The first human technologies were tools made from stone, wood, antlers and bones. As we advanced as a species, we added fire, clothing, and boats to our technological repertoire, along with housing, ceramics and domesticated animals.
All of these advancements have changed how humans behave and interact with their environments. In the 21st century, we’re still creating and inventing at a breathtaking pace—constantly pushing the boundaries with things like wearable, ingestible, and embeddable technology.
Most people own, or know someone who owns, a piece of wearable tech. It might be a step counter, a fitness watch, wireless headphones or something more specialized.
You might be surprized to learn that wearable technology has a long history—the first piece of wearable tech was an abacus ring created in China between 1368 and 1644. The ring allowed the wearer to make quick mathematic calculations with the help of a tiny pin that moved beads. We’ve been into wearables ever since.
The next big trends in wearable tech might surprise you:
- A posture tracker, which can be attached to your clothes, vibrates softly when you’re slouching.
- Smart eyewear delivers information, in real time, to your eye while you do activities—so you know exactly how fast (or slow) you are going.
- A new branded smart jacket will allow its wearers to control their mobile device through a patch of fabric attached to the sleeve cuff.
In the not-so-near future, we might not to wear our technology at all, we’ll eat it instead.
Smart pills, which can be easily swallowed, are currently being developed by scientists with two focuses, wireless patient monitoring, and diagnostic imaging, with the latter being the most popular.
So how do these pills work? These wireless pills come with a small square of monitoring equipment that activates when it meets electrolytes in the patient’s body. The pill-taker wears a small patch that intercepts the signal, and sends the information to an app on a smartphone. These wireless pills could help patients keep medications in order, or remind them to take their pills at the right time.
The diagnostic imaging smart pills are a little different. They aren’t a pill in the traditional sense, as they are not attached to any sort of medication. Instead, this tiny technology is a vessel for a lens, video chip, data antenna, and system chip. Patients swallow it, and it allows doctors to remotely visualize their insides. This smart pill is best suited to gastrointestinal tract and colon checks, due to its less invasive nature than traditional methods.
Colonoscopies and medication reminders are not the only applications for ingestible technology. Future athletes might enhance their training by ingesting tech that allows them to focus on the performance of various parts of their bodies.
In another case, one company is aiming to change the way you feel, with a pill that can shift your state between energetic and calm using low-energy waves that speak to your neural pathways. It’s a literal chill pill.
Embeddable tech might make you think of plastic surgery and pacemakers, but researchers are expanding the scope of this technology with something called, body bio hacks. The majority of these are common in hospitals, to monitor various bodily functions, but there are some unusually modified people walking among us.
One example is the implantable internal compass. One engineer has such a device implanted near his shoulder. This miniature compass is encapsulated in a silicone coat and, when the host is facing North, a whisker thin hair juts out from the device and lightly brushes the underside of the skin.
Think that’s strange? Well, how about embeddable magnets? It has been popular with body modifiers to embed tiny magnets into fingertips since the 1990’s. They claim to enjoy the sensation of the magnets in their fingers, and they use them to pull small metal items around, like magic.
Magnets have been taken a step further since the mid-90s, though. The first pair of internal headphones were created by a scientist who embedded magnets into each of his ears, and then partnered those with a wire coil around his neck that converts sound into electromagnetic fields. He can also detect magnetic fields and Wi-Fi signals with them.
The medical embeddables are just (if not more) interesting. A start-up in the U.S. has created a contraceptive implant for women that can be turned on and off with a wireless remote, and is designed to last 16 years.
In 2014, scientists embedded a microchip into the brain of a paralyzed man , which is partnered with a specialized sleeve on his arm. Together, they let him to move his fingers and hand with just his thoughts!
Wearable, ingestible and embeddable technology could change the way we live our lives. Before we get there, we will definitely need to sift through some serious privacy issues, testing phases, and even ask ourselves the question, do we need this? (I’m looking at you, smart jacket).
But at the end of the day, I’m ready to become a cyborg.
Want to learn more about technology? Read on to find out how quantum computers work, or learn about MOST, Canada’s Space Telescope.