Wearable computers: extensions of the human body

Throughout human history, civilizations have always studied ways to face adversity and to build tools to facilitate living conditions. American anthropologist Edward Hall believed that body limitations triggered man’s curiosity to create tools that could be used as ‘extensions’ of the human body.

The invention of the wheel can be analyzed as one of these extensions mentioned by Hall.  Back in the old ages, men could not use his/her legs to travel long distances carrying its belongings and family in a short period of time. The wheel was an opportunity to facilitate travels.

The application of knowledge to develop new technologies has taken us to stages once only found in sci-fi books and films. Computers carry ‘memory’ that process whatever our brain is not capable to storage; microphones expand our voices to large crowds, and so forth. Our body extension tools have become more sophisticated and more attached to our own on bodies. Nowadays, the computer watch in your wrist feels like part of you.

Setting aside high technology, you hardly remember and feel that you are wearing a simple watch unless when you need to check the time. High tech computing is taking the same path, the new wave of wearable computers arrive to make technology more physically accessible. One of the ultimate goals of technology has always being  to become light, convenient, almost like a part of human bodies — something that makes us to forget that technology is an extension and more a part of ourselves.

This is the case of Google Glass. The new revolutionary ‘Glass’ is a pair of glasses that allows you to make voice commands, or even use your sight, to record a video, take photos or search for something on the Internet. Accessing the Google Glass website you will find three main tabs: ‘How it Feels’,  ‘What it Does’ and ‘How to Get One.’  ‘How it Feels’ is the first tab – which deserves a round of applause for Google’s communications team. Consumers are definitely interested in how it feels, if this new wearable technology allows them to make the minimum physical effort to use the device. This type of technology suits well the modern society. As people have less spare time and busy minds, something that is always with you might become more convenient than carrying a device that can be easily forgotten and difficult to bring along.

Wearable technology presents great advances and also major concerns. Privacy is an issue when it comes to wearable computers. Google Glass allows the user to do a video recording without even the awareness of the people being recorded. The same applies for photos as the user can simply look at a particular object, while wearing his/her ‘Glass’, and quickly take a photo without anyone noticing it. On the other hand, privacy issues might not be the main focus for certain people when it comes to wearable computing. In India, where rape cases have increased tremendously, students have created a ‘wearable high tech underwear’ that can be activated when an aggressor attempts to attack the user. The device has GPS that, once is activated, quickly informs the police and sends SOS messages to emergency services, according to a TIMES article.

With pros and cons, wearable computers amaze society and remind us that more and more consumers look for more accessible technological devices. However there are two relevant questions that require further research: is our privacy being undermined by technology? Is our society moving to the development of brain extension tools? Whatever is the answer, it has to bring less harmful and more useful outcomes.

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