What is Wearable Technology?

Wearable technology refers to devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewelry, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing such as shoes or a jacket. The benefit of wearable technology is that it can conveniently integrate tools that track sleep, movement, location, social media. There are even new classes of devices that are seamlessly integrated with a user’s everyday life and movements. Google's “Project Glass” was one of the earliest examples, and enabled a user to see information about their surroundings displayed in front of them. Smart watches are becoming commonplace, allowing users to check emails and perform other productive tasks through a tiny interface. A rapidly growing category of wearable technology takes advantage of the burgeoning interest in the “quantified self.” The Jawbone UP and Fitbit bracelets are two examples that track how you eat, sleep, and move. Empowered by these insights, many individuals now rely on these technologies to improve their lifestyle and health. Today’s wearables not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • wearable technology will become an important part of the semantic web, generating vast amounts of data about individuals. That data can be collected and collated to provide insight into behavior and trends. Wearables will also become a primary conduit between content producers and content consumers. Museums and other informal learning centers should design mobile web based content delivery applications that will leverage both the data generated by wearables and the reliable delivery through push/pull interfaces. Smart watches and glasses are the first wave of these, but the next generation will be much more powerful and reactive. - Psparrow Psparrow Oct 21, 2014
  • Wearable technology has the capacity to deliver relevant information to users and connect people to meaningful interactions in a dynamic and engaging manner right now. Learning is experiential in many ways. Wearables are intimate tools that aids users as they access content and take action in daily life. Wearables foster curiosity, connection and creation. Wearables are part of our networked and integrated environment of learning. Museums and other educational institutions have a responsibility to anticipate, test and use these technologies to fulfill our missions. A specific example around art education and Google Glass comes from art teacher Hannah Brown http://www.onlineartteacher.net/2013/09/ecot-teacher-uses-google-glass-in.html - nealstimler nealstimler Oct 28, 2014 - AHelmreich AHelmreich Nov 2, 2014- jludden jludden Nov 4, 2014
  • Agree with Neal that wearables foster curiosity, connection and creation. They also provide massive amounts of user generated data that museums could leverage to deliver more personalized content and educational experiences as Paul said as well. I would be interested in how our education departments and docents adopt wearables as part of their daily workflows. ( - ryand ryand Oct 28, 2014 )- jludden jludden Nov 4, 2014
  • I Agree with Neil and Ryan about the benefits of delivering content, fostering curiosity, and providing user generated data to museums. I struggle with whether it will be something museums can or will readily adapt as a form of interpretation. Having used google glass several times including attempting to do on the spot research and investigation at a museum, I found it hard to use, less than intuitive, and in fact distracting from my museum going experience. I feel strongly that unless this technology develops rapidly and successfully, it will fall by the wayside in popular culture and therefor will not be relevant as a content delivery device.- mcollerd mcollerd Oct 29, 2014
  • I also agree that wearable technology has great potential within the museum environment, but also outside of the museum's walls. One of the interesting applications developed for Google Glass was one designed to integrate information about history, architecture etc while the user is out and about (see http://www.fieldtripper.com/glass/ ). I can see many possibilities for putting museum content into this type of deliver format.Whether or not there will be a future application of the type of personal health related data often collected by devices like Fitbit remains to be seen. The other potential use could be integrating a wearable device with indoor location services to push content - e.g. audio tour content - using beacons, or other devices currently being experimented with by many museums [- ewallis ewallis Oct 31, 2014]

