What is Wearable Technology?
This is a great question! The term wearable technology is often described as, or used to mean, wearable electronics, but I would suggest that that is very a limited and dated definition. Wearable technology is a buzz term right now and represents an emerging market that will be become huge in the coming years.
To date, it’s all been about wearable electronics – how can we add a sensor to a shirt to measure an athlete’s performance? How can we build an exoskeleton that augments human performance? These are examples of wearable tech but, wearable tech is so much more. It is really any innovation in a wearable – it could be running gear using a new material that cools the body. It could be a new type of closure that makes it easier for patients with arthritis to get dressed each day. It could be a flexible polymer that makes an orthopedic walking boot more comfortable for a patient post-surgery. It is all this and more.
Thinking of wearable technology only as wearable electronics limits the conversation to one of engineering. If we think about wearable technology as a broad term to mean ANY innovative wearable, then we open the conversation to other disciplines. It becomes a conversation where everyone: every type of designer, health care worker, patient, and engineers come together to innovate.
The Right Stuff
To make this work it is so important to have both the right People and the right Process. Having an interdisciplinary team means everyone adding their knowledge and using their toolbox to create and innovate.
In my lab, we have researchers from diverse areas, such as physics, art, neuroscience, medical diagnostics, nursing, occupational therapy, fashion, and engineering. Interdisciplinary teams are essential part of this process. If not, you will get products that may work but are uncomfortable, or are comfortable but too expensive, or are priced right but not practical.
The team approach facilitates the development of wearable design based on the varied knowledge and perspective of the team.
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