MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte takes you on a journey through the last 30 years of tech. The consummate predictor highlights interfaces and innovations he foresaw in the 1970s and 1980s that were scoffed at then but are ubiquitous today. And he leaves you with one last (absurd? brilliant?) prediction for the coming 30 years. If you haven't yet, you should read (or re-read) his classic "Being Digital."
Pentland might be credited as the grandfather of wearable tech, but he does have a few predecessors: more than a decade before he arrived at MIT, mathematician Edward Thorp and computational theorist Claude Shannon devised an intricate contraption with the admirable goal of cheating at the roulette table. The device, which was the size of a cigarette case and captured speed data on both the wheel and the ball, relied on two switches in the wearer’s shoes: one press turned on the computer, the other press initiated the timing. A musical tone would sound in the bettor’s ear to signal when the ball had three or four revolutions left — he would (naturally) be wearing a hearing-aid-like device, attached to the computer by wires camouflaged to match his skin and hair.
Though Thorp and Shannon’s invention was ingenious, it remained unwieldy, capable of performing only a single task. It would take much more to make wearable technology both widely functional and widely usable. And that "more" came from the first place dedicated exclusively to the creation of wearables: the Wearable Computing Project, inaugurated by Pentland upon returning to MIT in 1986, and then formally launched as its own entity in 1998 under the auspices of Pentland’s lab.
The first wearable prototypes that looked anything like those of today emerged from the lab in the early 1990s. And by 1998, Pentland’s "wearables closet" had grown, he recalls, to include "glasses with a private, full-resolution computer display; a health monitor in a watch that records my temperature, heart rate and blood pressure; a computer-in-a-belt with a wireless internet connection; a lapel pin that doubles as a camera and microphone; and a touchpad or keyboard literally sewn into a jacket."
All the recent talk about wearables continues to intensify as the various developer conferences happen and we see (or not) what the main players are thinking in this area. I still believe that the key to this market is going to be the company or product that utilizes software and hardware to actually encourage behavior change. Many reports indicate people start using wearables and within months seize to wear them. It's all in the name, if you are not wearing them they don't really help you. And the best wearable is a good habit.
Krista Donaldson uses design to fight jaundice, create prosthetic limbs, and solve some of the developing world’s most vexing problems. This is why we was selcted as the 2014 ALVA Award winner, a special prize presented by Behance in partnership with GE to recognize remarkable serial inventors.
In this 99U talk, she offers a peek into her team’s design process for getting complicated medical treatments to all corners of the world for a price anyone can afford. Chief among her advice? Talk to your customers. Then talk to them again. And use all that feedback to iterate and, when needed, drastically shift your design process. “We want closure on our projects…but people and society and technologies change. You want to be okay with the ambiguity.”
The installation consists in an imposing wooden cube. A lamp attached to the top of the structure dimly lights a livid and stripped scene where two porcelain vases lie on a white dresser. The lighting highlights their shadows on the wall. As soon as someone pushes the lightbulb, the shadows of the vases come to life and animate, as if by magic, to the rhythm of the swinging light source.
Discover the extraordinary in just about everything ordinary. Join best-selling author Steven Johnson for a 6-part series that explores the power and the legacy of great ideas. Hear the stories behind the remarkable ideas that made modern life possible, the unsung heroes who brought them about and the unexpected and bizarre consequences each of these innovations triggered.
I am a big fan of Steven Johnson's writing. Pick one of his books and you'll be hooked. He has a fascinating way of translating technological stories to something everyone can understand and relate to. I'm looking forward to it. The series premieres in October on PBS and BBC and will have an accompanying book to go with it. Here is a taste of the first episode: