It’s time to break out your summer wardrobe! Gentlemen, whip out your chino shorts and linen button-ups. Ladies, jump into your favorite summer tank dress. And don’t forget to accessorize! Accent your style with bracelets, necklaces, sunglasses, and… tech?
That’s right - wearable tech is totally a “thing” in 2019. What defines wearable tech? Anything you can wear on your body that serves a purpose other than keeping you clothed and fashionable.
Wearable tech has been around for quite a while. Before we talk about today’s most popular devices, let’s explore how tech fashion has evolved over the years.
A brief history of wearable tech
Back in the Roman era, you were pretty much out of luck if you had bad eyesight. But we can attribute some of the first vision-enhancing technology to Roman scholar Seneca, who supposedly used a glass globe of water to read books - basically he created a magnifying glass. But that doesn’t count as wearable tech.
An Italian named Salvino D’Armate is usually credited with inventing the first pair of wearable eyeglasses
around 1284. They didn’t fit so snugly - you’d have to balance them on the bridge of your nose. Still, it was probably more handy than using a glass globe of water.
1510: Nuremberg egg
Nuremberg eggs are the earliest-known watches, named so because they were manufactured in the German city of Nuremberg (and because they were generally circular). It’s believed that spring-powered watches were invented as early as the 1400s, but the only known watches that survive are from the 1500s. Typically, you would have worn a Nuremberg egg as a necklace, but some iterations enabled wearing on the wrist
These early watches were a great way to tell time in the days before smartphones, but they were undoubtedly designed to look stylish, too.
1600: Abacus ring
The Abacus ring was basically the first wearable computer
(think of it as an early smart watch). Developed by Chinese merchants in the 1600s, the ring had small dials which the merchant could use to tally numbers when buying or selling goods. The ring design made it easier for merchants to make calculations while simultaneously handling their products.
1849: The Bonafide Ventilating Hat
In the 1800s, middle-class men typically wore hefty layers of clothing and a top hat. Unfortunately, they didn’t have air conditioning back then, and so it was easy to get hot and sweaty underneath all those layers. Enter the “Bonafide Ventilating Hat,”
invented by John Fuller & Co. It was just a top hat with a ventilated opening at the top to enable air flow. Oh, the wonderfully weird Victorians.
1862: Anti-garroting cravat
If you watch a lot of gangster movies, you probably know what garroting is - it’s when someone strangles you from behind using their arm or a wire. In Victorian-era England, a few notable garroting cases put the public on edge. That’s when an “anti-garroting cravat”
was invented. A cravat, by the way, is an old-fashioned tie that was commonly worn in the 1800s. The anti-garroting cravat had hidden spikes on the edges so that if someone tried garroting you, the spikes would cut the wire or the attacker’s arm. Funny, but it never really caught on.
HP® created one of the first true smart watches in 1977. In addition to telling time, the HP-01 had a timer, stopwatch, and alarm. It had a touch screen interface, just like modern smart watches, but you could only operate it with a stylus. With a smooth, stainless steel chain, the HP-01
was one of the most stylish wearable devices up to that point.
1979: Sony Walkman
Sony didn’t invent the first cassette player, but the Sony Walkman device made it popular and changed the way we listen to music. Cassette tapes had originally been limited to large commercial stereos at home or in the car. The Sony Walkman enabled you
to jam out to your favorite tunes anywhere you went.
2009: Fitbit Classic
The first Fitbit devices (Fitbit Classic)
were shipped in 2009. Fitbit was unique because it was one of the first smart fitness trackers. Since you could wear it around your wrist all day, the device could accurately track your fitness habits in a way that no other technology could. There have been plenty of new Fitbit iterations since then, and now nearly all smart watches have some sort of fitness tracking system.
2013: Google Glass
Google Glass was arguably the most revolutionary change to eyeglasses since, well, the invention of eyeglasses. With its sleek and futuristic design, the Google Glass headset looked like it beamed down from the Starship Enterprise. It could do a whole lot of nifty things, like playing music and - controversially - taking video. No matter how you feel about it, there’s no doubt the Google Glass paved the way
for future brands of smart glasses.
2015: Apple Watch
We have a lot of watches on this list, don’t we? Well, why not? Watches are stylish and they’ve proven more than capable of smart integration. The Apple Watch took the Fitbit and basically added all the features of a smartphone, while also sporting a more stylish design for fashion-conscious owners.
Nuremberg eggs, HP-01 wrist calculators, Apple Watches… it’s fun to reflect on how technology reinvents itself over the years.
Popular wearable tech in 2019
We’ve talked quite a bit about the past. Now let’s talk about the present. What are the most popular forms of wearable technology in the year 2019? Let’s dive in.
1. HP Mixed Reality headset
Virtual reality has really taken off in the late 2010s - so much so that we now distinguish
between virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).
