Wearable tech seems to be the new black, although this kind of black does not seem to be for everyone. After Google Glass has released its face-mounted wireless PCs for beta testing in January, Japan has now joined the fray with an even smaller device, this time to be mounted on the ear.
The device is called an Earclip and although weighing only 17 grams (0.59 ounces), the tiny device is actually a PC. It is equipped with a compass, gyro-sensor, infrared sensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone. It has microchip and data storage, and, of course, Bluetooth.
The infrared sensors in the device can detect tiny movement inside the ear, which are dependent on the movement of the eyes and mouth. It therefore can detect facial expressions such as raised eyebrows, clenched teeth, and a wiggling nose. These expressions are what control the device and command it to do all sorts of computing, such as fetch traffic information, or get directions. The device also connects to a gadget like an iPod to navigate through software programs.
Its engineer, Kazuhiro Taniguchi of Hiroshima University, explained that the shape of the device is based on traditional "ikebana" flower arrangements. He demonstrated the device via a video during a business event in Hiroshima, Japan, last January. This video was posted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan.
"We have made this with the basic idea that people will wear it in the same way they wear earrings," said Taniguchi.
The device will allow its wearer to compute hands-free. It therefore can serve as a "third hand" for people with disabilities, as well as caregivers, rock climbers, bikers, astronauts, and could also serve as a tool to monitor the health of its wearer.
Because of its very small size, the device can be tucked behind the wearer's ear and be kept there almost invisible, to serve as an all-day guide for its wearer in navigating life. This gives the Earclip an advantage when it comes to being discreet, unlike Google Glass, which is designed to be worn on the face, quite visibly, and has been garnering not-so-nice attention lately.
Recently a woman wearing Google Glass walked into a bar - yes, this does sound like a joke - and showed her friends how it works, and some of the bar patrons began to make snide comments directed at her. However, she was the only one who went public with her bar experience, while her detractors stayed mum, and incognito. Apparently, people don't like it when you bring your computer into a bar.
The Earclip, on the other hand, looks just like a Bluetooth headset for a mobile phone. As Bluetooth headsets are more nondescript in appearance, and have already gained relatively wide acceptance, the people in the bars its wearer walks into may not mind, especially when they don't know that its wearer is actually looking up traffic information by wiggling his nose.