The Saga of Wearable Technology

The more sci-fi oriented amongst you will be well aware that the new Star Wars sequels are due to commence next year, with the first part seeing Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill all reprising their roles in the original trilogy as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker respectively.

We’ll keep our counsel as to how we think these movies are going to fare with the critics (they’re sure to be box office smashes) but the last character in that list, Luke, is of particular interest.

Again, you need to be a devotee of the movies (or at least have seen them a couple of times) so apologies if you have not, but you’ll probably remember in the first episode (actually Episode IV!), Skywalker turns off his guidance system computer and relies on the ‘force’ to destroy the Death Star instead.

This computer was no clunking laptop, but a small screen which was positioned in front of and around the pilot’s head – all very hi tech for 1977, but also quite prescient.


Because, zip forward to 2014, and ‘wearable technology’ is very much a reality, albeit usually for carrying out more mundane tasks than freeing a galaxy! (alright, alright, we know technically the guidance system on the X-Wing wasn’t ‘wearable’, but you catch the point – if you prefer, we could also mention the original Terminator movie from a few years later, as an example of wearable technology in action!).

In fact, there really is no time like the present – 2014 has been designated the year of wearable tech by those in the know, which hopefully means all of us will be donning our X-ray specs soon enough!


Certainly not – wearable computers date back almost as far as computers themselves, to the early 1960s!

We’ll outline the uses of these inventions a little further below, but one of the most familiar early-era wearable tech was the calculator watch.

Many of us old enough to remember the digital watch boom of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s will have had these – a digital watch which had a calculator function (as well as a stopwatch function and, in some cases, rudimentary games).

Believe it or not, the technology for the all-new Google Glass, which we’ll discuss below, dates back as far as the early 80s with Steve Mann’s EyeTap device.


Virtual reality (VR) was a buzz technology back in the mid-late ‘90s before receding into the background…for a while (see below).

Why, then, has it become a la mode to talk about wearable tech if it’s been around for years?

Perhaps the most beneficial advances in wearable tech have come in the medical sphere – electronic pacemakers can be monitored remotely, and digital hearing aids have similarly revolutionized many people’s lives.

Similarly, wearable tech enables those in the emergency services, not to mention the courier/postal sector, salespeople and other professional access to large quantities of important information whilst on the go.

After a lull in the 1990s, wearable tech was really back with a vengeance in the 2000s with the Bluetooth earpiece and Apple’s iPod meeting not only the requirements of being wearable and useful, but also trendy, at least if joggers in New York’s central park are any measure of these things.


As with all technical advances, wearable tech hasn’t always been utilized for the most wholesome of pursuits – we’re not just talking about VR porn here, although that could qualify, but the phenomenon of using wearable tech to cheat in casinos and other gaming outlets. In fact, this has been such a busy area down the years that Hi-Tech casino scams merit a whole article on their own.


And it does have a long pedigree as we hinted at the beginning.

It has to be stressed that not all of these activities were deemed illegal at the time they were engaged, the law and best practices do have a habit of lagging behind the tiny whizz-kid segment of the populace, nor were they intentions of the developers necessarily nefarious – many of them were more interested to try out their theories and to plough any money raised back into their research; but in any case here are just a few of the ways, in loosely chronological order, in which wearable tech has been used to cheat at gambling:

  • 1961: MIT math professor Edward Thorpe develops a wearable-type computer which gives him an edge of 44% in casino Roulette (naturally in the usual run of things, the house will have a slight edge over the player).
  • 1973: 3 French nationals are able to develop and use a doctored Roulette ball (one of the group was a croupier) which a woman sitting on the next table operates remotely with a device hidden in a cigarette box to drop into one of a range of 6 Roulette numbers (with a 90% chance). The group is eventually caught – nowadays smoking bans put a stop to such shenanigans anyway.
  • 1975: one Keith Taft develops a wearable computer he calls ‘George’, which is concealed both on his person and in his shoe, to cheat at BlackJack, though with limited success.
  • Late 1970s: a group of graduate physicists called the Eudaemons use a wearable computer which requires 2 operators, also to cheat at Roulette which curiously also yields a 44% advantage to the user. This project is cut short after the solenoid administers multiple electric shocks and even burns one of the users.
  • Jumping forward to 2004: another group of 3, this time from Eastern Europe, are apprehended after using a laser scanner to diddle the Ritz Casino in London out of up to £1.3m, again on the Roulette tables.
  • 2006: predictive Roulette devices go on sale for £1,000 apiece in the UK; authorities say that it is up to the casinos to police themselves.
  • 2013: one of the most recent and most successful scams sees a man making off with £33m (!) from Australia’s high rolling Crown Casino, after using tech which linked him via an earpiece to an accomplice outside, who had access to the casino’s video surveillance and thus could see what was going on at various table games. Ironically the earpiece tech itself was simply a device which could be bought cheaply from any high street electronics store – sometimes it is better to keep it simple!


But what of technology for those of us who don’t like cheating?

Three of the biggest developments in wearable tech have appeared in just the last couple of years. You just have to check our article about the 2014 gadgets if you are not convinced.

The Pebble smartwatch, which was forged in the crucible of the tech community in being funded by the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, to the tune of $10m (the highest Kickstarter-raised crowdfund to date in fact) has set the benchmark for the future of Android/iOS compatible smartwatches, and its follow-up, the Pebble Steel, even looks fashionable!

Pebble smartwatch

The Occulus Rift VR head-mounted display is due to roll-out to consumers by early 2015, and will revolutionize computer gaming, making a 3D, realistic experience the norm.

Then there’s the higher profile Google Glass, perhaps the most exciting tech innovation of recent years.

First modelled by Geordi la Forge in Star Trek the Next Generation…well not quite, but they resemble the specs which the character wore, enabling him to see (he was blind); only Google Glass does much more than that, enabling interaction with the Internet and various other functions such as filming videos – and you won’t be bumping into things while you walk either, the Google Glass device is small, affixing to prescription lenses (if you need them) and in any case offering a pretty trendy look which beats walking along tapping into a smartphone any day of the week…



As stated, wearable tech is very much in vogue right now, which could mean that it won’t be in future.

Fashion changes, security concerns or even people simply yearning for a simpler lifestyle without so many gadgets could lead to a slowing of development in the sector…

…then again that’s what they said about the telephone when it was first invented; clearly wearable tech is here to stay – it just has too many useful applications not to, and advances in materials used to manufacture the products, not to mention being able to do so more and more cheaply, mean that wearable tech will probably be no more of an encumbrance than wearing a watch or remembering to take your phone with you is today (and perhaps less of an encumbrance).

More and more of our everyday tasks are likely to be integrated in the wearable tech platform, so it’s reasonable to expect desktop computers, phones and even tablets to recede even more into the background or at least to get a lot less cumbersome – screens which you can roll up like a piece of paper (and perhaps even rip up once you’re done) and which link to your wearable tech, or your watch to be able to perform all functions including shopping, identifying yourself or securing you dwelling place might be a very real possibility in the near future, so it’s an interesting time to be alive!

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