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What Is a Wearable Computer?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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A wearable computer is a computer that, well, can be worn. Such computers are usually the size of a mobile phone and may offer simple or advanced functions based on the device's specifications and the intended user. Donning a wearable computer is usually simple; it can be affixed on top of or beneath clothing and is usually seen as a watch or helmet. This type of computer is used mostly in the personal, medical and military markets, with the personal market having the most simplistic wearable computers.

Putting on a wearable computer is usually a simple task. The most common of these computers is worn as a watch or wristband, and the screen is about the same size as a mobile phone’s screen or a digital watch face. Second most common are computers that are worn on the head, attached to helmets or fused to sunglasses. Some versions are carried around in backpacks, but this is uncommon and was done mostly in the early days of wearable computers in the 1980s.

The personal wearable computer comes in many forms. Smartphones and personal data assistants (PDAs) can be attached to a person’s wrist to act as mobile computers. Runners and bikers can use them to monitor the distance they run, their heart rate, and the amount of calories and fat they have burned. People can use them to send data about themselves and their locations to anyone in the world as long as the receiver is connected to the Internet. Games and organizational applications also are often added to these computers.

Versions of the wearable computer are popular in the healthcare industry. With different types of wearable computers, doctors and medical staff can monitor a patient’s vital signs via wireless connections. Some newer models have small screens that the patient can use to contact a medical center for advice, or an emergency button that automatically sends an alert to paramedics with the person’s status and location.

Military wearable computers are among the most advanced. These wearable computers are worn by soldiers and provide commanders with all the information ground commanders need to fight a successful land war. Information can include soldiers' position, their vital signs and heart rate, and information about how much ammunition and equipment they have. Commanders can even connect to the soldiers' camera system to see what each soldier is seeing, and can radio messages to the soldiers.

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