The HP Mixed Reality headset
is one of the most exciting new MR experiences on the market. The “wearable” piece is the headset, which sits comfortably over your eyes and immerses you in whatever game or virtual world you want to lose yourself in. You can play most PC games and apps that have MR functionality, and there are great handheld peripherals that are both accurate and ergonomic.
2. HP Reverb Virtual Reality headset
The HP Reverb Virtual Reality headset
is another great headset that’s specially designed for use in the professional world. The headset can be used to aid in employee training, creative design, and healthcare service. To accommodate walking, working users, the headset incorporates integrated Bluetooth and ventilation (our sweaty Victorians would be proud). You can still play games on it, though - it’s compatible with all Steam VR games.
3. HP VR backpack
The HP VR backpack
is definitely one of the most unique pieces of wearable technology you’ll find in 2019. The most intensive VR games require quite a bit of processing power from your computer and the HP OMEN X compact desktop is a gaming computer that’s built for that kind of work.
The HP VR backpack works in tandem with the HP OMEN X compact desktop. You can actually detach the desktop computer from its stand and mount it securely to the backpack. When you’re playing VR games or training for your job, you’ll be able to move around freely but you’ll still have all the processing power of a serious gaming computer.
Don’t worry - both the backpack and the computer are lightweight, and the backpack comes with padded straps to provide an even cozier fit. You can even add an optional additional battery pack
to your setup to extend work or gameplay.
4. Bose Frames
Bose is a company known for its terrific speakers, and now they’ve incorporated their expert sound tech into stylish sunglasses. Bose Frames, as they’re called, don’t have quite as many features as something like Google Glass, but they have a traditional look that’s more stylish and less… George Jetson.
The sound quality is great, too. If you want to listen to your favorite music while you’re out and about - but you don’t want to wear headphones - then Bose Frames give you a subtle means by which to add music to your daily life.
5. BASU eAlarm
Here’s a must-have device if you travel frequently or if you have late-night commutes. The eAlarm, by BASU, is a portable alarm that looks like nothing more than a small flash drive. Although it’s small, it packs a huge punch.
If you find yourself being followed or threatened, simply activate the small alarm. It’ll sound a 120-decibel alarm that’ll send the person fleeing, or it’ll alert nearby people that you’re in distress. The alarm has a keychain loop so you can wear it on your jacket, backpack, or purse.
6. Garmin Epix
Another watch? You bet! Garmin produces great GPS-optimized devices. The Garmin Epix is a wristwatch that features a GPS display. If you’re a frequent hiker, you’ll love this device because of the seemingly endless number of trails that are mapped out. Wear one on your hike to ensure you never get lost in the wilderness.
7. UPRIGHT GO
If you’re a computer geek and/or you have a desk job, the UPRIGHT GO might be a great investment for you. When you’re working at your computer for long hours, day after day, slouching could cause serious back and neck issues
The UPRIGHT GO is a small device that you wear on your back that’s meant to help you maintain a good posture. The device comes with painless skin adhesives so you can just stick it onto your back (much more discreet than a back brace), and it vibrates a little bit when you begin to slouch. It’ll help you stay out of the chiropractor’s office.
8. Ringly Luxe
Earlier we talked about the Abacus ring - the world’s first smart ring. Believe it or not, the smart ring is coming back in style in the internet age. The Luxe, by Ringly, is a smart ring that acts as both a fitness tracker and a relay system for your smartphone.
You can wirelessly connect the ring to your phone, and it’ll light up in different colors or vibrate when you get an alert on your phone (very helpful if you’re trying to not be hunched over your phone all the time). The Luxe is also one of the most stylish wearable devices on the market. They come in a variety of gorgeous textures that resemble real jewels.
The future of wearable tech
Expect wearable tech to get even more advanced (and, hopefully, even more fashionable) in the years to come. Here are some predictions on how wearable tech will evolve in the future.
More VR, AR, and MR
Take it from us - there’s lots more virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality to come. New VR games are released each month, so expect the catalog of VR games to expand astronomically. VR systems are also bound to get more immersive, with better displays and graphics, and more intuitive peripherals.
And more companies are taking advantage of VR and AR for training their employees or demonstrating products for their customers.
That’s not to say we can’t expect more “smart accessories,” like smart earrings.
Better health monitoring
As wearable tech becomes more ingrained into our daily lives, expect there to be major advances in health monitoring. With all the daily data that could be collected by users, doctors may be able to catch warning signs of impending ailments.
Internet of Things (IoT) integration
The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking over
! As more of our electronics and appliances gain internet access and are able to coordinate with one another, expect wearable tech to do the same. Your smartwatch or smart glasses will soon be able to interact with other smart devices in your home.
Wearable fashion has had a vibrant history, but it seems as if the golden age is just on the horizon. Start making room in your wardrobe.
About the Author
Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.