History and Evolution of Wearable Devices

Wearable devices were first introduced half a century ago. There are numerous recorded and published literatures regarding the history of wearable devices. Table 4.1 shows remarkable work related to wearable devices in chronological order; however, the list presented is not exhaustive:

With the evolution in technology, wearable devices also evolved from wrist worn watches to smart watches capable of numerous functionalities. Figure 4.3 shows chronological timeline with the advancement in wearable devices.


Remarkable Work Related to Wearable Devices in Chronological Order


Major Contribution


Edward 0. Thorpe invented basic wearable computer to predict winning roulette [5]. The device was a small-sized analog computing device with four push buttons. There is a datataker which can use the buttons to show the speed of the roulette wheel and the device sends tones over radio to a person’s hearing aid.


Hubert Upton invented a computer mounted within a pair of eyeglasses to assist hearing-impaired individuals by lip reading [6].


CC Collins developed wearable camera-to-tactile vest for the blind [7]. The device was a five-pound wearable with a head-mounted camera that can convert images in a square tactile grid on a vest.


Eudaemonic Enterprises invented a digital wearable computer in a shoe to predict roulette wheels using a CMOS 6502 microprocessor with 5 К RAM. The device was a shoe computer with toe-control and inductive radio communications with between a data taker and better [8].


Sony introduced the Walkman, a commercial wearable cassette player [9]. Sony Founder and Chief Advisor, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, created the concept of the Walkman portable stereo for enjoying personal music while walking.


TABLE 4.1 (Continued)

Remarkable Work Related to Wearable Devices in Chronological Order


Major Contribution


Steve Mann designed a backpack-mounted computer to control cameras and other photographic equipment [10]. The backpack-mounted device had a 6502 computer into a steel-frame backpack to control flash-bulbs, cameras, and other photographic systems. The display was a camera viewfinder CRT attached to a helmet. The device was powered by lead-acid batteries.


Carnegie Mellon’s Engineering Design Research Center at CMU developed VuMan 1 [11) for viewing house blueprints. Input was taken from a three-button unit worn on the belt, and output was generated over Reflection Tech’s Private Eye. The CPU was an 8MHz 80188 processor with 0.5 MB ROM.


BBN invented a Pathfinder system consisting of a wearable computer with GPS and radiation detection system [10].


Mik Lamming and Mike Flynn developed [12]. “Forget-Me-Not,” a continuous personal recording system .The wearable device could store interactions with people and devices, and update this information in a database for data processing.


Edgar Matias developed a “wrist computer” with half-QWERTY keyboard. The device had a modified HP 95LX palmtop computer and a half-QWERTY one-handed keyboard [13].


DARPA introduced Smart Modules Program to develop a modular, human-wearable computers (A brief history of wearable computing). The device had radios, navigation systems, human-computer interfaces, etc. for military and commercial use.


Steve Mann developed “Wearable Wireless Webcam” for transmitting images from a head-mounted analog camera to base station [14]. The images were processed by the base station and displayed on a webpage in near realtime.


Wearable computers used for video conferencing using a digital broadband network [15].


System for Wearable Audio Navigation (SWAN) was a wearable system to enhance audio navigation for the visually impaired [16].


Google Glass is an optical head mounted display like eyewear. It has a touchpad on side of eyewear, a camera, and a display on eyeglasses.


Apple Watch uses a wireless connection with an iPhone. It has several functions and voice automated Siri to assist user’s voice commands.

Technological evolution of wearable devices chronologically

FIGURE 4.3 Technological evolution of wearable devices chronologically.

Industrial Growth and Wearable Portfolio

As shown in Figure 4.4, a report by Berkeley shows the cumulative wearable devices being shipped in the world market. These devices include smart watches, smart glasses, smart clothing, fitness trackers, body sensors, wearable cameras, and other wearable devices [17].

Graph depicting cumulative sales of wearable devices across the globe from 2013 to 2020

FIGURE 4.4 Graph depicting cumulative sales of wearable devices across the globe from 2013 to 2020.

Wearable devices offer functionality in the abovementioned domains. The functions which are performed by the wearable devices are numerous although important functionalities are shown in Figure 4.5.

Functions of wearable devices

FIGURE 4.5 Functions of wearable devices.

Functions provided by wearable devices under different categories

FIGURE 4.6 Functions provided by wearable devices under different categories.

Wearable devices are categorized by where they are worn on the body of user. Figure 4.5 shows the functionalities of different wearable devices based on where they are worn on the body. Figure 4.6 presents a detailed taxonomy of wearable devices under major categories such as wrist w'orns, head mounted, e-textiles, and e-patches. In this chapter, we have done an extensive study about different wearable devices and categorized them according to their usability and where they are worn on the user’s body. This detailed categorization is presented in the taxonomical structure shown in Figure 4.7, i.e., different parts where these main categories are elaborated to list dowrn wearable devices available in the consumer market globally.

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