Wearable devices represent one of the latest trends in digital technology. Countless gizmos and gadgets get invented every day, and a lot of them have the potential to help us live better and healthier lives.
According to the statistics published by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the wearable market is growing rapidly. With an 8.3 percent increase from the previous year and 27.9 million units sold just during the second quarter of 2018, wearable devices are literally taking the world of technology by storm. Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest players such as Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei and Fitbit are investing a lot in this field to develop new smart solutions and stay ahead of the game. The introduction of AI further enhanced the capabilities of these handy devices, whose applications now range from tracking every function of our bodies to improve our fitness levels, to saving lone people’s lives in case of an emergency.
People with sight or hearing loss must face a lot of challenges every day to perform many basic activities. From crossing the street to ordering food on the phone, even the simplest chore can quickly become a struggle. Things may change for these struggling with sight or hearing loss, however, as some companies have started developing machine learning-based systems to help the blind and visually impaired find their way across cities, and the deaf and hearing impaired enjoy some good music.
German AI company AiServe combined computer vision and wearable hardware(camera, microphone and earphones) with AI and location services to design a system that is able to acquire data over time to help people navigate through neighborhoods and city blocks. Sort of like a car navigation system, but in a much more adaptable form which can “learn how to walk like a human” by identifying all the visual cues needed to avoid common obstacles such as light posts, curbs, benches and parked cars.
In the meanwhile, the London-based CuteCircuit started developing an amazing new technology to help deaf people “feel” music through other senses. Their Sound Shirt has been commissioned by a German orchestra from Hamburg and is connected to a computer system that elaborates the audio transmitted to several microphones scattered around the orchestra’s stage. The shirt is full of small actuators that vibrate in real time at an intensity which is proportional to the music being played, providing the customer with a tactile “feeling” of the actual melody.
Starkey Hearing Technologies took a different approach, instead. They included a lot of smart functions in their new AI-powered hearing aid, such as real-time foreign language translations, or constant tracking of your physical and mental status, to help people with hearing loss overcome the social stigma associated with these prosthetic devices. They hope to encourage more people who live with hearing loss feel less “disabled” and use these devices as hearing aids become the next “cool thing” instead of something to be ashamed of