07/31/2015

Wearable Technology Goes Way Back

20:18 minutes

A Google Glass prototype called "Ant" that was developed in March 2011. Photo by Maria Wong Sala
A Google Glass prototype called “Ant” that was developed in March 2011. Photo by Maria Wong Sala

Google Glass, Fitbits, and the Apple Watch are just the latest products in a long evolution of wearable technology. One of the earliest examples was developed in 1955: a computer the size of a deck of cards, wedged in a shoe, to help gamblers up the odds on roulette in Vegas. Then, in the early 1990s, Georgia Tech computing professor Thad Starner started wearing his homebrew computing device: safety goggles with a personal display glued to them, attached to a small handheld controller and a wireless modem. He later went on to work on Google’s Project Glass.

But the problem with a lot of wearable tech, says fashion technologist Amanda Parkes, is that it isn’t truly fashion—it’s just technology strapped to your body. She’s working to change that by designing things like high-tech fabrics, or high heels developed with mechanical engineering in mind—what she calls the “Tesla of stilettos.” In this segment, guest host Manoush Zomorodi talks with Parkes and Starner about the long history of wearables, and where they’re going next.

Segment Guests

Thad Starner

Thad Starner is a professor of computing at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.

Amanda Parkes

Amanda Parkes is a fashion technologist and Chief of Technology & Research at ManufactureNY in Brooklyn, New York.

Meet the Producer

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata is Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.