Wearable Technologies in Academic Libraries: Fact, Fiction and the Future
Chapter 7 of Canuel, R & Crischton, C (2017). Mobile Technology and Academic Libraries: Innovative Services for Research and Learning. Chicago, IL. ACRL. Nick Moline, a developer and early Google Glass Explorer, can still recall Google’s mantra when he was first introduced to the wearable device: “If you can bring technology closer to you, you can actually get it out of the way” (Moline, personal communication, December 29, 2015). Similarly, Steve Mann, a researcher and inventor widely known as the father of wearable computing once wrote that “miniaturization of components has enabled systems that are wearable and nearly invisible, so that individuals can move about and interact freely, supported by their personal information domain” (Nichol, 2015). Today’s wearable devices are the continuation and evolution of decades of research and development. This transition began with devices designed to be worn as backpacks, such as the 6502 multimedia computer designed by Steve Mann in 1981, evolved to a one-handed keyboard and mouse connected to a head-mounted display produced in 1993, and then advanced further into a wrist computer made available the next year. The first commercially available wearable device, however, was the Trekker, a 120 MHz Pentium computer with support for speech and a head-mounted display, which sold for $10,000 (Sultan, 2015). These early wearable devices, however, were characterized by limited functionality and bulky design. By the mid 2010s, fitness tracker devices emerged with their attractive designs targeting sport and fitness enthusiasts. More recent fitness trackers blend smartwatches with multiple other functionalities, combining health and activity monitoring as well as networking capabilities. There are many factors that contributed to the rapid proliferation of wearable devices in the last five years. These factors include the advent of more reliable Internet access; the ubiquity of smartphones; decline in cost of sensors, cameras, and processing power; and finally, a flourishing app ecosystem (Mind Commerce, 2014).
Published in: Canuel, R & Crischton, C (2017). Mobile Technology and Academic Libraries: Innovative Services for Research and Learning. Chicago, IL. ACRL.
Open Access (fully available)
Copyright retained by author