What is a wearable computer? Definition and examples

A wearable computer is a small computing device designed to be worn as an accessory on a user’s body, for example, on the wrist. 

Wearable computers can have specific uses, such as fitness trackers, or have a wide array of features, such as a smartwatch with many “smart” functions similar to those found on a smartphone.  

More advanced wearable computing devices allow users to read and respond to emails, send text messages, browse the web, view photos or video, and view social media notifications. 

Wearables are typically worn on the wrist (like smartwatches), strapped to the arm, on the head, or hung from the neck. 

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch (pictured above) is an example of a wearable computer.

Examples of wearable computers:

Smartwatches – modern smartwatches feature a local touchscreen interface for daily use. They typically have WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity to pair with a smartphone and cooperate with a smartphone app to carry out certain functions. 

Fitness tracking bands – these devices are strapped around the wrist and have a screen showing vital fitness and health information, such as heart rate, the number of calories burned, and the total number of steps one has done in a day. 

Smart glasses – smart glasses, such as the one Google developed known as “Google Glass” have the potential to provide an augmented reality experience for users. 

The first wearable computer was invented by Steve Mann. In the late 1970s, Mann invented the “Digital Eye Glass” (EyeTap). The device he assists with vision and causes the human eye to effectively become both an electronic camera and a television display. 

In the video embedded below, Steve Mann, PhD, recognized as “the father of the wearable computer”, talks about Wearable Computing and the Veillance Contract.