The term wearable computers likely conjures up images of cyborgs and science fair projects. But just two weeks ago Google released a video of its Project Glass and within a few days, the eyes of millions were opened to how cool wearing "Google Glasses" could be. Digital information overlaid on the real world wasn't nerdy in Google's vision.
While Google's glasses aren't likely come out for a while (Google won't give a timeframe) there are already a number of very cool wearable computer gadgets on the market. You may not actually think of them as "computers," but each of them has the parts of a computer inside -- a processor, RAM, sensors, and so forth. Again, it may sound nerdy, but none of the following gadgets make you look like a cyborg -- in fact, they might just make your life better.
If you're itching to have a pair of Google Glasses, this is the closest you're going to get for now. The MOD ($299) is a tiny LCD micro display for your ski goggles. It is powered by a small Android computer with an ARM processor. The display pops into your goggles so that, in the corner of your eye, you can see relevant information about what's going on around you -- the temperature on the top of the mountain, your speed, the altitude, your average speed on your last run, etc. You can even get even fancier and track your jump analytics.
The higher-end MOD Live version, which costs $399, can be paired with your smartphone so you can see who is calling and where your other friends might be on the mountain. It also has built-in navigation, showing points of interest so you can find something good to drink after you are done on the slopes. You work the display with a remote control that straps to your arm or glove. You can charge the googles with a USB cable. Then you can upload all the information and continue to track your progress on the mountain even when you are off the mountain. The goggles aren't included, but there's a list of compatible goggles on Recon Instruments' website.
For those who prefer not to have a screen strapped to their eyes, there's always the wrist. Lots of companies are coming out with smart watches, which, as the name suggests, are the watch equivalent of smartphones. WIMM's SmartWatch is a small module with a 1.4 -inch display which pops onto a wrist band. The little module, which has a 667MHz ARM processor and 512MB of memory, can be paired with an Android phone and can show information from it, including text messages and who is calling. You can even send a call straight to voicemail by tapping the display.
Even better, when you put the WIMM app on your Android phone, you can add a bunch of functions to your smart watch. One of the coolest is a coffee app, which can be linked to your Starbucks account. With it, you can pay for that latte right on the spot using the watch.
WIMM's watch is meant right now for early adopters or developers, but others like Sony are making full production models. The WIMM is available for $199.
You can't talk about wearable computers without talking about the entire generation of fitness gadgets, like the Body Media Band, FitBit, and the Nike+ FuelBand. All of these gadgets are computers with special sensors to tell you about your physical activity -- steps taken, calories burned, etc.
The Body Media Band CORE (see video) has to be wrapped around an arm for its four sensors to compute accurately how many steps you've taken, how long you have slept, and how many calories you burned. The sensors measure galvanic skin response, skin temperature, etc. Other fitness gadgets, like the Nike and the FitBit, don't have to be strapped to your arm at all times, but they are said to be less accurate. Stay tuned for an upcoming segment in which we compare all the fitness gadgets.