Wearable computers

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Wearable telemedical & media communication equipment
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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, February 2018


See also Augmented reality (AR) | Gaming in health | Human-computer interaction (HCI) | Information architecture (IA) | iPad | IPhone6 in medicine | mHealth

"...a wearable computer is a very personal computer. It should be worn like a piece of clothing, as unobtrusive as possible. A user should interact with the computer based upon context. It could be a communications device (immediate or store and forward), a recorder (visual, audio, other sensors) or a reference device (local or remote resources)..."

Wearable computers (also smart clothing, body-borne computers or wearables) are small (or miniature) devices worn on the body (such as headsets or glasses) and may be voice-activated. According to Wikipedia: "...Wearable computers, also known as body-borne computers or wearables are miniature electronic devices that are worn by the bearer under, with or on top of clothing...." A good example of wearable computers is the Fitbit tracker. See some of these other Wikipedia examples.

Wearable computers aim to enable three affordances for their owners: constancy, augmentation and mediation. Unlike laptops or smartphones, wearable computers are "always on" and help owners to access information (or capture it) at any time. The information processed by wearable technologies is generally context-sensitive, and enables the wearer to interact with the world in new ways. Wearable computers are a new form of human-computer interaction (HCI) and consist of small computers worn on the body (e.g. user-programmable device). The always-ready functionality of wearable computers leads to new forms of interaction between human beings and computers, and is characterized by adaptation and refinement of those interactions.

An important distinction between wearable computers and mobiles (handhelds, tablets and laptops) is that the goal of wearable computers is to position the computer in such a way that human being and computer are bound together and achieve a transhuman intelligence, one that arises by placing humans within the computational process (Mann 1998). Chowdhury et al (2013) and Skavhaug (2014) write about human computer interfaces that draw on electrical activity of muscles, known as the muscle computer interface (muCI).

Wearable computers, the "quantified self" and gamification

The use of wearable computers in medicine continues to rise. Widespread adoption of sensors that monitor the wearer’s vital signs and other functions promise to improve patient care for the aged and chronically ill. Wearable computers can be connected to databases that enhance the levels of care provided to patients while improving patient consent and reducing medical errors and costs. Given the near-ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices, it's likely that those patients who want it can have access to continuous, quantitative monitoring of their health, vital signs and other biosignals.

A widely-available wearable computer is the implantable insulin pump. Life-endangering risks associated with this technology have been reduced to zero; examples related to glucose monitoring include biocompatibility (if the sensor is implantable), poor sensitivity and differentiating glucose signals from other irrelevant sources due to changing users. If implantable, a tool must be reliable since taking out the device will be costly and tedious. Once problems are overcome, an implantable glucose level monitoring device (artificial pancreas) can be created. Other issues to consider are portability and cost. One future application for wearable computers is to show information about the patient instead of looking up the patient’s file every time he/she comes in for appointments. Or even for surgeons and other medical personnel, or showing patient conditions when surgeons are operating, are among those who can benefit. Other uses could be portable devices which monitor the patient's heart rate or blood pressure and will automatically contact the doctor when the patient's readings are not satisfactory. This would allow a patient to be monitored and allowed out of the hospital. As computer technologies become smaller and lighter every year, all kinds of applications of wearable computers and sensors are certain to emerge. Retina display devices, for example, will make it possible for anesthesiologists to concentrate on patients rather than on computer monitors. Voice-activated information retrieval will provide instant access to relevant visual information at point-of-care. This should prove useful for treatment of patients in the out-of-the-hospital setting.

Acording to Wikipedia, the quantified self is " a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person's daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical)...self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing, is known as lifelogging. Other names for self-tracking data include "self-tracking", "auto-analytics", "body hacking", "self-quantifying", "self-surveillance" and "personal informatics". The quantified self is self-knowledge through self-tracking. Quantified self-advancement has allowed individuals to quantify biometrics they never knew existed, as well as make data collection cheaper and more convenient. One can track insulin and cortisol levels, sequence DNA, and see what microbial cells inhabit his or her body...". In a desire to control one's own bodily functioning (and hence "health"), the quantified self movement is itself a kind of gaming or "gamification" because it involves getting scores and badges (Brigham, 2015).

Fitbit comparisons


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