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I think a key theme that is not represented is that wearables will become a component of the internet of things, providing information about individuals that will be acted on by other applications. From health and sports to political interests and travel history, wearable will provide a flow of personal information that can be used to tailor content to the individual. Customized, ontime content delivery will be a major development in the next decade. - Psparrow Psparrow Oct 21, 2014- jludden jludden Nov 4, 2014
  • The next step from a broad adoption of wearables is implanted or embedded technologies. Some of these are already being used in certain medical and experimental art contexts. See for example the work of Neil Harbisson http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/06/neil-harbisson-worlds-first-cyborg-artist - nealstimler nealstimler Oct 28, 2014- jludden jludden Nov 4, 2014
  • I think an important theme to consider with the topic of wearables is its overlap with BYOD. Since these devices are so personal and by their nature go wherever the user goes, how will education institutions capitalize on their use in an easy and seamless way. In addition, what about those visitors who don't use or have a wearable device but would like to benefit from some of the education and interpretive opportunities? Like smart phones and tablets, would we be fueling a "have" and a "have not" aspect to the museum visit and furthering a stigma that museums are not for everyone? - mcollerd mcollerd Oct 29, 2014
  • The other potential is for some wearables (possibly less so for those on your arm) to overlap with augmented reality technologies. [- ewallis ewallis Oct 31, 2014]
  • I do think that data security and privacy will continue to be issues for some time. [- ewallis ewallis Oct 31, 2014] +1 - dhegley dhegley Nov 3, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Wearable technology will allow museums to identify a persons interests and location and provide them with timely and relevant content. Not just pushing content about a specific painting while they are standing in front of it, but recommending an art museum while they are visiting a distant city with an "if you liked the National Gallery of Art you might like..." using the same kinds of algorithms used by Amazon or Apple. - Psparrow Psparrow Oct 21, 2014 Totally agree. And at some point it will be a part of BYOD philosophy as well. - kaja kaja Oct 26, 2014 I agree too. [- ewallis ewallis Oct 31, 2014]
  • One interesting difference between wearables and BYOD is that the wearable is already out of your pocket - with wearables there isn't the same issue that you get with BYOD of trying to encourage people to actually look at the device when they're in the museum. [- ewallis ewallis Oct 31, 2014]
    • I kinda love this for people who are interested - so much can be said for museum-going and stress levels. Does it calm us, up our heart rate? Can we connect it with stress relief? - Jenoleniczak Jenoleniczak Oct 30, 2014
  • While acknowledging the perspectives outlined above by Psparrow, kaja, and mcollerd, I also have certain hesitations about wearable technologies in museums (and in general). It's not research-based (other than on personal experience), but I am concerned that wearable technologies, rather than offering stress-relief, will cause increased stress thanks to a constant flow of information about your personal constitution, performance, and how far off target you are. In a museum context, more specifically, I have a growing concern that once wearable technologies become commonplace they will cause more distraction and diverted attention than actual immersion in the content and stories at hand. I think museums need to investigate the potential impact - good and bad - of these kinds of technologies, and make strategic decisions about where they will support the museum's mission and where not, and how to cope with audiences increasingly wearing tech everywhere by default. - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Oct 27, 2014
  • From personal experience, having worn Google Glass daily for over a year and now a smartwatch over the last month, my view is that wearable technology is valuable in personal, professional or institutional contexts. Wearable technology is an aid to completing one's work, experiencing artworks or the museum environment rather than being a distraction. In a world saturated with media content, the question for the museum is how we best actively participate in the user's self-filtered content streams delivered primarily from third parties services on mobile devices. Being right before the user's eye with a heads-up display or at a glance on the wrist are among the most direct and present means to communicate our missions and content. For my views on Google Glass in museums see http://www.slideshare.net/nealstimler/mwf2014-neal-stimlergoogleglass - nealstimler nealstimler Oct 28, 2014
    • Agreed with Neal - I feel it is the most direct way to communicate for museums, and it can lead to a more connected visitor population as well as a more viewer driven environment. - Jenoleniczak Jenoleniczak Oct 30, 2014
  • In the little time I have had to experiment with wearables I see a huge potential for adding discoverable user generated content to a museum's offering. The first person view of Google Glass and ability to capture images/videos effortlessly could allow museums to feature user generated content (video responses to objects/tours, etc) that is location aware. This could be harnessed by the museum as either an opportunity to respond to what our visitors are doing in our galleries and offer further interpretation or as simply another form of earned media. ( - ryand ryand Oct 28, 2014 )

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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