TECH MODULE 4.6: Wearable Technology

Wearable technologywearable devices,  or wearable electronics are clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features. (Source: Wikipedia). Check out, the first platform dedicated to wearable technologies. While many of these wearables are focused on either health (tracking your movement, eating habits, heart beat etc.) or leasure (integrated radio earphones etc.), in the cultural arena, mostly augmented reality features are mixed with wearbles, see, for example, or the Guardians (always interesting) museum trends forecast (that, by the way, also mentions the MeSCH project and its interactive showcases, see Module Intelligent Hardware).

Wearable technologies in the cultural area relate to 3D and augmented reality experience via glasses or headgear, or to sensor techniques that can be integrated in clothes or gloves. But they can also be used for inclusion purpose, e.g. Googleglass4LIS project where Google glasses are used to show in Italian sign language (LIS) the description of archeological objects. In a museum context, follow the discussion about the pros and cons of wearable technology on: where you can also find our eCult Ambassador Kaja.

Wearable technology in cultural heritage is still far from being mainstream. Most cases where wearable technology is deployed are pilot cases such as Google glasses. Another technology for future use are sensors (most often in the context of the Internet of Things, where sensors on dead objects "communicate" with sensors on clothes that the humans wear. One such pilot is within the CultAR project, a sensore glove:
  Here, Jari Harju, expert of eCultValue, tries the "sensor glove" developed by CultAR at the 3rd eCult Dialogue Day in Dubrovnik.

The sensors in the glove eract to sensors on an art object. If there is an art object nearby, a slight vibration is detectable. If the glove is turned in the direction, information about the object appears on a tablet or smart phone, or can be heard via the headgear, here worn by Robbie of Nymbol. See also Antti Nurminen's presentation "Sensing culture with CultAR" from our last Dialogue Day.

Althoug not related to cultural heritage, two "gadgets" as identified by appear worthwhile mentioning:
Digital Tattoos to engage with you smartphone by tapping on it, e.g. to avoid repeated typing of your access code, and
First sign smart clip, a safety hair or clothes clip that realises an unforseen impact on you like an assault and connects to an emergency call.

If you want some special attraction for your cultural heritage collection, this type of tools might be the solution. But they can also serve a practical purpose, e.g. to provide special information or information in a special format (e.g. sign language) to physically impaired people. Once all you (real) objects are tagged with sensors (e.g. RFID, iBeacons etc.) you may consider providing sensor wearables to visitors or sensor headgears. But beware that for the time being, there are no mainstream products so that any implementation will rather be on the high budgetary side. (But see also: Financing ICT for Cultural Heritage, soon to come).

Before considering wearables in your museum, make a cost-benefit analysis. But at the same time, observe the trends and markets: wearables are on the forefront (albeit in other sectors) but culture and art may soon benefit from those developments.

Both use cases given above stem from EU projects:

 CultAR project