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Technology’s new wearable world By Leia Stirling

The presence of wearable technology is expanding at an incredible rate as adoption of these technologies becomes more common. Devices and applications designed for our omnipresent smart phones are being extended to clothing, watches, glasses, jewelry, and even fake eyelashes.

The capabilities of these systems are increasing, with the ability to make phone calls, take pictures, provide web access, and monitor physical performance. However, current consumer physiological monitoring systems are limited to heart rates, step counts, and GPS tracking. These limitations arise from how performance metrics are confounded in a natural environment, including a person’s natural variation in motion patterns, the changing environments in which we operate, our choice of clothing, and how we fatigue.

REAL-TIME BIOFEEDBACK Consider a runner training for the Boston Marathon. When training with a running coach — the expert in this scenario — the runner would be provided real-time feedback information on his or her biomechanics. This could include information on what part of the runner’s foot makes initial contact with the ground, orientation of the ankle when contact is made, and how to align upperbody posture. Without the coach, the runner is limited to knowing his or her pace and heart rate. The expert in this situation has the ability to make informed decisions based on extensive experience and direct observations of the runner and the environment. Current physiological monitoring systems have the potential to provide this information, but non-experts in biomechanics and sensor technology, like our runner, would face a wealth of data from which he or she would be unable to draw the proper conclusions. What makes an “expert” is the extensive training and experience that guides the individual to recognize the relevant information, project the potential issues, and thus make the appropriate recommendations. While this example is focused on running, the concept extends to decision making in many different domains that rely on physiological signals.

Technology’s new wearable world

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Aeroastro magazine 2013 14  
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