Wearable tech to tempt everyone from hockey fans to Fido

Discover the ultimate in tech wearables with these creative uses. Police officers, hockey fans, gym slackers and even the family dog are the recipients of the latest wearable gear.


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View while wearing Google Glass at the Washington Capitals' hockey game
Photo: Chris Niewinski

Heading away from the game to grab a beer or nachos? You might not miss any of the action if you’re a Washington Capitals hockey fan because APX Labs is testing Google Glass on select fans during each game.

APX built a platform to provide fans with instant stats and replays via Google Glass. The platform is also used for other applications in sectors including healthcare, manufacturing and retail.

“We started looking at smart glasses 3-1/2 years ago to drive all sorts of experiences whether military, consumer or business,” said Brian Ballard, CEO of APX Labs. When Google Glass came out last year, the concept of using the platform to provide in-stadium entertainment was a natural fit, particularly for fantasy football fans who want to keep up with stats as they watch the game, he said.

There were questions to be answered before the high-tech eyewear could be available to fans. “We began looking at the rest of the puzzle piece. How do you get data into a stadium? What does the infrastructure look like? What can capture your attention and imagination for the entire game? By the time those issues sorted themselves out and we were in the middle of the hockey season, we were talking to Revolution Growth, we asked if they knew anyone who would think it was cool. They were tied into the Washington Capitals hockey team. The Verizon Center is one of the most connected stadiums in the country. It gave us data that you can only get inside the stadium,” Ballard said.

SEE: Photos: Creative uses of wearable tech

APX began providing select fans with Google Glass in January, with 10-15 fans using the eyewear during each game. So far, a few hundred fans have tested the product to rave reviews. “If you miss something during the game, no big deal. You get that instantly popped up in your view, you get a couple second clip of the replay, you can browse through player stats. The possibilities are endless,” Ballard said.

The tech wearable is proving so popular that APX is already talking to other teams, but expansion will be limited to stadiums with the infrastructure to support a mobile device deployment, Ballard said.

Motorcycle helmets and headset computers

Another creative use APX has found for the platform is the Nuviz Ride:HUD display for motorcycle helmets. Nuviz was the focus of a recent Kickstarter campaign that raised $200,000 and, more importantly to Ballard, showed the public’s interest in the product with APX adding 25,000 followers on Facebook during the campaign. The head-up display can be retrofitted to existing helmets and, much like Google Glass, will provide access to navigation, photo and video capture, emails, texts, music and more.

The APX platform is also being used for deployments in oil and gas, as well as the healthcare industry so that, for instance, surgeons can get hands-free access to data about a patient while in the operating room, Ballard said.


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HC1 headset computer
Photo: Motorola Solutions/Jim Lennon

Motorola Solutions has created a headset computer, the HC1, which serves as a hands-free wearable enterprise mobile computer that is especially handy for those in remote locations, or harsh environments, when it’s impractical to use a handheld device. The HC1 is an enterprise computer within the headset that gives the user access to a full desktop experience, said Nicole Tricoukes, a member of Motorola Solutions’ Innovation team.

The HC1 can pull up a full PDF, a manual, or a diagram. Voice recognition is used to expand the document or pan around to review information. This is ideal for an aircraft mechanic fixing a rotary blade, for example, or others who work in fields without room for a laptop. The HC1 is being used by Areva in its nuclear power plants and in other companies for which Motorola has signed nondisclosure agreements, Tricoukes said.

“It helps to diagnose, repair and fix in the field. It has reduced the cost of sending the wrong equipment. It’s used for high value assets. Think wind farms, military equipment. Anything with a huge engine in it. It’s also used for healthcare applications. We’re seeing wearables for in-hospital training, as a remote doctor over the shoulder. We’ve even done some work with folks in relief operations in training trauma care medics,” she said.

Body sensors for public safety officers

Motorola is also developing wearable technology for police officers to use on the front line, such as body sensors that are built into belts, vests or other police gear. The sensors monitor biophysical activity such as blood pressure and heart rates. That tells those monitoring the sensors whether a police is running, or has fallen down and laying still. This triggers police backup to be called in case they are in trouble, said Pat Koskan, senior manager of advanced devices at Motorola Solutions.

