Here, There, Everywear: Five Wearable Gadgets Which Aren’t For Your Wrist Or Your Eyes

High technology for your ear, waist, neck, foot, and finger.

Here, There, Everywear: Five Wearable Gadgets Which Aren’t For Your Wrist Or Your Eyes
[Photo: Flickr user airguy1988]

Human beings have been comfortable with the idea of strapping gadgets to their wrists for well over a century. With high-profile devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift on their way, we’re also spending a lot of time contemplating the implications of wearing a piece of technology in front of our eyes.


But the wearable-tech revolution to come isn’t just going to be about smartwatches and goggles. Herewith, five gizmos you attach to other parts of your person, including one shipping product, two others which are in the works, a concept device, and a failed crowdfunding project:

iriverON Headset

1. In your ear.

There are lots of reasons why wearable devices you stick in your ear have a shot at becoming a major industry: They could be more unobtrusive than Google Glass-style goggles, using voice recognition and synthesis to interact with you in a way that doesn’t leave you looking totally goofy. For now, devices such as iRiver’s $200 On hint at what’s possible. It’s a collar-like device with wireless Bluetooth earbuds and an optical sensor which can monitor your heart rate by examining your ear. When Gizmodo‘s Brent Rose reviewed it last year, he was intrigued by the technology but gravely disappointed by the accompanying smartphone app.

Triposo Travel Belt

2. Encircling your waist.

The Travel Belt isn’t quite a serious product–but it isn’t a hoax, either. Created by Berlin-based travel app maker Triposo, it’s a belt with embedded buzzers. Plug it into your smartphone via the audio jack, and the Triposo app can guide you around a city by buzzing your midsection to indicate whether you should go left, right, forward, or backward. Tragically, when Triposo tried to fund it by crowdfunding the idea on Indiegogo, it raised less than a third of its goal, leaving the Travel Belt dream in limbo for now.


3. Around Your Neck.

Anything which you can miniaturize enough to turn into a smartwatch, it stands to reason, can probably be shrunk down enough to be worn like a necklace. Samsung has even announced the Gear Circle, a neckwearable with smartwatch-like features. Then there’s Purple, a concept device from design firm Artefact. Looking more like jewelry than consumer electronics, it’s a Bluetooth-enabled locket which shows off photos from your social networks–but only from the people you’ve told it you really care about, not random acquaintances you don’t want to carry close to your heart.


4. Embedded in your Shoe.

If you’re out and about being physically fit, the odds are pretty good that you’re wearing shoes. So there’s plenty of logic in the idea of building sensors which monitor your activity right into the sort of footwear you might have on. Lechal, an upcoming smart shoe from an Indian company called Ducere, embeds motion sensors in its heel, and uses haptic technology to communicate with you through vibration. (With the help of a smartphone app, the shoe will also respond to voice controls, a scenario which brings to mind Maxwell Smart’s iconic shoephone.) The company also plans to build the same tech into insoles that you can stick into the sneaker of your choice.


5. On your finger.

If Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii Remote was made tiny and wearable, it would come out something like Nod. The smart ring sports embedded sensors which can sense your hand’s movement, and Bluetooth LE which lets it communicate with other gadgets. Its inventors envision it being used to let you control interfaces on smart TVs, play games, and even enter text on a smartwatch by wiggling your finger in the air. Nod was announced last April and hasn’t shipped yet, but the startup behind it is taking preorders for $149.

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.