Will Bendables Usher In A New Vision For Wearable Computing?

Flexible Display
Flexible Display

When Google introduced Google Glass, I was not surprised.

I was waiting for something like that since the late 20th Century when I saw a wearable display while working at IBM. In those days, the idea was to connect the display to a laptop the size of the old Thinkpad “butterfly” which the user would carry on a shoulder strap. At that point, the technology needed to support truly wearable computing wasn’t available. There had to be improvements in circuitry such that computers were much more compact. There also had to be a method of attaching the display to the computing device without wires and improvements in voice recognition so the user could control the device better.

IBM didn’t progress further in developing the wearable computing technology but I knew it was just a matter of time. Bluetooth and smartphones overcame some of the obstacles that made wearable computing impractical

Last year, IBM announced the ability to manufacture silicon-based electronics on a flexible plastic substrate. The process leads to low-power consumption devices that can be used as the basis for things like bendable smartphones or foldable electronic “newspapers”.

The prospects become interesting for things like truly wearable communication devices. Unlike today’s smartphone watches, which are just a Bluetooth connected input to a smartphone, you can now have the entire device molded into an attractive bracelet that contains the display, a microphone and actual processors into something that would look no different than a bracelet. Instead of batteries, the unit could use the same bendable technology to integrate a solar power source integrated into the computing “bracelet”. No more carrying around a bulky phone in purse or pocket; you can wear the entire device on your wrist or even make the processing device a belt that you communicate through Bluetooth using your “glasses” display.

Any way you look at it, the breakthrough in bendable circuitry will make true wearable computing a simple manufacturing problem.

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(Image Credit – Bing Images)

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