“We also want to understand things that happen in the course of a stop, for instance. If he’s pulled his gun, or left his vehicle and started running,” Koskan said. “It keeps the officer focused on his task at hand and backup can happen in the background. It’s comforting for the officer to know this is happening. We can provide that officer feedback with Google Glass or other wearables to let them know that information has been received.”

Mutualink is also working with public safety agencies to provide wearables. The company is working with first responders such as police and firefighters, since they have the greatest need to keep their hands free to do their jobs. Mutualink is working with Google Glass to test the product. “What we showed in our demonstrations is that you can show a live video coming to your eye that way. We showed annotated maps of a school, etc, and someone would be drawing on that map and a first responder would be seeing that in his or her eye,” said Mike Wengrovitz, vice president of innovation for Mutualink.

The end result? “I think we need more lessons learned here. This whole notion of how teams work together when they’re enabled with wearable technology is right at the edge of innovation and the way that we think we can proceed there is to do some tests. Do some trials and some exericses and get some lessons learned. And basically continue to develop the features from there. We need to continue to evolve the software and the system and get lessons learned with field trials,” Wengrovitz said.

Fitness uses for wearables

Moving into the fitness realm, EXOS (formerly Athletes’ Performance Inc.) uses Google Glass to help people train, resulting in a personalized, prescriptive training program and interaction with coaches. EXOS works with professional athletes as well as the military and corporations, said Jon Zerden, CTO of EXOS.

EXOS retrofits training equipment, such as a treadmill, with its own software so that coaches can prescribe specific training regimens by determining a person’s optimal speed and intensity. By adding in Google Glass, it gives more data points and a training program is more precise, Zerden said.

“The more captured data I can get, the more precise your program can be. What we try to do with Glass in a corporate setting, is when you come into a facility, say there is a coach on the floor. We’ll alert the coaches onto the Glass who is in the facility, why they’re there, and then give them pertinent data about the individuals,” he said. “We give them specific evaluation results so they know how to work with the individual. I may have a hip problem or a knee problem … all that information will come back to the coach.”

Google Glass is also used to video record parts of the workout so that it can be annotated and given back to the client for guidance. It’s also used to prevent dropouts.

“Say you’ve been coming to the gym, then decide to not show up. If we have a better way to figure out how that is going to occur, and when, we have a better intervention rate. We run analytics on an individual to predict dropout and we provide that back to the coach. If you have a high propensity to drop out, the coach will spend more time with you than the others,” Zerden said.

EXOS has partnered with Adidas to pair fitness wearables with real time coaching. Anyone with a fitness wearable can download the miCoach app and add in a wearable with a heart rate sensor that also measures distance. “We can read those results and prescribe live in your ear and say speed up or slow down,” Zerden said.

Fashion, Fido and FitBit


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The Whistle is like a FitBit, but for dogs
Photo: Whistle

And then there's the wearable for the person who has everything:  an activity wearable for the family dog. Yes, for the dog. The Whistle Activity Monitor fits onto a dog’s collar for feedback on how much a dog is walking, playing and sleeping. The dog’s owner can use an app to find out if their dog is active during the day,  sleeping too much, or even playing too much. Although playing too much is highly subjective, when a dog is the subject of the analysis.

There are also fashion-related uses. Nurun recently teamed with L'Oreal Paris to use Google Glass at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Madrid, for behind-the-scenes uses including makeup tutorials and backstage footage of designers and stylists. Nurun said this was the perfect pairing because of the futuristic nature of Google Glass and the fashion-forward, tech-savvy audience in Madrid.

In Nurun's San Francisco office, the team built a prototype using FitBit and Google Glass, where messages from FitBit are displayed on Google Glass so that they can be read and heard with minimal distraction, said David Bliss, executive director of technical R&D at Nurun.

Whatever the wearable, there is usually an out-of-the-box way to use it in various scenarios. And more options are sure to be soon to arrive because some companies, such as Nurun's Toronto office, are hosting in-house hackathons to encourage employees to come up with innovative uses for wearables.

Khoa Nguyen, emerging technologist at Nurun, said, "The way we structure the hackathon, we don’t require people to adhere to requirements. If people have a hack idea, we do what we can to support them. We don’t require them to specifically develop something for Glass. One idea that someone had was to tie Google Glass with an app on a smartwatch. We’re looking for more ideas like that."