1987, digital hearing aids were released, revolutionising the healthcare industry.
“Usage of healthcare, wellness and medical apps is up 16% from last year to 28% of consumers. Nearly two-thirds of physicians said they would prescribe an app manage chronic diseases like diabetes.”
In December 1994, Steve Mann, a Canadian researcher, developed the Wearable Wireless Webcam. Despite its bulk, it paved the way for future IoT technologies. Wearable technology conferences and smart clothing expos began to see a rise in popularity throughout the decade.
Wearable technology found its groove in the 2000s, with the introduction of bluetooth headsets, the Nike iPod, Fitbits, and many more.
The wearable craze exploded in 2013, Google Glass entered the market, followed by the Apple Watch in 2015, and the Oculus Rift Headset in 2016. Today, clothing designers are experimenting with fabrics and technology, signalling that smart clothing is on its way to the mainstream. Some innovative items are already available, like the Nadi X Yoga Pants, which feature in-built haptic vibrations to encourage you to move or hold positions.
In a recent survey on wearable technology, 49% of respondents believe wearable tech will increase workplace efficiency - PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Wearable Life: Connected Living in a Wearable World
The sheer variety of wearable tech available continues to grow, as designers look for new ways to innovate and incorporate technology into all kinds of clothing and accessories.