The Research Triangle Park

RTP 180 Recap: Wearables

By Jun 23, 2016

Like many of the topics at RTP 180, I didn’t know very much about wearables going into the event. My definition of wearables are two things that go on your feet – shoes. If you missed last week’s 180, you also missed my size 17 Air Jordan shoes. I used to collect shoes growing up and yes, believe it or not I have a pair of Air Jordan’s made for the University of North Carolina in a men’s size 17. Two things are wrong with this picture:

  1. I am a huge East Carolina Pirate fan.
  2. I really have no use for a shoe that is a long as the length from my elbow to my fingertips.

After this month’s RTP 180, here’s what I’ve learned about this bigger-than-shoes topic. Wearables come in all shapes and sizes. They measure, monitor, send and receive data, and can even provide therapeutic healing. There also seems to be a common goal for wearable researchers and developers around how to make wearable technology nearly invisible, yet durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of not only our everyday lives, but also athletics and higher impact activities.

The real definition of wearables (according to Wikipedia, so you know it’s true) is clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and advanced electronic technologies. Google glass may have failed, but I have a hunch our speakers have a few things up their sleeves that will help change our world.

Up first:

Dr. Steve Leboeuf, President and Co-founder of Valencell
Everyone wants to live a longer and healthier life, but who wants to wear 100 devices and look like a Ghost Buster in order to monitor their health? That’s where Leboeuf’s team and products come into a play. With a set of earbuds or a wrist band, Valencell tracks and monitors your overall health and wellbeing. For example, what diets might do very well for you, or what environments cause you to get sick the most.

Dr. Michael Daniele, North Carolina State, University of North Carolina BME

Mike has only been in the triangle for a little less than a year, but he’s making a big impact already. He came down here to explore wearable technology and biomedical engineering. Mike has a list of questions in regards to wearables, but his biggest question is: “How do I measure WHO I AM?” I can physically look at myself and see who I am, but can a wearable define who I am?

His other questions include:

Do wearables quantify people the same?

How do we define who someone is behind wearables?

Can we transfer feelings? For example: can we take what it feels like to get hit by a linebacker or falling 300 feet on a rolling coaster and transfer it to another person via a wearable device?

Sounds like Mike has a lot of all-nighters in a lab in his future.

Diana Wyman, AATCC
Diana is all about the testing of wearables along with understanding the difference between wearable tech and e-textiles. The most important test that e-textiles must pass is the laundering test. Can a device or e-textile withstand the force of a washing machine or dryer? Next, can it withstand normal wear and tear like perspiration from our bodies, exposure to sunlight, stretching etc.

Can we continue to pack electronics and textiles together and still have a good product? Especially with the notion that wearable tech and e-textiles will soon need to be almost, if not completely, invisible. At the end of a day, shirt needs to still look like a normal shirt.

Dr. Minyoung Suh and Dr. Paolo Maccarini

Measuring and monitoring our health are absolutely wonderful ideas that wearable technology can provide assistance with, but what about actually curing a disease or illness? Dr. Suh and Dr. Maccarini are in the thick of creating a wearable bra that helps fight breast cancer using thermotherapy (the use of heat).

Our 180 speakers this month really helped to show us that wearable technology is only getting started. Like I said, Google Glass might have failed, but these folks are onto something…big!

Until next time…

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