Smart Socks, Smart Skates and Other Unusual New Wearables

The future of wearables goes far beyond the wrist.

By Brett Poirier on June 8, 2015

Wearable technology is currently in the process of changing the sports and fitness landscape. As Shira Springer wrote in the Boston Globe, “Today’s data-driven sports world craves more in-depth information about athletes, the kind of statistical feedback that increasingly comes most reliably and most conveniently from wearable devices.”

As we know from the Apple Watch and other fitness wearables, it isn’t just elite athletes that are turning to items such as fitness trackers and smart watches, either. According to a survey from Forrester reported by Adweek, 10 percent of Americans own a fitness tracker like the ones made by Fitbit and Jawbone, and that number will surely rise sharply as the Apple Watch gains more users.

But the wrist is just the beginning—companies around the world are racing to invent the next wearable tech device in a category so new there aren’t any limits.

Here are some items that are set to change the perception of wearable tech.

Hovding Airbag for Cyclists

Tired of helmets messing up your hair or not giving you the protection you’re looking for in the event of a bicycle accident? Swedish company Hovding may have the solution for you. Hovding has found a way to protect the head from injury during a fall without wearing a helmet. The Hovding airbag, which looks like nothing more than a loose-fitting neck brace, has a zipper under the user’s chin that, when zipped and buttoned, activates an on/off switch on the device. LED lights and a sound notification let the user know that the device is on properly.

Hovding uses an algorithm that can determine the difference between cycling and a crash. In the event of an accident, a gas inflator located on the user’s back inflates an ultra-strong nylon airbag around the user’s head, without covering the face, in less than one-tenth of a second. To top it off, a black box in the device records up to 10 seconds of the accident.

Acton Rocketskates

This product certainly isn’t going to help you reach your fitness goals, but it will change the way you move. Acton has developed electric skates that don’t require a remote control. The skates stop and go strictly depending on foot position. Each skate includes two hub motors powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and controlled by a microprocessor. The skates communicate with one another, so when one stops, so does the other. Like most wearable tech, the Acton Rocketskates can be monitored through a smartphone with the Acton app.

Sensoria Fitness Socks

Part of the reason wristband fitness trackers have become so popular is because they’re unobtrusive and hardly noticeable. Athletes don’t feel weighed down by the lightweight devices on their wrists. They won’t notice a thing with Sensoria’s Fitness Socks, either. When linked with Sensoria’s app, the socks imitate a fitness tracker and show data, such as steps taken, calories burned, speed and altitude and distance tracking.

Here’s where the major difference comes in between a fitness tracker and the Sensoria Fitness Socks: the socks can track foot cadence, foot-landing technique, and weight distribution. Textile sensors within the socks communicate with an electronic anklet located at the top of one sock. The app works in real time to show the user where they are putting pressure on their feet while they are still running.

Temporary Tattoo Sensor/Biobattery

Imagine forgetting to charge your smartphone before your workout, but using your own sweat from running around to bring your phone back to life. It isn’t possible yet, but thanks to a research team at the University of California, San Diego, it could be on the way. The team introduced a temporary tattoo sensor in 2013 that can measure users’ lactate levels in their sweat as they exercise. A year later, they took it a step further by adding a biobattery to the tattoo that’s powered by sweat. The current produced in a recent trial wasn’t strong enough to power an electronic device, but researchers believe it will be possible in the future.

MC10 Biostamp

It’s possible that no wearable tech product on the market has the potential to change the industry more than the MC10 Biostamp. Similar to the temporary tattoo, it sits against a user’s skin like a sticker, but can do much more than measure lactate or count calories burned. The Biostamp can measure physiological functions such as body temperature and body movement while collecting data from the heart, muscles and brain.

Inside the Biostamp, which is smaller than most Band-Aids, is a thin film battery that tracks data and makes it available through a smartphone, while still in use. Much like a Band-Aid, the Biostamp is designed to be disposable. Because of its capabilities, it’s expected to not only impact the sports landscape, but also the healthcare field.

Tags: Smart technology, sports, Sports Technology, wireless sensor technology, wearable tech, wearable fitness